College Planning Checklist

  1. Hone Your Skills and Get Experience
    • Take personality and interest surveys to find career and major options
    • Get involved in school activities and/or sports
    • Volunteer in your community
    • Write a resume and think about how your experiences will look on your college application
    • Find a summer job where you can explore your strengths and/or future career options
    • Find out about possible internships or co-ops for high school students
    • Consider summer camps or programs at a college campus which will enhance your skills and give you a feel for what college will be like
    • Not sure what you should do next? Click here for some tips.
  2. Take the Right Classes
    • Make sure you are meeting the Ohio Core graduation requirements
    • Ask about Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes
    • Explore dual enrollment, Early College High School, Post Secondary Enrollment Options, and Ohio College Tech Prep opportunities
    • Do your best in school and develop a track record of academic success
    • Get to know your high school counselor and share your college plans with him or her
    • Not sure what you should do next? Click here for some tips.
  3. Find the Right Fit
    • Think about the type of campus that matches your personality and preferences (small vs. large, urban vs. rural, close to home vs. far away, two-year vs. four-year, etc.)
    • Make a list of the academic and extracurricular programs that are important to you
    • Use online college search engines and college websites to narrow down your choices, paying attention to how well your academic profile matches students who are admitted to the college/university
    • Attend local college fairs and college nights to speak with admissions representatives
    • Talk with your family and friends who are already in college and see if you can visit them during a weekend
    • Visit college campuses (ideally when classes are in session so you experience real campus life) and see which ones offer the right “fit”
      • In addition to speaking with admissions representatives, also ask to speak with someone in financial aid so you can begin planning college expenses
      • If you know your major area of interest, ask to speak with a dean or professor in that area
      • Make sure you speak with current students, since no one will give you a more authentic impression of what the college is like, especially about residence halls and meal plans
    • Check with the colleges/universities in which you are interested to see which entrance exams are required, if any
    • Develop a realistic list of college choices to which you expect to apply
    • Think about what type of program you would like to pursue (Certificate vs. Degree)
    • Not sure what you should do next? Click here for some tips.
  4. Take Entrance Exams
    • Take the Ohio Graduation Test
    • Take the PLAN to get a feel for the ACT and/or the PSAT for the SAT (and to prequalify for the National Merit Scholarship Program)
    • Prepare for the ACT or SAT by taking free online practice tests or taking a test prep class
    • Register for the ACT and/or the SAT
    • Take the ACT and/or SAT and after you receive your scores, consider retaking the exam if you want to try to improve your scores
    • Not sure what you should do next? Click here for some tips.
  5. Apply
    • It’s never too late to decide to attend college, but be mindful of individual college/university application deadlines and fees (fees are often waived for low-income families)
    • Speak with your high school counselor about your college plans
    • Make a list of colleges to which you will apply and their application due dates
    • Consider using the “2-3-2” rule to narrow your list to two “reach” colleges (your academic performance is below the median GPA and entrance exam scores), three “safe” colleges (your academic performance is at the median for GPA and entrance exam scores), and two “sure bet” schools (where your academic performance is above the median for GPA and entrance exam scores)
    • Know the application requirements for the colleges to which you will apply
      • If an essay is required, write your essay and ask a teacher or counselor to help you proofread it
      • Ask teachers, coaches, advisors, and/or supervisors  for recommendations to accompany your college and scholarship applications
      • Make sure your high school counselor sends required secondary school recommendations and your transcripts and ACT/SAT test scores to the colleges to which you are applying
    • Schedule admission interviews, which might be required for some private schools and honors programs
    • Submit your applications, which are mostly online, but paper applications are also available as are services like the “Common Application” that allow you to apply to multiple colleges by filling out one form
    • Not sure what you should do next? Click here for some tips.
  6. Pay
    • Talk to your parents and families about financial aid, scholarships, and paying for college
    • After January 1 of your senior year of high school, sit down with your parents or family and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility for student aid
    • Search for scholarships online and ask your high school counselor about local scholarship opportunities
    • Review and be sure you understand your financial aid offers, including how much of your financial aid package contains scholarships and grants (which you do not need to repay) and loans (which must be repaid by you and/or your parents/guardians)
    • Ask your colleges or universities for help if you still have unmet need
    • Not sure what you should do next? Click here for some tips.
  7. Transition
    • When you make your final college choice, double-check deadlines for sending in your required deposit, housing application, and any other forms required by the school; many schools will ask you to make your college choice by May 1
    • Once you have made your decision, let the other schools know that you will not be attending
    • Pay close attention to all communications from your college since they will contain important information to help you transition successfully into college
    • Participate in new student orientation with your family
    • Not sure what you should do next? Click here for some tips.