Creating an action plan to prepare for college

One way to help prepare your student for the college admissions process is by creating an action plan. An action plan is a guide that helps ensure one is staying on track in preparing for college and is doing the necessary classes, admission tests, and extracurricular activities.


The following is a general action plan for students starting in eighth grade. Students should work together with their parents and teachers or guidance counselors to create a more personalized action plan that meets their academic goals!


•   Eighth grade. Enroll in advanced classes such as Algebra I that are prerequisites for many classes in high school. Consider what classes you’d want like to take or other activities you may want to participate in.

•   Ninth grade. Schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor to create a general academic plan for the next four years. Plan to take classes that not only seem interesting, but are also challenging enough to stand out on your college applications. Ninth grade is also the perfect time to get involved with clubs, sports, and other activities. Try out for a sports team, sign up for newspaper, or get involved with an academic club at school to help boost your resume.

•   Tenth grade. Prepare for college admission exams by signing up to take the PSAT/NMSQT or PLAN. While PSAT scores won’t count towards National Merit scholarships this year, it’s a good way to familiarize yourself with the exam. Think about how you’d want to spend your summers. If possible, sign up for summer classes, take on a volunteer opportunity, or work in an internship.

•   Eleventh grade. Sign up for the PSAT/NMSQT in October, the ACT in February, and the SAT in March. Take the time to study for the tests in advance as they can affect your college admission. Likewise, scoring well can qualify you for a number of scholarship opportunities. Taking the tests at this time will give you time to retake the ACT or SAT if necessary. Begin narrowing down schools you may be interested in to 15-20 colleges and universities. Research their admission processes, costs, prerequisites, and other information to prepare yourself for applying next year.

•   Twelfth grade. Meet with your guidance counselor again to make sure you aren’t missing any classes, tests, or other requirements for college admissions or graduation. Create a calendar that has all of the deadlines for applications, letters or recommendations, testing, transcripts, and other documents that need to be sent to schools you are applying to. Take note of the different deadlines for each university. When the acceptance letters start arriving, congratulate yourself on a job well done – but don’t give in to senioritis! Final transcripts will need to be sent to your school of choice at the end of the year.


The college admissions process can seem intimidating, but by creating a yearly action plan you’ll be more prepared when the time comes around!