Countdown to College

by Ron Haynes

Boston Latin SchoolIf you have a child in junior high or high school, you know that preparing them for college applications is at once a thrilling and a frightening proposition. There’s so much anticipation and planning for the future, that’s the thrilling part. But there’s also the worry and concern that you may not have done enough, that’s the frightening part. The importance of timing can be critical in getting into the college or university you want so what steps should you and your child take and when?

Ninth Grade

1. Begin a resume.

  • List work, volunteer, and summer experiences.
  • Get involved in extracurricular activities (sports, clubs, church, community)
  • List and awards or recognitions received.

2. Review all course selections to insure your student is on track to fulfill all the requirements for graduation.
3. If your student is interested in attending a military academy (such as West Point), this process begins in the ninth grade!
4. Read! Read! Read! Ask your English Literature teacher for a list of classics.
5. Work diligently toward getting a 4.0 grade point average.
6. Take practice ACT or SAT exams to experience the testing process.
7. Begin the scholarship research process.

Tenth Grade

1. Review course selections.
2. Update your resume with additional volunteer and work experiences.
3. Begin the college research process.
4. Continue taking ACT and SAT practice exams.
5. Get involved in extracurricular activities, especially any activities or associations that offer scholarships. Colleges like quality time spent in activities rather than quantity.
6. Read, read, and read some more.
7. Take a writing class and practice writing different types of papers.
8. Study very hard and keep that GPA as high as possible.

Eleventh Grade

1. Update that resume.
2. Review course selections.
3. Take the ACT or SAT at least once. The highest score you achieve is the one that counts.
4. Continue your college search and plan several campus visits if possible.
5. Consider taking an ACT or SAT prep class to boost your score.
6. Read, read, read. Ask your English Literature teacher or your school’s guidance counselor for a list of books that should be required reading for college.
7. Get involved in activities that won’t force you to compromise your GPA.
8. Get some work experience or start a small business to make extra money for college. Be sure and put it in a savings account.
9. Do not let your GPA fall!
10. Begin applying to colleges you’ve selected.
11. Make sure your scholarship applications are in on time and be sure to check on these regularly.

Twelfth Grade

1. Finalize your resume.
2. Review your high school transcript to insure everything is correct.
3. Take the ACT or SAT early in the year.
4. Work on application essays.
5. Check with high school teachers and employers who can give you a positive recommendation.
6. Visit colleges.
7. Finalize your potential scholarship or student loan plans.
8. Finish with strong grades. Don’t allow senior-itis to creep up on you.
9. Graduate!

What other items do you think should be added to this list to help a high school student get ready to attend college?

photo credit: cliff1066


About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1000 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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Paul L'Acosta

Hi Ron,
Very interesting checklist for future professionals and their parents. But where do you fit “Dump your MySpace and create a FaceBook profile”? I think it’s very important for the upcoming member of society to have ready a network he/she could turn to when in need! I know I’d have appreciate it in college (but we only had “chat”)…


#Paul L’Acosta→
Good point. Very good point. Thanks for adding it!
Back in my day we didn’t even have chat … come to think of it, we didn’t even have laptops, and Comp Sci was a class that went through some punch cards … things have changed for the better, that’s for sure.


Hi, Great post although things are considerably different here in the UK. One thing I think is helpful (although I only have tiny tots at the moment) is the idea of preparing them for independent living and managing their expectations of what life will be like at college. Talk as much as you can about cooking, shopping, laundry, etc., and also who they will turn to in times of trouble. Some of this might be stuff you talk about all the time anyway, but the move to independent living is a big one and a bit of preparation can go a long way. Or am I stating the obvious?

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