Even freshman can benefit from pre-college planning. Use these checklists from to help stay on track. Sallie Mae and also offer a checklist at this link.


Take EXPLORE®-a set of four tests that measure academic achievement; EXPLORE results can be a benchmark before taking PLAN® and the ACT® test

Review EXPLORE results with your parents and school counselor

Join/continue extracurricular activities

Attend summer camp at a college to experience a college-like atmosphere

Continue/start saving for college

Research college costs

Meet with your college/career counselor at least once a year


Continue to meet with your college/career counselor at least once a year

Think about what kinds of education/training different careers require

Take PLAN®, also known as the "pre-ACT"

Review PLAN results with your parents and school counselor, compare these to your EXPLORE results to measure growth

Start collecting college information

Visit colleges and talk with college students

Use this list of college characteristics to decide how to evaluate different colleges

Begin filling out the college comparison worksheet (PDF; 1 page, 64KB); for assistance with PDF files, see these tips

Continue/start saving for college

Consider your reasons for going to college and how they relate to your career interests

Join/continue extracurricular activities


Keep meeting with your college/career counselor at least once a year

Keep your grades up

Join an academic club

Register for the ACT. you should be academically ready to take it by spring. If not, take it early in your senior year.

Talk with your parents and high school counselor about colleges that interest you

Continue to visit colleges and talk with college students

Start or update an academic resume

Consider putting together a portfolio that highlights your special skills and talents

Keep filling out the college comparison worksheet (PDF; 1 page, 64KB); for assistance with PDF files, see these tips

Investigate scholarship opportunities

Volunteer for activities and clubs related to career interests

Get a part-time job, apprenticeship, or internship; or job shadow in a profession that interests you



--Sign up for the ACT (if you didn't take it as a junior, or if you aren't satisfied with your score, or if you've learned a lot since you first took it).

--Review ACT test results and retest if necessary


--Visit with your school counselor to make sure you are on track to graduate and fulfill college admission requirements

--Consider taking courses at a local university or community college

--Keep working hard all year; second semester grades can affect scholarship eligibility

--Ask for personal references from teachers, school counselors, or employers early in the year or at least two weeks before application deadlines. Follow your school's procedure for requesting recommendations.

--Visit with admissions counselors who come to your high school

--Attend a college fair

--Begin your college essay(s)

--Find out if you qualify for scholarships at each college you have applied to

--See your school counselor for help finding financial aid and scholarships


--Ask your guidance office in January to send first semester transcripts to schools where you applied. In May, they will need to send final transcripts to the college you will attend.

--Visit colleges that have invited you to enroll

--Decide which college to attend, and notify the school of your decision

--Keep track of and observe deadlines for sending in all required fees and paperwork

--Notify schools you will not attend of your decision

--Continue to look for scholarship opportunities

--Keep track of important financial aid and scholarship deadlines

--Watch the mail for your Student Aid Report (SAR)”it should arrive four weeks after the FAFSA is filed

--Compare financial aid packages from different schools

--Sign and send in a promissory note if you are borrowing money

--Notify your college about any outside scholarships you received