College Four-Year Action Plan
- Take challenging courses-Your academic record is the most important part of your college application. Colleges want to see good grades; however, they also want to see that you pushed yourself and took the most demanding courses that you could handle. You will make your freshman year schedule while still in middle school. Pay attention when the high school counselors come to your school to discuss high school classes. Talk to your teachers and counselor about what courses will be best for you. Make sure your parents attend Course Offering Night when it is offered at your high school. Check out the Program of Studies and read about the classes you want to take next year as well as classes you are thinking about taking in the future. Some classes that you are interested in taking later will have prerequisites. Find out what they are and take them now so that you'll be able to take them when the time comes. The Program of Studies is located on the Colonia High School website under the Counseling tab in Scheduling.
- Meet your high school counselor-When you get to high school, you will be invited to meet your new counselor. Take advantage of this opportunity. School counselors are a wealth of knowledge. Feel free to ask any questions that you have about high school and/or college. Counselors are a great resource for learning about different classes, activities, and colleges. Remember, they are here to help you!
- Focus on grades-Your freshman year grades matter. College may seem like it's a long way off, but freshman grades count toward your GPA and rank. Practice self-discipline and make sure you're doing all your homework and studying for quizzes and tests. Staying home to study while your friends are hanging out doesn't seem like a lot of fun now, but you won't regret it when you receive that excellent report card which will lead to all those college acceptance letters later down the road.
- Get help if you need it-If you are having a hard time in one of your subjects, ask your teacher for help. Many teachers offer extra help before or after school or at lunch. In addition, your school also has tutoring programs available at various times throughout the day. Your teachers and counselors are here to help you so don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
- Become familiar with College Board-Your freshman year, you will create a log-in and password for the College Board website at www.collegeboard.org. On this site you will find useful information that will help you throughout your high school career. The College Board website has information about colleges and majors. You will be able to use your test scores in order to practice for the PSAT and SAT, register for the SAT, decide what courses you should take in high school, and plan for what you will do after high school. Make sure you save it to your favorites and remember your username and password.
- Extracurricular Activities-In 9th grade you should be focusing on a couple of extracurricular activities that you are passionate about. Colleges are looking for students with varied interests and evidence of leadership potential; your involvement in activities outside of the classroom often reveals this information to the college admissions officers.
- Community Service Hours-It is recommended that each student complete a minimum of 10 hours of community service per year in grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 for graduation. Although community service is no longer required, students who complete their recommended hours will be recognized at graduation ceremonies. In addition, a total of your community service hours will be included on your transcript. Colleges will love this! Not sure what opportunities are available to you? There is a community service bulletin board located outside the counseling office. New opportunities are posted daily. When you do your hours, don't forget to have your supervisor sign off on the Community Service Log. These forms are located on the Colonia High School website under the counseling tab and in the counseling office.
- Visit Colleges-Although you don't have to pick a college now, it's never too early to start looking. Tag along when your older sister or brother visits colleges. Happen to be near a campus? Stop by to check it out and take a tour. This will help you focus on colleges in the future as well as rule out colleges that aren't for you.
- Read--a lot!-Hopefully, you've been reading for fun for many years by the time you get to high school. The more you read, the stronger your verbal, writing, and critical thinking abilities will be. Reading beyond your homework wil help you do well in school, on the SAT and ACT, and in college. Whether you're reading a magazine or a novel, you'll be improving your vocabulary, practicing your reading skills, and learning loads of new information.
- Don't waste your summer-You may want to sleep in and hang out by the pool this summer, but it's also important that you try to do something productive. Summer is a great opportunity to have rewarding experiences as well as get involved in activities that you can add to your college resume. Travel, working on fullfilling your community service hours, camps, and employment and internships are all great opportunities.
- Continue to take challenging courses-Before scheduling with your counselor begins, you will be given a course offering sheet with courses that will be available the following year. Talk to your teachers and continue to look at the Program of Studies to find courses that fullfill graduation requirements, interest you, and are an appropriate track. Use the course offering sheet and circle courses you want to take. Bring it with you when your counselor calls you down to guidance for scheduling. Although your counselor is there to help you select your classes, you should have some idea about what you want to take when you meet with him or her.
- Grades, grades, grades-It is important that you keep focusing on your academic record. Continue to practice self-discipline and time management in order to achieve the highest grades possible. Developing these skills now will also be helpful to you once you get to college.
- Don't drop that world language-In order to graduate, you will need 5 credits in a world language; however, that doesn't mean you should stop there. Most colleges require a lot more than one year of the same world language for admissions. In fact, becoming fluent in another language can not only help you get into college, it can also help you land a job. Although it may be tempting to drop Spanish for another elective, don't do it. It will be well worth it in the future.
- Put effort into extracurricular activities-By the time you apply to colleges, it's important that you show depth and leadership in an extracurricular activity. Although it might be tempting to take a semester of Band, a semester of Basic Foods, a couple months of Guitar Club, another couple of months of Film Club, and volunteer here and there for a few hours, colleges would rather see you stick with one activity. Like Chorus and been doing it for a while? Stick with it. Not sure if you should trade in your clarinet for a spot on the Newspaper Club? If you've been playing the clarinet for years and want to put it on your college applications, keep playing. A long but shallow list of extracurricular activites doesn't really amount to anything meaningful.
- Community service hours-By now you know that it is recommended that you complete 40 community service hours by the time you graduate. However, did you know that you can earn more than 10 per year? For example, say you spent 30 hours this summer rebuilding houses for victims of Hurricane Sandy and you earned 10 hours your freshman year volunteering at a soup kitchen. You had your supervisors sign off on the Community Service Log and handed the log in. Guess what? You have met your requirement! Of course, that doesn't mean that you stop volunteering. What that does mean is that you have will have all of the hours you need to be recognized at graduation.
- Collegeboard.org-By now you also know about the College Board website. You have a username and password. Maybe you think you know what you want your major to be in college or maybe you have no clue. The College Board website has a great tool that can help you figure out what major and career would be good for you or if the one you picked matches your skills and personality. It is located on this site under "My College QuickStart." The next time you have some free time, take the quiz. You will learn about your personality type and receive major and career suggestions. In addition, you will be taking the PSAT in October of your sophomore year. When you get the results back, there is a code that you can enter on the website. Once you enter the code, you will be able to see what questions you answered correctly and incorrectly. In addition, you'll have access to the correct answers as well as an explanation of why they are correct. This will help you improve your score the next time you take the PSAT as well as when you take the SAT next year.
- Visit colleges and browse the Web-Continue to visit colleges if you're in the area. Explore possible college websites. Look on collegeboard.org to find out what colleges have the major you're intersted in and what their admission requirements are. Keep an open mind! Don't rule out one college just because your older friend didn't like it. Don't become too focused on one college either. There are a variety of appealing colleges out there.
- Keep reading-The more you read, the more you will know and the stronger your verbal, writing, and critical thinking abilities will be.
- Have a summer plan-Make sure you do something this summer that leads to personal growth and valuable experiences. Do volunteer work, enroll in a summer program at a local college, get an internship or a job, visit family members in another country. Looking for something to do this summer? Visit the counseling office. Your counselor may be able to help find a volunteer activity, job, or summer college program that is the right fit for you.
In 11th grade, the college preparation process accelerates and you need to start paying careful attention to deadlines and application requirements. Realize that in 11th grade you don't need to choose exactly where to apply yet, but you do need to have a plan mapped out for achieving your broad educational goals.
- Take advantage of AP and other upper-level course offerings-Continue to challenge yourself with a demanding schedule. Based on teacher recommendation, aim to take AP and higher level courses. If you're not sure what AP classes are right for you, go to collegeboard.org and click on AP Potential. Based on your PSAT scores, you are given recommendations for AP courses that would be the right fit for you.
- Keep your grades up-Grades from your junior year are very important. If you had a few marginal grades in 9th or 10th grade, improvement in 11th grade shows a college you've learned how to be a good student. A drop in your grades in 11th grade shows a move in the wrong direction, and it will raise red flags for college admissions staff.
- Retake the PSAT-You will retake the PSAT again in October. You should enter your access code again on collegeboard.org once you receive the results. Compare your scores with your results from last year. Your scores should have improved. Look over questions that you answered incorrectly and the explanations of the correct answers.
- Take the SAT in the Spring-Register for the SAT at www.collegeboard.org. You will need your username and password. If you receive free or reduced lunch, you qualify for a fee waiver. Visit your guidance counselor in order to receive the waiver. You may use a few waiver to take the SAT up to two times. When registering for the SAT, you may send your official SAT scores to four colleges. This is included in the fee. Even if you are not sure, pick four colleges that you think you will be applying to send your results. More than four score reports or reports requested after the registration period will be subject to a $12.00 fee. You are responsible for colleges receiving your SAT scores, not your counselor. Dates the SAT will be offered, as well as the deadline for registration, is available on the College Board website as well as in the counseling office and on the Colonia High School website under the counseling tab.
- Talk to your counselor-Make an appointment to see your counselor during the spring so you can discuss colleges that interest you.
- Continue to visit colleges-Spring break and summer vaction is the perfect time to visit as many colleges as possible with your family in order to find out what college or university is the best fit for you.
- Continue extracurricular activities-If possible, take a leadership role in these activities. Colleges are looking for future leaders, not passive bystanders.
- Continue working on community service hours-If you have not completed the recommended 40 hours yet, continue to earn hours volunteering in the community.
- Take challenging courses-Continue to challenge yourself, and work hard to achieve excellent grades during your senior year. Plan to take as many Advanced Placement courses as possible.
- Take the SAT/ACT again-If you were not happy with the results of your junior year SAT or ACT, plan to take one of the tests again. Check the college planning tab for dates the tests are offered and deadlines.
- Compile a list of schools/colleges and deadlines-Be aware of the application process for each college. Depending on the college, you may have to apply using the Common App, the college website, or paper. If you are applying using the Common App, you must create an account.
- Meet with your counselor-In October or November, you should plan to meet with your counselor to discuss and finalize the colleges where you will be applying. Plan on applying to about 5 to 7 schools--1 to 2 safety schools, 2 to 3 target schools, and 1-2 reach schools.
- Request Counselor/Teacher recommendations-Recommendation forms are found online in the college planning tab as well as in guidance. Give your teachers and counselor at least two weeks to complete your recommendations. If you would like your teacher to submit the recommendation through Common App, you must invite them. If the teacher gives you the recommendation, give your counselor a copy so he or she has it on file and can mail it to schools on your behalf. Don't forget to say thank you to the teacher or counselor who took the time to help you!
- Fill out a College Application Checklist-College Application Checklists are available in guidance or in the guidance tab under forms. Give your counselor a minimum of 10 working days prior to the application deadline. Remember to write the names of teachers whose letters of recommendation you want to use and check off what other information you'd like mailed to the college (transcript, resume, essay, secondary school/counselor form, fee waiver, etc.) This will ensure that your colleges get everything that they need promptly.
- Mid-Year Reports-All colleges on Common App will receive mid-year reports from your counselor. If another school is requesting a mid-year report, make sure you tell your counselor.
- Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)-Submit your completed FAFSA as soon after January 1st as possible. The FAFSA requires information from your parents' income tax, so they should complete it as soon as possible. The FAFSA website is https://fafsa.ed.gov/. Woodbridge Township also offers a free FAFSA workshop once a year, usually in January. Check with your guidance counselor or look on the guidance website for the date.
- Wait for your acceptance letters-All your applications are in! Now you can sit back and wait to be accepted. Although dates of acceptance will vary, all decisions from colleges and universities are given by April 1. Before making the final decision, revisit the colleges or universities that have given you acceptance; and look for financial aid responses that should arrive during the month of April.
- Select your school-Upon making your choice, send in the deposit and any other information requested. Notify the college of your choice prior to the May 1st deadline. Notify the other schools that offered acceptances other plans have been made.
Congratulations as you begin your journey as a college student!