College Checklist for Students Currently in High School

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If your or your child is in high school, consult this comprehensive checklist of important things to keep in mind in order to start preparing for a post-secondary education.

Also see our checklists just for high school juniors and seniors, which go into more detail by season. We also have separate checklists for parents, and for middle school/junior high students.

Every Year

  • Take challenging classes in core academic subjects. Most colleges require four years of English, at least three years of social studies (history, civics, geography, economics, etc.), three years of mathematics, and three years of science. Many also require two years of a foreign language. Also consider taking classes in computer science and the arts (drama, music, etc.).
  • Consider taking honors or advanced placement (AP) courses.
  • If enrolled in AP classes, ask counselors when to take the AP test for each subject. You receive college course credit when you pass. This can mean fewer classes and reduced expenses.
  • Become involved in school- or community-based activities that interest you or let you explore career interests. Consider working or volunteering in your areas of interest as well.
  • See your counselor about the classes to take in high school, how to sign up for standardized tests and how to find funding for college.

9th Grade

  • Plan a four-year schedule with your counselor. Be sure to ask about specific classes you need to include for the type of college you plan to attend.
  • Maintain good grades and attendance.
  • Participate in sports, extracurricular activities and volunteering in your community.
  • Start a college information folder.

10th Grade

  • Review your four-year high school schedule to be sure you fulfill college entrance requirements.
  • Ask your counselor for a study guide for the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), which you'll take in February or March.
  • Research colleges, admission standards, tuition and location. Request information.
  • Ask your counselor about classes needed for acceptance into colleges you want to attend.
  • If you need help with studies, ask your counselor about summer enrichment or tutoring.

For grades above 10th, see our detailed checklist for high school juniors and seniors.

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