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Steps to College

Steps To College

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Get started preparing for college early. Below are steps you can take to prepare each year leading up to college, starting as early as 7th grade!


Tell your parents and school guidance counselor that you plan on going to college.  Ask them to help you prepare.

Take challenging classes in English, Math, Science, History, etc.

Strive to maintain an “A” or “B” average all through school, especially the college prep courses.

Get into the habit of reading and ask your teachers to recommend books. Start to study with a group of friends (create a study group).

Work with an Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP), Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA), or other academic program representative.

Volunteer for a community service organization so you can start accumulating community service hours.

Apply for scholarships, as scholarship eligibility can begin as early as 5th grade.


Continue to participate in EAOP, MESA or other academic enrichment programs at all grade levels.

Continue to participate in study groups and read, read, read.

Ask your counselor or program representative about Summer Academic Enrichment Programs.

Talk pre-algebra or algebra.

Make sure your 9th grade schedule includes algebra or more advanced math and/or foreign language classes.

Take the American College Test (ACT) for fun. No need to select colleges to send your scores to, just wait until you have the scores you want to send.

It is extremely important to work with your counselor or program representative so they can help interpret your scores.

Volunteer for a community service organization to add to your community service hours. This helps with scholarships.

Apply for college scholarships. Check out our Scholarships page: https://www.thecollegeexpo.org/resources/scholarships


Take challenging college preparatory courses. Make sure you review your A-G, or required courses needed to get into college. Visit our Resources page: https://www.thecollegeexpo.org/resources

Begin researching universities that interest you.

Begin researching scholarships, grants, and other financial aid programs. Check out our Scholarships page:https://www.thecollegeexpo.org/students/scholarships
Take the ACT test:www.act.orgTake the SAT test:www.collegeboard.com
Make community and other positive extracurricular activities a must on your schedule. Please volunteer with organizations to get community service hours.  This is really good to have on your resume when applying for scholarships.

Take a summer course that helps you prepare for college.


Continue taking challenging college preparatory courses - and striving for A’s.  Academic performance in 10th and 11th grade is extremely important!  D’s are unacceptable and colleges will not count D’s.  Remember you will be applying for college before you begin your senior year so make sure you perform well academically in 9th, 10th and 11th grade.  These are the years when most colleges will decide to admit you or not.

Continue researching universities and scholarships.

Take the SAT and ACT again this year. This may be the great score you can use to get into college before your senior year.

Broaden your spectrum of community and other positive extracurricular activities.

Get a daily planner to help you stay on track and organized with all of your activities. Make using the planner a habit that you continue to use through college. Here’s one suggestion, but you can research other options:https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/make-a-plan
Form a study group or get a tutor if you get behind in any course. This self-help experience can also be used in college. Also, ask your teacher in the subject you are behind in for help or suggestions so you can do better.

Use the summer to hone your reading skills and experience. Get a suggested reading list for college-bound students from your English teacher.

If you get a D in a class, please retake that course over the summer.

If you are a STUDENT ATHLETE, register for the NCAA Clearinghouse at the beginning of your sophomore year so you are eligible for athletic scholarships.https://web3.ncaa.org/ecwr3/Register in 10th grade to allow sufficient time to be sure you are on track to graduate on time to meet the NCAA's required initial eligibility standards.


Continue to take college preparatory courses. Work towards getting as many A’s as possible.  Academic performance in the 10th and 11th grade is extremely important! D’s are unacceptable and colleges will not count D’s.

Visit College Fairs in your area. Look for a list of our expos here:https://www.thecollegeexpo.org/ncrf-events/events
Continue to research colleges. Choose 10 colleges to apply to, and begin submitting applications.

Make plans to visit colleges and universities you are considering.

Continue looking for scholarships to apply for. Start putting your bio together.  Begin asking for recommendation letters from your teachers, counselors, administrators, and community leaders.

Take the SAT and ACT again in the fall, winter or spring, and make sure you take the PSAT in October. 11th grade is when you can get merit-based scholarships based on your PSAT test scores.

Continue to broaden your spectrum of community and other positive extracurricular activities and volunteer work. Community service is a BIG plus when you are applying for scholarships.  In many cases, it is as equally important as getting good grades.

Keep making use of your daily planner.

Become a pro at taking thorough notes. You’ll need this skill every day in college.

Apply early to summer programs at colleges and universities, and enroll in a college summer program. They are fun and give you a glimpse of the college experience, plus you can get a head start on college credits.

If you have any D’s, please retake the class in the summer.

Apply for federal and state aid by filing out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)www.fafsa.ed.gov The application opens up for the upcoming school year October 1st.


Keep going for A’s and continue to strive for academic excellence.

Keep attending college fairs in your area. These events are the next best thing to actually visiting universities. Look for a list of our expos:https://www.thecollegeexpo.org/ncrf-events/events
Many of the colleges that attend our expos have rolling enrollment which means they accept year round.

Narrow the application process to a minimum of eight to ten colleges. You can put up to 10 colleges on your FAFSA. Watch the deadlines! Also, look for colleges based on your major or what you want to become as a professional, not because it is the so-called “popular college”.

Make sure you set up a Web Portal account with all the schools you applied to, so you can see your status with that particular college, register for housing, check your financial aid award and scholarships, and access vital information on campus tours, special events and important deadlines. All of this can be checked on your college web portal that you registered for when you applied to the college, so make sure you check regularly.

Finish the financial aid application process, which includes any changes if needed on your FAFSA. Watch for deadlines! Dollars are given away on a first-come, first-served basis.

In October or November, retake the SAT and/or ACT if you weren’t pleased with your scores on the previous tests and want to do better.

You should find out what colleges or universities have accepted you by March, or no later than April. If you have not heard from a college that you really like by April, contact its admissions office to help expedite a decision.

Your financial aid award letters should begin arriving in the spring. Respond to the letters immediately!

When your student aid report (SAR) comes in, make sure all information is correct. Send your SAR report to the universities that have accepted you.

By the end of May you should have finalized your decision on the college or university you will attend. Reply immediately to any questions or requests that it may have. Also, if living on campus, make sure you finalize your housing right away so you get the housing you want.

Take Advanced Placement Examinations in May if they are offered in your area. Consider taking the College Level Entry Program (CLEP) in an area of study that you are particularly advanced in. If you score well on this test, you can earn college credit for a course, and this will save you money on college tuition because less classes will be needed to graduate.

Work during the summer to put away money for your college needs.

If you are able to graduate early (at the end of the 1st semester of your senior year in high school) work through the winter and spring, perhaps at an area department store, to put away money for your college needs, or consider taking general education classes at your local community college. Make sure the classes are transferable. This too will save you money on college tuition expenses.

Assemble everything you will need for going to college from your study gear to your wardrobe.

Don’t stop your community and volunteer work.

Consult and update your daily planner at least twice a day.

One evening in late July sharpen your culinary skills and fix a dinner (it can be simple) for your family. This will be your way of saying thanks for all of their help and support before you go to college.

Plan to take a summer orientation session at your university if it offers one. It will help you prepare in numerous ways for your freshman year.

Once in college, look to get involved in student organization and student government so you can be engaged in your college. Also go to sporting events and games so you can really live the college experience. Try to balance your life and learn time management so you can be successful in college.  Have fun!!!


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