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High school student checklists

Freshman year

It’s never too early to start planning for college. Here are a few things you can do now to make the process easier for you and your student later.


  1. Start a college resume’ by listing out academic, volunteer and community involvement. Download a free resume' template Word document file that you can use for this purpose. 
  2. If you’ve not already started, open a savings account for college tuition and costs.
  3. Remind your student that every grade matters. High school grades affect a final GPA and influence college acceptance and scholarships.
  4. For students who need a little help to maintain their GPA, check out free tutoring services such as the Khan Academy

Sophomore year

Sophomore year is a great time to build a college resume’ and gain volunteer or work experience. By now, students may have an idea of what academic subjects or career paths interest them. It could be beneficial for them to chat with teachers, coaches or guidance counselors about how to pursue these interests. Finding a mentor could help your student foster connections and gain first-hand knowledge to help make decisions later. 


  • Continue building your student’s college resume’ by listing academic, volunteer and community involvement. Download a free resume' templateWord document icon here.
  • If you’ve not already started, open a savings account specifically for college tuition and costs.
  • Begin to look at financial aid and scholarship opportunities. For example, here is some information about financial aid programs and scholarships available at Columbia College.
  • Encourage your student to find a mentor within school or out who shares his or her career interests.
  • Sign your student up for the Aspire test. This is designed to give students an idea of how they may perform on the ACT test. It also helps identify any academic areas where additional study may be needed. What’s more, it gives students a chance to get more comfortable with the pressures of important tests.

    What is the ACT Aspire Test

    ACT Aspire testing provides a perspective on student readiness for the ACT test in each academic category. This enables you to identify any areas where your student may need extra help prior to the ACT test. It also provides suggestions on possible career paths and academic major areas for college.

    Check with your school to see if ACT Aspire testing is available.

  • Remind your student that GPA counts. Every grade earned in high school affects final GPA, which can influence college acceptance and scholarships.
  • If your student needs a little extra help maintaining grades, check out free tutoring services such as the Khan Academy
  • Junior year

    This is arguably the most important year of your student’s high school education. Junior year can be very busy with tests, college visits and lots of things to consider. Here are key things to think about at this crucial time.


    1. Sign your student up for the ACT or SAT test. Many students take either test multiple times to ensure they attain their best performance for college admission and scholarships. Check out our handy guides to the ACT and SAT tests.
    2. Discuss your child's interests. This may help him or her choose a major later.
    3. Encourage your student to try job-shadowing or an internship in areas of interest. These look great on a college resume'.
    4. Work with your student to create a shortlist of potential colleges. Here’s a quick guide to making a college shortlist
    5. Start visiting colleges to see which ones may be a good fit for your student. Check out our list of key questions to ask on campus visits
    6. Check out the scholarships available at different colleges. These could make a huge difference on the net tuition cost payable for your student’s education. For example, Columbia College offers automatic scholarships awarded to students with certain ACT scores and high school GPAs.

    Senior year

    It’s finally time to apply! Senior year marks the time your student applies for college, gets accepted and chooses where to go. By now you’ve probably made your college shortlist. Your student most likely has a clearer idea of what he or she is interested in studying. Now it’s time to visit schools, narrow it down and start the undergraduate journey.


    1. Make sure your student continues to fill in their resume'. Include all summer internships or jobs, as well as senior year activities. 
    2. Narrow down the list of schools you’ll be able to actually visit. If you can’t make it to all of them, see if there’s a virtual tour. Or find a current student who might be able to have a phone conversation with your student.
    3. Look for scholarships from both schools and outside resources. Many scholarships are time sensitive, so create a list with your student to make sure you meet deadlines.
    4. Encourage any other major or career interests. Letting students explore their areas of interest before paying for credit hours can make a big difference.
    5. Request your student’s ACT or SAT scores be sent along with each college application. Each school should have a specific code for sending scores.
    6. Though junior year grades are available, schools will also request an official transcript after your student’s high school graduation. Make sure your student doesn’t forget about high school learning while thinking about future undergraduate studies.



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