Preparing for College Year by Year

I have a confession to make: I dropped out of college after my freshman year. Although the cost of a college education is high, the cost of losing that life opportunity is much higher, and you may never stop paying it. Preparing for college entails a collage of decisions and responsibilities that shouldn’t be put off. You wouldn’t plan your whirlwind vacation the night before and just hope it will turn out well. Planning your life is more important — too important to be left to chance. That’s why I’ve given you my top tips for preparing for college year by year!

“But I’m just a little kid! I’m not ready for college!” “I don’t know for sure what I want to do with my life! How do I know what school to attend?” The answers to these and other concerns are not that hard to find. Let’s go grade-by-grade, just like you have to, and see what you need to do.

Kindergarten For now, it’s enough to know that “crayon,” “college,” and “career” all begin with the same letter. Can you say the letter “c”?

First grade Fill in the blanks with the correct word: “When I get older, I am going to go to a _ _ _ _ _ _ _ and learn a lot.” zoo | store | college

Second grade If you can find the rhyming words in this sentence, you are on your way to a great education: “We go to college to get more knowledge.”

Third grade You are probably learning about geography in this grade. Where might you like to live and go to school when you get older?

Fourth grade Did you learn to use, or even make, a compass in science class? Preparing for college is like using a compass: It can help give you direction in life!

Fifth grade By now, you are learning heavy math stuff, like multiplying whole numbers. Did you know that a college education can multiply your chances of having a good career when you grow up?

Sixth grade What do you want to be when you grow up? Now would be a good time to read about the jobs you might like and what sort of training it takes to become that person.

Seventh grade Although the college years still seem light years away, and you’re just now getting into the swing of middle school, you can still be preparing for college. Your workload has increased, your life has gotten busier with extracurricular activities, and you are wanting to be more independent. Guess what? That independence you desire is going to serve you well as you prepare for leaving the nest. College independence is a big leap into adulthood, so now is the time to learn adult skills while you have your home as a safety net. Help around the house, tackle your priorities, learn how to spend time and money wisely and to make your favorite meal!

Eighth grade You have entered the teen years, which are challenging in many ways. The decisions you make about friends and other relationships, jobs, money, and those lofty aspirations and dreams, will have long-range effects on you and those around you. You will eventually be supporting yourself and perhaps others, and you won’t want to miss those opportunities for success that often belong only to the young. Your first steps must include choosing your freshman classes and exploring job opportunities. Side jobs, like baby (or pet) sitting, lawn work, and retail work, will help you develop a good work ethic and reputation for your future career, and aid in preparing for college in that you’ll learn independence and accountability.

High School The following are some tips for making the most of these formative years. You are preparing for adulthood, which means making your own decisions in every area of life, and taking the consequences. You will be responsible for yourself and probably others, with no turning back. Now is the time to take all the help and advice you can and begin to put it into practice!

Ninth grade Yahoo! You’re in high school! Now, you know it all! Get serious; you’ve only just begun a new journey to a successful, well-rounded life! There are a lot of preparations to manage and goals to set. Among these measures are the need to choose your high school courses wisely, not only to meet state requirements, but to prepare for your college and career track. Begin to research the PSATs and scholarships, get a job, volunteer, engage in extracurricular activities, and otherwise build your academic, financial, time-management, and social skills.

Tenth grade This is the time to take the following steps:

  • Prepare for the PSAT and SAT or ACT.
  • Start to research colleges and careers at college and career fairs.
  • Learn to write essays and résumés.
  • Get a job and join a club or social group or volunteer organization so you have something substantial to put on your résumé!
  • Develop leadership skills in the above activities.
  • STAY ON TRACK!

Eleventh grade

  • Study hard and complete all your classwork. You can’t keep your grades up by missing work and procrastinating.
  • Take ACT or PSAT prep classes if you haven’t already. Don’t wait!
  • Gather recommendations from employers, coaches, etc. This is why it is helpful to get a job and get involved!
  • Narrow your fields of interest and related schools.
  • Visit colleges and prepare admissions materials.
  • Watch your deadlines and STAY ON TRACK!

Twelfth grade You’ve made it this far! Take a deep breath and get ready for the leap to college! But, you can’t stop preparing for college now! These are the key months. So, keep working, growing, studying, narrowing, scheduling, finalizing, saving, applying, packing, and checking the mail for acceptance letters!

  • If you need to, apply for FAFSA or other financial help.
  • Beat the deadlines for college applications.
  • Retake the SATs if needed.
  • STAY ON TRACK!

There is a social life after high school! Because this is such a huge life change, you will need a support system, sharing with people who share your values, goals, hobbies, and styles. Look for companions who desire to better themselves and you.

If that seems like a lot to remember, have no fear, high school students! We have provided a colorful and helpful (and free) checklist to jog your memory and  keep you on track as you prepare for one of the biggest steps of your life! This list is by grade level and will make sure you’re ready when graduation day comes– so print it out and hang it up where you can see it each day.  It may seem like a lot of buckle-down-and-get-serious work (and it is!), but it takes a lot more work and time to make it in life if you don’t prepare now while you can!

If you have suggestions for preparing for college, please share them with us!

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