Start Planning for College the Day You Start High School

Going through the college admissions process is as much an opportunity to learn about yourself as it is a journey to define and pursue your future college and career goals. Path to College aims to demystify this competitive and sometimes overwhelming process by providing in-depth and comprehensive expert advice to students across our county regardless of economic background. As a partner of Achieve Palm Beach County along with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, we are committed to increasing the rate of students preparing for, enrolling in, and persisting through degree credentialing programs. With that shared mission in mind, we are happy to share a few quick tips to help you manage your career and college search.

9th Grade — Take a Career Aptitude test through a free account at My Career Shines. Next, explore the suggested careers through volunteer and enrichment opportunities. Consider how you can plan your course load to prepare for this career path. Look for academically rigorous courses. Challenging electives like journalism, debate, or high-tech computer classes are a great way to round out your transcript. Talk often and excitedly about your goals or ideas for your future. Look for opportunities and feedback. Expert tip: The Admissions committee loves to see more than two years of a foreign language on your transcript. Science courses are the number one reason students do not graduate on time. Make sure to get your required science classes completed as soon as possible. Do not put them off and plan on taking two at once!

10th Grade — Seek advanced coursework and volunteer opportunities that match your career interests. Take your PERT test and try to dual enroll over your summer break. Otherwise, try to find a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity that will help you gain skills for the workforce.

11th Grade — Complete a virtual tour or on-campus tour. Research the colleges you are interested in at College Navigator. Study for your SAT or ACT regularly, aiming to put in at least one to two hours a week. There are free online preparation resources through Khan Academy or ACT Academy Aim to revise your personal statement (College application essay) three to five times over summer. Get a second reader, and make sure to follow the instructors.

12th Grade — Choose three teachers to ask for a recommendation letter. Give them between two to four weeks to prepare. Ask them, “Can you write me a STRONG recommendation letter?” In October, fill out your FAFSA. Apply to your dream school during early admission in November. Set a goal to apply to one college every other week and stick to it. Use the Common App to help manage the process. Apply to scholarships between October and March and shoot for one a week. Use your personal statement as a starting template and rework for each scholarship you apply for.

Additional resources for students and parents are available on the Achieve Palm Beach County website at achievepbc.org/resources.

Christine Sylvain is the Founder and Executive Director of the Path to College Fellowship, whose mission is to secure the acceptance of as many high-achieving, low-income students into top-tier universities as possible.

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