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College Prep-Getting High School Students on Track

Updated on November 29, 2013

How to Prepare for College

Many families do not question that their children will go to college. It is not "if" they will go to college but "when" they will go to college. But how do you help your child to prepare for getting there?

College prep time happens long before it's time to fill out a college application. As your child enters high school, it is beneficial to begin familiarizing yourselves with the various aspects of the process.


Your Guidance Counselor

The guidance counselor at your child's school should become his/her best friend. This person will be a prime source of current information on colleges, admissions tests, the overall application process and scholarship opportunities.

But please do not consider the counselor to be your only source of information. Depending on your school, that one person may be servicing a multitude of students with limited support staff, if any at all. You cannot rely on just the guidance office to do your legwork for you.

College Preparation Timeline

Know the college preparation timeline. Though opinions may vary about when certain things must happen, here are benchmarks to put on your calendar:

9th Grade Students:

Study hard to achieve good grades.

Take a full, freshman course load.

Participate in extra curricular activities and community service projects. Keep track of these activities and the names of those in charge of them. They will make good references for your resume as you apply for colleges, scholarships and even jobs.

10th Grade

Continue to press on in your studies. Get extra help for any courses that you may find difficult. Do not wait until you are in trouble, ask for help early on.

Take the PLAN test, a precursor to the college entrance ACT exam, if your school offers it.

Continue to build your resume of extra curricular activities and community service. Remember to treat them with diligence, as you would a job. Be reliable and helpful. A good team player.

Speak with your counselor in the spring when you are planning your junior year schedule about whether AP (Advanced Placement) courses are right for you. Accomplished students can do well in these college-level courses. High grades in AP courses demonstrate a strong ability to achieve at a college level. Some colleges will give college credit or allow the student to skip basic entry-level courses in that subject.

11th Grade

This is the big year. Your academics are halfway through and, in many instances, the most challenging course load happens now, in the junior year. It will become more difficult to bring up your overall GPA (grade point average) if this year goes downhill, so work hard. Put academics first.

Take the PSAT exam in October. Find out from your counselor how to be sure that you are signed up to take it.

Visit colleges. Make an appointment to have an admissions rep take you on a tour or go on a scheduled open-campus visit day. What are you looking for in a college? Arrive with a list of questions and take notes. Do not depend on your memory. Details could become a blur after a few college visits.

Find out college application deadlines and put them on your calendar. Give yourself plenty of time to complete the applications and get them in early. Some applications have more than one part or require an admissions essay. They will take more care and consideration. Plan ahead. And keep a copy of all of your written materials, especially your essay, before you send it out.

Take the SAT and ACT exams for college admission. Schedule your first test date for an earlier offering such as the spring of your Junior year so that, if you are not satisfied with the results, you can take it again. Beware: if taking or retaking it in the fall of your senior year the first deadline is in August or very early in September depending on which test you are taking. Most students are not thinking about college testing in the summer months but you need to be. This is important!



High School Activities Worksheet

12th Grade

Make a high school activities worksheet --resume-- of all pertinent information to use as a worksheet when completing applications. Brush up on it before going on a college visit or interview. Avoid appearing cocky or over confident but definitely keep fresh in your mind the important things you have done.


Athletics: include the sport you participated in, position you played or role you played, which years, if you were a team captain, special achievements.

Awards: academic, sports, service awards. All special recognition is important.

Club Memberships: drama club, chess club, Masterminds, foreign language clubs, junior ROTC, USA Robotics,

Community Activities: volunteer work, church youth group, choir, boy or girl scouts, etc.

Employment: if you had a paying job, include that information as well.


Complete and submit college applications in a timely fashion.

Complete FAFSA paperwork and submit on time. (Deadline information)

Sinea Pies is a former high school guidance counselor, a freelance writer for a popular parenting magazine and blogger on Ducks 'n a Row. Click for more: Sinea's profile

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Submit a Comment

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 

    4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

    What an excellent guide for high school students preparing for college. I like the way you have them to start preparing in ninth grade!

  • Sinea Pies profile imageAUTHOR

    Sinea Pies 

    6 years ago from Northeastern United States

    Thanks so much for the up up up Votes, Tonyfischer.

  • tonyfischer profile image

    Tony Fischer 

    6 years ago from Southeastern Michigan

    My kids are a way off yet but I have two nephews approach this critical time. I will use he tips for sure. Voted Up Up Up and useful!!

  • Sinea Pies profile imageAUTHOR

    Sinea Pies 

    6 years ago from Northeastern United States

    Thanks Pollyannalana!

  • Pollyannalana profile image


    6 years ago from US

    This is really great...I plan to check out some of your helpful tips too. Thank you!


  • Sinea Pies profile imageAUTHOR

    Sinea Pies 

    7 years ago from Northeastern United States

    Thank you Ghaelach and Jean 2011!

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Hello Sinea.

    Although this info doesn't apply to me (bit long in the tooth these days) it is a very interesting read. I assume you are talking about how the system works in the USA only.

    Was very different in my day and when i ring my daughter and she tells me it will cost her 10000GBP (English Pounds) to get her son into Uni in Liverpool i'm just flabbergasted and shocked.

    If the parents don't have a bit set aside how do they manage on just the grants from the governments. It's not to easy these days. Interesting and UP

    Take care.

    LOL Ghaelach

  • jean2011 profile image


    7 years ago from Canada

    Very useful information for parent. I vote this hub up and useful.

  • Sinea Pies profile imageAUTHOR

    Sinea Pies 

    7 years ago from Northeastern United States

    AP! I know this but totally forgot. Thanks for the great tip. I'm adding it right now, with links!

  • ktrapp profile image

    Kristin Trapp 

    7 years ago from Illinois

    Vote UP for very useful information for parents. It's never too early to plan for college.

    My second child is in her senior year of high school and I find all of your information to be right on the mark. I might add that if your child is a very good student, then he/she should consider taking AP courses in high school and then take the AP exam for possible college credit at the end of their senior year.

    My daughter did not take AP courses, but is taking online college courses through a community college and will have completed her freshman year of college by the time she graduates high school. Not only is this a huge cost saver for us, but it gives us some assurance of her college abilities before we send her off.


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