Planning For College

An adult working with children who are reading

It is never too early to start preparing for "the real world." Even if you do not yet know what you want to do, you can prepare to go to college.  Employers recognize that higher levels of education may indicate higher ability, so having a college degree may give you a much-needed edge in the job market of your career choice.

Now, while you are in middle school is a great time to take control of your college preparation. Start to build a strong academic record.  This will provide you with a great foundation for future college plans.  The activities listed at will assist you.

The MHEC’s College Planning Timeline can help you get ready for high school and have a successful high school experience.

Follow the steps in the timeline throughout the school year. You can print the timeline page and use it as a checklist or a reminder. All the steps you need to follow for high school planning, college planning and financial aid planning are shown for each grade. There’s a lot to do. Stay on track.

Paying for College - State Financial Aid Awards 

Financial Aid 101 - FAQs 

College Savings Plan - 529 Savings Plan 

Ninth (9th) Graders 

  • Consider your future goals and the type of education you’ll need to reach them. 
  • Consider enrolling in challenging courses. Always seek help when you need it for your studies. 
  • Develop good study habits.  You can ask your teachers or counselors for help on how to do this.
  • Remember to take advantage of school programs such as tutoring, writing centers, and summer enrichment programs that can help you be your best. 
  • Broaden your horizons, get involved in school life and participate in extracurricular activities.
  • Take time to think about the courses you will need to take during high school to prepare for college.  Earn good grades each year in high school.

Below is a list of 9th grade resources to assist you with preparing for college.

Tenth (10th) Graders

  • Plan ahead by enrolling in challenging courses, especially those courses colleges consider for admission. Make sure you have completed algebra II and geometry by the end of the 11th grade.
  • 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 future goals and what kind of education you’ll need to reach them.
  • Take advantage of school and community programs that will help you be the best you can be, such as tutoring and summer enrichment programs. Talk to adults in your school and community about their college experiences. Register to take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) in October. Find out more about this test by talking with your school counselor and visiting The PSAT is a practice exam for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). Both test measure your academic readiness for college.

Below is a list of 10th grade resources to assist you with preparing for college.

Eleventh (11th) Graders

Consider enrolling in an SAT prep course. Talk to 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. Use the library and the internet to research colleges and universities and make a list of possible schools. Collect all the information you can from those colleges you are interested in. Attend college open houses if possible to visit colleges in your area. Begin to rank the colleges you think you'd like to attend. Take the PSAT in the fall for more practice. Take the SAT in the spring. 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. Investigate all financial aid opportunities: scholarships, grants, and loans. Search for various scholarship programs. Learn about the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) at Choose courses for your senior year that are challenging and that showcase your academic abilities. Look for summer internships that will provide you with the opportunity to explore your interests and gain experience. 

Below is a list of 11th grade resources to assist you with preparing for college.

Twelfth (12th) Graders

Complete your college applications in the fall. Participate in your high school’s “College Application Day”, if it has one.  Be sure to request letters of recommendation and let your guidance counselor know when you are submitting them so he or she can submit your transcript. In the fall, retake the SAT if you think you can improve your scores from last year.

Get organized! Set up your own system of tracking deadlines, for making decisions, finishing tasks, and mailing out materials (test registrations, college applications, financial aid forms, etc.).

Check with your guidance counselor to find out when college representatives will visit your school. Meet these representatives to get more information about schools that interest you. Check with colleges you apply to about their financial aid application deadlines. Visit the top schools on your list. Attend their scheduled "open house" days so you can take advantage of the activities they've planned to introduce you to the school. After January 1st, encourage your parents to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Submit it before March 1st, or earlier depending on the college you plan to attend.  Seek out and submit scholarship and grant applications from the federal government, state agencies, private foundations, and individual institutions. As you begin to receive letters from colleges, organize them. Make your final decision. Enjoy your last year of high school! 

Below is a list of 12th grade resources to assist you with preparing for college.

Career Planning

A question high school students often ask themselves is what are my options after high school? Trying to decide what to do after high school isn’t always easy and you may not be sure of all the options. There are several options to consider: work, college, military, or a combination. Within these options there are many paths that can be taken: attend a four year college or university, receive career training at a community college or private career school, attend a two year college then transfer to a four year college, work while attending college part-time, or work for a year and then go to college. The options are endless and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

As you plan for the future, keep in mind that some education or technical training after high school is necessary to land most jobs, let alone one that pays enough to support you financially.

Having a college education does not carry a guarantee of a good life or even of financial security. But the evidence is overwhelming that for most people, an education beyond high school is a prerequisite for a secure lifestyle and significantly improves the odds of employment and a stable career with a positive earnings track. A college education can also provide the tools that help people to live healthier and more satisfying lives, to participate actively in society, and to be able to create opportunities for their children.

2014 Image

Career Planning

Live to Work . . .

People are happier if they like the work they do. Finding a career that’s a good match isn’t always easy, though. It can take time to learn what you like and where your skills are a good fit. Identifying long-term goals can help keep short-term challenges in perspective.

Work to Live . . .

Most of us have to work to support ourselves financially. Many high school students have never seen a full household budget, including rent or mortgage, groceries, clothing, health care, utilities, transportation, entertainment, and savings for retirement, emergencies, vacation, and long-term goals like buying a car or house.

Now is the perfect time to begin mapping out your future. It may seem like a daunting task, but the resources on this website will assist you with figuring it out.

What type of training and education best suits you – now and later – requires some research, thought, and discussion with your parents, guidance counselor, teachers, faith counselor, mentor, and others that you trust.

The following is a list of resources to assist you.