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high school juniors and younger

Put It in Writing: Make an I'm Going Plan

At the start of every school year, write down what you will do during that year to help achieve your dream of going. You might get a folder or notebook to keep your plan in, along with any important papers you gather. If you have a computer, you might use it to create and store your plan. You can also download a printable college prep checklist from Federal Student Aid to use as a planning tool.

Your plan should list the major tasks you need to complete. Under the major tasks, list small steps that will help you complete them. Complete each step by the end of the school year.

For example, one thing you will need to do is find schools where you are interested in going. On your plan, create a section called "Find Schools." Beneath that heading, list small, easy-to-complete tasks that can help with the overall goal of finding schools. Some of these might be:

  • Ask teachers and older students or friends about where they went to school and what school they would recommend for you
  • Go to the library and ask a librarian for advice about researching schools
  • Explore the Web sites of interesting schools
  • E-mail schools to request brochures and admission information
  • Research and compare schools using the College Navigator

Mark off each task as you complete it. Create an updated plan at the beginning of the next school year.

Class Struggle: Challenge Yourself

Take high school courses designed to prepare you for college ” most schools have them.

Often a college will accept a student with lower grades in college prep courses ahead of a student with higher grades in easier courses.

Also consider taking Advanced Placement courses, which can help you earn college credit in high school.

Kennedy - view profile
"My parents did not earn very much. I knew I needed to dedicate myself in high school to have the opportunity to go to college. So I was very active in high school organizations, while maintaining a high GPA."
your "I'm going" guide Kennedy,
University of Texas

Where Are You Going? Look for Schools

Get curious about schools you might want to attend. You don't need to narrow your list down until your senior year. Until then, learn all you can about finding the school right for you.

In the Money: Use FAFSA4caster

Get a head start finding financial aid for your education beyond high school. Use FAFSA4caster to get an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid. It's good practice for the FAFSA, and it can make the FAFSA process easier.

Got Skills? Learn to Study

In college, studying is job #1. The sharper your study skills, the more prepared you will be for that job.

Ask your guidance counselor what help your school offers. You can get help online and at your local library. Good study skills include:

  • Managing your time
  • Setting goals
  • Overcoming procrastination
  • Taking notes
  • Listening effectively
  • Dealing with test anxiety

#2 Pencil Pushers: Take Preparatory Tests

Most colleges require you to take either the SAT® or the ACT® test as a junior or senior. There are preparatory versions of both of these tests.

Taking the prep tests can help make you more comfortable with the testing process. The scores can identify areas you'll need to work on before you take the SAT and/or the ACT.

These tests are typically offered in the fall of your sophomore year.

The PSAT/NMSQT® is designed to help you prepare for the SAT.

The PLAN® test is designed to help you prepare for the ACT.

Top of the Class: Make the Grades

If you are a junior or younger, getting your grades up and keeping them there is important. A high GPA can make it much easier to get into the college you choose vs. settling for your second choice.

The Tree of Life: Branch Out

Colleges look at you as a person, not just a high school transcript. So get as much life experience as you can. This can include team athletics, student government, volunteer activities, internships, after-school jobs and more.

Good Judgment: Walk the Straight Path

Be smart. Keep away from people and activities that can get you in trouble.

Need More Help? Find organizations that provide safe, positive environments.