High School Grade-by-Grade To Do List For College

This grade-by-grade guide will help you to know what you should be doing every step of the way in high school to prepare for college.

9Th Grade

  • Start to consider your goals and the type of education you'll need to reach them. Don’t emphasize specific colleges. Continue to explore post-secondary credit opportunities including college, technical schools, special purpose schools, apprenticeships, and the military related to your selected career interest.
  • Enroll in rigorous courses. Meet with a counselor to identify courses you will need to take during high school to prepare for college.
  • Develop good study habits. Ask your teachers or counselors for guidance on how to do this.
  • Take advantage of school programs such as tutoring, writing centers, and summer enrichment programs that can help you be your best.
  • Consider signing up for a college savings account.
  • Get involved in school life. Participate in extracurricular activities and community service.  Remember, colleges evaluate you on what you are doing outside of the classroom.
  • Earn good grades. This should continue from 9th grade through 12th grade
  • Investigate financial aid opportunities available (scholarships, grants and loans) that will help pay for college.

Spring/Summer

  • Visit one or more college campuses.
  • Get involved with community service and other volunteer work.
  • Participate in enrichment and/or remedial classes or workshops to enhance your academic knowledge and skill base.

10th Grade

Fall/Winter

Enroll in rigorous courses.  Plan ahead: make sure you will have completed algebra II and geometry by the end of the 11th grade.

  • Enroll in AP courses in your best subjects if they are available.
  • Check with a counselor or advisor that your class schedule meets college requirements for high school students.
  • Register to take the PSAT in October. The PSAT is a practice exam for the SAT collegeboard.org . You have the option to take the PLAN assessment offered by American College Testing which is a practice exam for the ACT.
  • Contact colleges that interest you and request information about their academic programs requirements.
  • Stay involved in school life. Participate in extracurricular activities.
  • Volunteer at community organizations and/or faith based institutions; this is a great way to discover your talents, interests, and skills.
  • Start to refine your goals and what kind of education you’ll need to reach them.
  • Take advantage of school and community programs that will help you, such as tutoring and summer enrichment programs.
  • Investigate financial aid opportunities (scholarships, grants, and loans).
  • Learn about the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) https://fafsa.ed.gov/.

Spring/Summer

  • Get a summer job or look for summer internships that will provide you the opportunity to explore your interest while gaining experience.
  • Get involved with community service and other volunteer work.
  • Seek advice from adults in your school and community about their college experiences.
  • Visit one or more college campuses.
  • Participate in enrichment and/or remedial classes or workshops to enhance your academic knowledge and skill base.

11th Grade

Fall/Winter

  • Enroll in an SAT/ACT prep course.
  • Speak with your guidance counselor about colleges you might like to attend. He or she may have information available to help you develop a plan to get there.
  • Research on your own to find schools that fit your expectations. 
  • Investigate financial aid opportunities: scholarships, grants, and loans.
  • Take the PSAT in the fall for more practice. Remember you have the option to take the PLAN assessment offered by American College Testing which is a practice exam for the ACT.
  • Collect all the information you can from those colleges you are interested in. Attend college open houses and try to visit colleges in your area that interest you. Begin to rank the colleges you think you'd like to attend.
  • Start to put together your resume. Organize the information that is likely to be requested on college applications.
  • Check out the college application process. This summer, start working on any essays you might need to write (it is never too early to start).
  • Continue to do your best in your classes. Enroll in AP courses in your best subjects if they are available.
  • Search for various scholarship programs.
  • Learn about the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) https://fafsa.ed.gov/.
  • Choose courses for your senior year that are challenging and that showcase your academic abilities.

Spring/Summer

  • Take the SAT in the spring.
  • Get a summer job or look for summer internships that will provide you the opportunity to explore your interest while gaining experience.
  • Get involved with community service and other volunteer work.
  • Seek advice from adults in your school and community about their college experiences.
  • Visit one or more college campuses.
  • Research the colleges you would like to attend – to find their application and financial aid deadlines.  Record the deadlines on a calendar and set reminders!
  • Use the net price calculator on college’s websites to estimate the cost for each college.
  • Research the different type’s financial assistance you are eligible to receive.  Again, don’t forget to record the deadlines on a calendar and set reminders!
  • Participate in enrichment and/or remedial classes or workshops to enhance your academic knowledge and skill base.

12th Grade

Fall/Winter

  • Create an MDCAPS account.
  • Continue to visit the schools on your list.
  • Narrow down your list to manageable amount listing the likes and dislikes of each.
  • Continue to focus on your grades and community services activities. 
  • Increase your investigation into financial aid opportunities: scholarships, grants, and loans.
  • Keep track of all deadlines, from Admissions to the Financial Aid Offices at your interested institutions.
  • Ask for letters of reccommendations from your teachers, guidance counselors, clergy member, etc.
  • Continue to put together your resume. Organize the information that is relevant to the request.
  • Complete and submit all applications on time.
  • Follow up on all submissions.
  • Send all mid-year grade to the appropriate parties .
  • Meet with your guidance counselor to review all graduation requirements and forward any required documentation to the colleges you are applying to.
  • If you haven't already, take the PSAT. Remember you have the option to take the PLAN assessment offered by American College Testing which is a practice exam for the ACT.

Spring/Summer

  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. If needed, seek assistance to complete the FAFSA.
  • Get a summer job or look for summer internships that will provide you the opportunity to explore your interest while gaining experience.
  • Get involved with community service and other volunteer work.
  • Seek advice from adults in your school and community about their college experiences.
  • Visit one or more college campuses.
  • Research the colleges you would like to attend – to find their application and financial aid deadlines.  Record the deadlines on a calendar and set reminders!
  • Use the net price calculator on college’s websites to estimate the cost for each college.
  • Research the different type’s financial assistance you are eligible to receive.  Again, don’t forget to record the deadlines on a calendar and set reminders!
  • Participate in enrichment and/or remedial classes or workshops to enhance your academic knowledge and skill base.