4-Year Checklist: What Your High Schooler Needs To Get Into College

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Now that your child is an official freshman in high school, it's already time to prepare for their next step, college. While planning to attend college is a great start, students need to set an action plan early on in their high school years. This four-year checklist goes over what each high school student should work on to prepare to attend their university of choice.

Start Saving Towards Tuition and Living Expenses

College is expensive, even if your child manages to get a full four-year scholarship. There are other expenses such as textbooks, groceries, clothing, and gas for a car that they need to consider. Saving money in either a savings account or CD is the best way to ensure your child has money during their college years, so get into the habit of saving now. Starting their freshman year, your high schooler can even hustle on the side to save towards this goal.

Start Considering Career Choices and Colleges

During their summer break, new sophomore students should start thinking about their career path. Once they've figured that out, they can start exploring college choices. Early college visits help them discover if they want to be at a small local college or a large university. For instance, if your child is fond of math but happens to be shy, he or she may find that pursuing an accounting degree online may be a better fit for them than attending a traditional campus.

Work on Grades and Attendance

Sophomore students should focus on their grades and attendance now. By now, they have an understanding of their academic weaknesses and should reach out to teachers and outside tutors for assistance. A major part of college acceptance involves a high grade point average (GPA). Stellar attendance is also important, so your teen doesn't miss important tests and class projects that factor into his or her GPA.

Plan Electives with a Counselor

It's important to meet all graduation criteria for high school, but high schoolers also need to have electives on their transcripts. These are not only attractive to their chosen colleges and scholarships, but they also prepare students for their college major. Colleges list their requirements for admissions on their websites. Also, taking a few advanced placement (AP) courses will help strengthen your child's GPA.

Work on a Scholarship Resume

Nothing says organization like a resume for everything. Help your high school junior work on a scholarship resume. This is a compilation of all extracurricular activities such as leadership committees, yearbook clubs, sports, and volunteer opportunities. This will be an easy task if they create a checklist their freshman year. It can include all the activities they'd like to participate in by the time they graduate high school.

Start Taking ACT and/or SAT Preparation Courses

As the ACT and SAT are comprehension tests that evaluate what your child knows, it never hurts to prepare for the test. These preparation courses teach teens valuable study and test-taking habits, and they can start taking them as early as sophomore year.

Register for the PIN and FAFSA

Seniors need to register for their Federal Student Aid PIN number so they can complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid Application (FAFSA). Some scholarships require the results of this application to be submitted with a student's scholarship application.

Peterson's lists an excellent College Planning Timeline, which is a year-by-year guideline that you and your teen can use. Help your high schooler prepare for college by implementing the above tips.