No matter if you plan going to college after you graduate high school or go right into the workforce, you need to make sure whatever you do during your 4 years of high school corresponds to your particular interests and your future. Below are some helpful suggestions/materials that can get you started, and you can always refer to the Iowa College Access Network as they have several helpful resources. Another useful source is the Your Course To College catalog from Iowa College Aid-it includes a checklist for each year, financial aid information, how to be successful in college and a college directory.
8th Grade-As you begin to wrap up your middle school years, there are important factors to keep in mind as you prepare for your next steps:
- Forming good study habits-In high school, your GPA starts to became an important component of what you do after high school. Ninth grade year is when your GPA starts to count and, if you dig yourself a hole early on, it's harder to build that GPA up.
- Time management- Like in middle school, high school offers a variety of activities that students can be involved. You may also be a student who decides to get a job later on in high school as well. What is important to find and establish early on as a good habit is time management. You will have to personally decide how to prioritize your time-is having time to do homework more important than going out with friends? If you can find you balance early on, it will make it easier on you in high school and beyond.
- Getting involved-Being involved in activities is not only fun, but it can also teach you important life skills that can be valuable later on in life, including leadership, responsibility, respect and how to overcome adversity. As an 8th grader, it will be important to look at what extracurricular activities your school offers so you can begin to plan how to spend some of your free time.
- Courses-As an 8th grader, it will be key to start to look at what courses your high school offers and what courses interest you. Your school counselor will be a good resource to help you out on this task, especially with your 4 year plan.
9th Grade-Freshman year is when you begin to accummulate important data for colleges. Check out the 9th Grade Transition Guide for in-depth material as you start your high school career.
- Grades-Your freshman year is when you begin to have a cumulative GPA (overall GPA across courses and semester). This is what colleges will look at when you apply.
- Courses-Select courses that are inline with your interests/future career goals. If you're unsure, take a wide variety of courses to determine what your likes and dislikes are.
- Career Interest Inventory-Take a career interest inventory to see what careers are suggested for you based on your values, skills and interests.
- Involvement-9th grade year is a good time to try out several extracurricular options to start developing your activity resume.
10th Grade-This year, you should start to explore possible college majors and look into job shadowing opportunites. Both of these options will help you better define your course schedule and 4 year plan.
- Courses-Begin to take courses that may challenge you; colleges not only like to see high class ranks and GPA, but they also like to see how you've challenged yourself with the courses offered at your high school.
- Take Inventory-Talk to those around you about their college experiences to gain additional knowledge.
- College Representative Visits-College representatives visit your schools. Check the sign-up sheet to see if there are any schools that interest you. At the very least, you can start educating yourself about the different options available to you.
- Part-time Job-During this time, it may be important for you to start investing in your future by getting a part-time job. Also, having a part-time job can allow you to gain additional real world skills and diversifying your resume.
11th Grade-This is a pivotal year, you begin to narrow down your post secondary options (college vs. other), and really begin working towards your future goals.
- Colleges-Use this time to explore the colleges your state (or other states) have to offer. Note, if you do decide on an out of state college, you will need to look at the price tag for out of state tution. Here's a hint-it will be nearly double the price!
- On Campus College Visits-Take the opportunity to go to the colleges you're most interested in to see what "a day in the life" is like at the school. Just go to the website of the school of interest and schedule a campus visit.
- College Checklist-If there are several colleges you are interested in, it's important to keep track of the information. Use the ICAN College Checklist to ensure the colleges you like have all the things you want.
- Tests-During this year, most students take the ACT or they may also take the Accuplacer test.
- ACT-this is the widely accepted college admittance test for 4 year institutions.
- ACT Test Prep-Before, During and After Guide
- The Standards you are being tested on in English, Math, Science, Reading and Writing.
- College Ready Benchmark Scores (Score associated with a 50% chance of getting a B or higher in college course)
- English: 18
- Reading: 22
- Math: 22
- Science: 23
- Juniors have the opportunity to take the ACT Prep course which allows them to work on test taking strategies, take practice tests, and prepare to do their best on the ACT.
- Juniors who take this class will take the ACT, and the school will pay for it (just 1 for that semester)
- If a student is on free/reduced lunch, they will qualify for a fee waiver for ACT registration, covering the cost.
- Accuplacer-this is a test that places you in courses (English, Math, etc.) at community colleges. Community colleges will also accept ACT scores.
- Most college admissions reps will encourage to take the ACT test more than once to help improve your scores.
12th Grade-It's the final year of high school-make the most of it!
- Colleges-Finalize your list of colleges and begin the application process.
- Be aware of deadlines! Try to have applications submitted to the colleges youlike the most in November.
- Remember-Make sure transcripts get sent and that you give enough time for adults to write recommendations.
- Financial Aid-Make sure to stay on top of scholarships and their deadlines. Look at local, state and national scholarships as well as scholarships that are specific to your colleges of interest. Also, if you need additional assistance, make sure that you and your parent fill out the FAFSA (Filing the FAFSA and More).
- Grades-Keep those grades up! Even if you've already been accepted, your grade performance your senior year can determine if you can get additional money or, in some cases, a college may revoke your acceptance due to a poor senior year performance.
- Acceptance Letters-Keep an eye out for any acceptance letters and the additional information they can contain. In some instances, they include additional forms/deadlines that you need to make sure you meet.
- Decision-Make a decision as to where you'd like to go. Once you've decided, you will have to let the other colleges know you won't be attending.
- Alternatives- If you've decided that going to a traditional college isn't for you, explore apprenticeships or jobs that will pay for additional education. Also, if you're interested in military service, determine the branch and visit with the local recruiter for that branch.
Parents- As parents, it may be hard to know how to help your student as they look into their future. The Iowa College Network (ICAN) has some useful tips on ways to help. Another useful tool would be the College Scorecard-this useful website allows you to compare several schools on factors important to you and your student. Another website that could prove useful is the University HQ website that discusses the Best Iowa Colleges.