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HIGH SCHOOL CHECKLISTS


Academic success in high school can provide you with better chances of securing scholarships for continuing your education.

TIP: Your Guidance Counselor is your best resource through high school. Speak with your guidance counselor to keep up with everything from your grades to your class rank. Your guidance counselor can help make sure you are on the right track to graduate on time with the courses you need.

Checklists are here to guide you to success.

  • Talk to your guidance counselor to ensure your course schedule is preparing you for college. Many Arkansas scholarships require students to take Smart Core, the college and career ready set of courses that is the default curriculum for all Arkansas public high schools. Remember, the courses a student takes in the 9th grade set the stage for the remainder of their high school career.

  • Start or continue to save for college. The federal government assumes every family will contribute something toward the cost of attending college.

  • Start to learn about available college financial aid and federal/state resources, and how you can use them to help pay for college.

  • If possible, take part in programs or courses offered on college campuses near your home. Seeing different campuses and experiencing campus life at an early age can help you see yourself as a future college student.

  • Be involved in extracurricular activities. Participation in clubs, athletic teams, music groups, journalism, etc. will be an important factor in many college admission decisions.

  • Keep track of your extracurricular activities, volunteerism, awards, or leadership in a notebook or folder. You’ll be asked to list these on college applications, as well as write essays reflecting on the experiences.
  • Register for and take the PSAT (pre-SAT) and/or the PreACT. This provides a good chance to practice for these important college entrance tests. The SAT and ACT websites both offer free practice tests, as do websites that focus specifically on college entrance preparation, such as https://www.number2.com and https://www.march2success.com.

  • Consider your career interests and goals. Talk with your school counselor and others about them and find out the kind of education you will need to meet these goals.

  • Make sure once again your course schedule is matching up with your intended diploma and the career path you want to pursue.

  • Begin considering what you may want in a college. Search websites and other resources for more information on colleges that pique your interest.

  • Start visiting colleges. Schedule a tour or attend a general information session at area colleges. Virtual or online, visits to a college are an inexpensive way to check out many of the things a college has to offer. eCampusTours.com offers virtual college tours with 360° views of thousands of different schools all in one website.

  • Be sure to continue documenting your in-school achievements and activities (athletics, music, etc.).

  • Start or continue to save for college. The federal government assumes every family will contribute something toward the cost of attending college.
Your junior year in high school is pivotal as you plan for your college education. You will have to concentrate even harder on making good grades and taking all your required classes. Standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT, as well as AP Placement tests, will be part of this school year.

If you haven't started your college planning strategy yet, this is the year you need to get organized and make it a priority. Devise a filing system and start gathering materials you'll need when completing college applications. This includes all your high school accomplishments, work experiences, leadership roles, community and non-profit work, and awards and honors.

  • Be sure you are taking a challenging course schedule including college preparatory, AP, and honors classes when available and appropriate. Many colleges and universities allow high school students to simultaneously enroll in college courses for credit. In most cases, students earn both college and high school credit for the same course.

  • Register in early fall for the October PSAT (Practice SAT) which will also serve as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying exam.

  • Continue to utilize free test preparation resources available online and elsewhere, such as the SAT and ACT websites' free practice tests, and sites focusing specifically on college entrance preparation, such as https://www.number2.com and https://www.march2success.com.

  • Start searching for scholarship opportunities and make a timeline for application deadlines for your senior year. Utilize scholarship search websites, such as ASLA College Planning Service's Free Scholarship Search.

  • Begin to make a list of your college selection priorities.

  • Investigate potential colleges of interest. Use catalogs, publications, websites, college fairs and online college campus tours to gather more information.

  • Register for and take the SAT or ACT in the spring. Find out what tests are required by the colleges you are considering attending.

  • In the spring, register for and complete AP tests for any AP courses you are currently taking in high school.

  • Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center if you plan to play sports at a Division I or II college (beginning in the summer following your junior year).

  • Begin visiting college campuses. While summer is often convenient for families to schedule campus visits, it is not always the best time to see a school. Try to visit a college when classes are in session and students are on the campus.

  • Remember, spring and summer earnings during and after your junior year can affect your financial aid.

  • Start or continue to save for college. The federal government assumes every family will contribute something toward the cost of attending college.
Your senior year is your final opportunity to prepare for your college education. Be certain you have an adequate filing system and calendar to keep track of your college applications and applicable paperwork or attachments. Being organized will make the process much easier and less stressful. Be certain you have scored your best effort on the ACT and/or SAT to submit with your college application(s), and if not, consider retaking them. Glance back over the freshman, sophomore and junior timelines on this webpage to be certain you haven't missed any critical steps in the college planning process.


  • Write an early draft of a college and/or scholarship application essay over the summer or early in the fall. You will need time to refine your college essays. Have others critique the initial draft you compose.

  • Continue a solid college prep curriculum. Your senior year schedule and performance will be important in college admission decisions.

  • Register for and take the fall ACT and/or SAT and Subject Tests (if needed).

  • Continue to utilize free test preparation resources available online and elsewhere, such as the SAT and ACT websites' free practice tests, and sites focusing specifically on college entrance preparation, such as https://www.number2.com and https://www.march2success.com.

  • Continue college visits; narrow down college options. Make sure you take advantage of overnight visits at the colleges you are seriously considering.

  • Some colleges require an admission interview, to determine if the college is a good match for you. In an interview, you may be asked some of the following open-ended questions: tell us about yourself, why you are interested in the school, what is your proposed major in college. Don't go to an interview unprepared. Be on time and dress appropriately.

  • Complete and mail college and scholarship applications, paying close attention to deadlines. Be aware of special admission options such as Early Decision and Early Action.

  • It's a good idea to apply to at least one college to which you have a very good chance of being admitted. While there is certainly nothing wrong with applying to your dream school, don't limit your postsecondary options by only applying to highly competitive schools.

  • Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center if you plan to play sports at a Division I or II college (if you haven't done so already).

  • Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after October 1. You can file online at FAFSA.

  • Apply for state scholarships through the Arkansas Division of Higher Education beginning on October 1. The YOUniversal Application applies you for each of the state aid applications.

  • Be sure to attend the financial aid workshop offered at your high school, or at a nearby site, to receive help with completing the FAFSA. Submit any other financial aid forms required by the college(s) you may attend and check to be sure the college(s) you are still seriously considering do not have earlier dates by which any of the financial aid-related forms must be filed.

  • Review the Student Aid Report (SAR) and financial aid award packages from the colleges you applied to, after submitting the FAFSA and receiving your results.

  • Start thinking about your college major field of study.

    Consider the following:
      1) what are your specific interests and
      2) are you preparing for a specific field or job. Determining a major is an important decision that will be influenced by the life and career you want to build after you leave college. Research your choices, be honest with yourself, and seek wise counsel to help ensure you make the right, successful decision.

  • Make onsite visits to your final college choices and meet with admissions and financial aid.

  • Submit the enrollment deposit to the college you plan to attend by May 1 (National Candidate Reply Date), or another date as designated by the college.

  • Register for and complete AP tests for any AP courses you are taking your senior year.

  • The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams test mastery of college-level material acquired in a variety of ways - through general academic instructions, significant independent study or extracurricular work. Many colleges will grant credit to students that meet their minimum qualifying score, which varies by school.

  • File any necessary loan paperwork, housing information, etc. that may be required by the school you plan to attend.

  • Attend the on-campus orientation/registration sessions offered to students and parents at the college you will attend.

  • Continue to save for college. Every family must contribute towards the cost of attending college. Although your college years will begin next fall, remember that anything you can put away now will be welcomed assistance when the time comes.