Deciding to go to college and then learning how to achieve your goal can be an overwhelming task--especially if you are the first in your family to go to college. The following guidelines provide a broad understanding of what you need to do as students and parents to start down the road to success. College Board also has a useful Planning Guide for students planning to attend college.

Students in Junior High School

Students in High School

Parents of College Bound Students

Important Deadlines to Remember


Students in Junior High School

  • Talk to teachers and counselors to find out what you can do to prepare for college. Find out what is expected in order to succeed in junior high.
  • Take the right classes.
  • Explore your interests.
  • Get organized.
  • Develop good study habits.
  • Visit a college campus.
  • Track your progress and get tutoring help if necessary.
  • Maintain A & B grades.
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Students in High School

  • Talk to teachers and counselors to find out what you can do to prepare for college. Find out what is expected in order to succeed in high school.
  • Learn about Advanced Placement and Honors courses--take the right classes.
  • Volunteer or become involved in extracurricular activities.
  • Track your progress and get tutoring help if necessary.
  • Maintain A & B grades.
  • Investigate your interests and think about possible career choices.
  • Learn about college entry requirements.
  • Choose a college in your junior and senior years.
  • Prepare and take college entry tests (SATs and ACTs).
  • Apply to colleges.
  • Investigate your financial aid needs.
  • Apply for financial aid if necessary.
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Parents of College Bound Students

Perhaps the most important contribution you can make to your children's college education is to get involved in their lives.

  • Talk to them about their plans for the future. Explore future possibilities and career options together.
  • Track their progress in school on a regular basis.
  • Talk to teachers and guidance counselors on a regular basis.
  • Become involved in their academic life.
  • Attend school open houses.
  • Provide them with additional help if necessary. Investigate tutoring options.
  • Maintain study rules--provide a consistent, quiet study time.
  • Learn all you can about what it takes to go to college.
  • Be supportive.
  • Learn to listen.
  • Start saving now.
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Important Deadlines to Remember

The following guide provides an overview of important deadlines in the junior high and high school years. However, these are approximate, so be sure to communicate with counselors and potential colleges to confirm specific dates. College Board provides an Online Reminder to help you keep track of important dates in your junior and senior years of high school.

8th grade:

  • Complete a strong Algebra course.
  • Take college preparatory English.
  • Find out which Advanced Placement and Honors classes are available in high school. Take steps to get into the right classes beginning freshman year. Plan a course outline for high school years.
9th and 10th grades:
  • Take AP and Honor classes.
  • Explore your interests.
  • Get involved in extracurricular activities.
  • Begin to prepare for college entrance exams (PSAT/ACT, etc.)
11th Grade:
  • Investigate colleges that match your needs and interests.
  • Apply to colleges.
  • Take college entrance exams (SATI/SATII/ACT, etc.).
12th Grade:
  • If you haven't already, apply for entrance into colleges during the first 3 months of the fall semester.
  • Apply for financial aid.
  • Review for College Placement tests.

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Take the First Step | Plan in Middle School | Plan in High School
Choose a College | Get Accepted | Obtain Financial Aid |
Communicate | Survive Freshman Year |
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