Student checklist: Preparing for college

July 24, 2023

Preparing to apply for and ultimately choosing a college or university can be daunting. Take these steps to set yourself up for success.

Are you getting ready to apply to the college or university of your dreams? Or do you simply need to start narrowing down your decision? Either way, take these steps to assure you are ready when it is time to apply and make the big decision!

 

9th grade:

  • Establish good study habits.
  • Focus on good grades. Your overall GPA is required on your college application.
  • Meet with your high school counselor one to two times a year to talk about career interests, goals and preparatory curriculum. 
  • Get involved in sports, clubs or volunteer at organizations that interest you.
  • Start a list to track your awards, honors, paid and volunteer work, and extracurricular activities. 

 

10th grade: 

  • Take the PLAN test. It is a great way to prepare for the ACT test.
  • Take challenging courses.
  • Research which college entrance test (ACT or SAT) is best for your situation.
  • Use the college resource center at your high school to research colleges and careers.
  • Gain some work experience at a part-time job to save a portion of your college costs.
  • Add to your list of awards, honors, paid and volunteer work, and extracurricular activities.

 

11th grade:

  • Prepare for and take the ACT and/or SAT tests. There are workshops, books and online practice tests to help you prepare. 
  • Take the PSAT test to see if you qualify for National Merit Scholarship competition.
  • Job-shadow someone for a day to learn more about a career that interests you.
  • Attend college fairs to learn more about colleges and meet their school representatives.
  • Tour colleges – do an overnight to get the “feel” of the campus. Compare school attributes (big vs. small, rural vs. urban, distance from home, etc.).
  • Use the U.S. Department of Labor’s scholarship search to find scholarships. Some deadlines fall as early as the summer between 11th and 12th grades.
  • Contact local civic organizations and employers about scholarship opportunities.

 

12th grade:

  • Take college credits – they're free.
  • Study for and take the ACT or SAT test. If you’ve already taken the test(s), consider retaking to see if you can improve your score.
  • Revisit colleges and determine the best fit. See how your accomplishments align with their requirements
  • Request letters of recommendations – allow teachers and others plenty of time for completion.
  • Write college essays, get feedback from others and be sure to proof it before submitting.
  • Submit admission applications. Follow up with colleges you’ve applied to. Make sure they’ve received all required documents (transcript, letters of recommendation, official test scores, etc.).
  • Create a Federal Student Aid ID. Submit the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible each year. Here's how to apply.
  • If you’ve taken Advanced Placement classes, take the exams to see if you qualify for college credits.

 

You’ve done your part. Now help your parents do their part in your college selection and preparation process with our parent checklist.

Related content

3 reasons governments and educational institutions should implement service fees

Investment strategies by age

These small home improvement projects offer big returns on investment

Reviewing your beneficiaries: A 5-step guide

Webinar: Mortgage basics: Finding the right home loan for you

How to fund your business without using 401(k) savings

Dear Money Mentor: What is cash-out refinancing and is it right for you?

Can ABL options fuel your business — and keep it running?

5 financial goals for the new year

How to get started creating your business plan

Collateral options for ABL: What’s eligible, what’s not?

ABL mythbusters: The truth about asset-based lending

10 ways to increase your home’s curb appeal

What documents do you need after a loved one dies?

Checklist: 10 questions to ask your home inspector

Closing on a house checklist for buyers

How to plan and save for adoption and in vitro fertility treatment costs

11 essential things to do before baby comes

What’s the difference between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

Changes in credit reporting and what it means for homebuyers

Are you ready to restart your federal student loan payments?

Tips to earn that A+ in back-to-school savings

How to manage money tips

For today's homebuyers, time and money are everything

Uncover the cost: International trip

Uncover the cost: Wedding

4 reasons why estate planning is important

LGBTQ+ retirement planning: What you need to know

What is Medicare? Understanding your coverage options

Using 529 plans for K-12 tuition

Retirement plan options for the self-employed

Is a Health Savings Account missing from your retirement plan?

How to open and invest in a 529 plan

How to manage your finances when you're self-employed

How grandparents can contribute to college funds instead of buying gifts

Higher education and the cashless society: Latest trends

Managing the rising costs of payment acceptance with service fees

Safeguarding the payment experience through contactless

COVID-19 safety recommendations: Are you ready to reopen?

CFO survey: A shifting focus on ESG in business

4 benefits of independent loan agents

Middle-market direct lending: Obstacles and opportunities

CFO report: Driving growth via new business models and technology

CFO insights: Leading the recovery for sustainable growth

At your service: outsourcing loan agency work

Maximizing your infrastructure finance project with a full suite trustee and agent

How to maximise your infrastructure finance project

Insource or outsource? 10 considerations

Buying or leasing? Questions to ask before signing a contract

Finance or operating lease? Deciphering the legalese of equipment finance

Common pitfalls to avoid in the equipment financing process

How jumbo loans can help home buyers and your builder business

Prioritizing payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic

5 tips to help you land a small business loan

Streamline operations with all-in-one small business financial support

The costs of hiring a new employee

5 steps to take before transitioning your business

Make your business legit

How to establish your business credit score

Talent acquisition 101: Building a small business dream team

10 tips on how to run a successful family business

How to sell your business without emotions getting in the way

5 things to know before accepting a first job offer

How to save money while helping the environment

Opening a business on a budget during COVID-19

When to consider switching banks for your business

How to expand your business: Does a new location make sense?

7 steps to prepare for the high cost of child care

What are conforming loan limits and why are they increasing

How to save for a wedding

How I did it: Turned my side hustle into a full-time job

Multiple accounts can make it easier to follow a monthly budget

How to test new business ideas

How can I help my student manage money?

7 steps to keep your personal and business finances separate

3 types of insurance you shouldn’t ignore

8 steps to choosing a health insurance plan

7 things to know about long-term care insurance

Preparing for retirement: 8 steps to take

How I did it: Switched career paths by taking an unexpected pivot

5 unexpected retirement expenses

How to build wealth at any age

Year-end financial checklist

6 tips for trust fund distribution to beneficiaries

Achieving their dreams through a pre-apprenticeship construction program

4 steps to finding a charity to support

Evaluating interest rate risk creating risk management strategy

Tech lifecycle refresh: A tale of two philosophies

How to winterize your vehicle

Don’t underestimate the importance of balancing your checking account

6 questions students should ask about checking accounts

The secret to successful service provider integration

Beyond Mars, AeroVironment’s earthly expansion fueled by U.S. Bank

What you need to know as the executor of an estate

How to build a content team

Webinar: ESG for Corporations: Building an all-weather, long-lasting strategy

Do your investments match your financial goals?

Can fantasy football make you a better investor?

Year end tax planning tips

Test your loan savvy

Webinar: Mortgage basics: What’s the difference between interest rate and annual percentage rate?

A beginner's guide to investing

How do I prequalify for a mortgage?

Can you take advantage of the dead equity in your home?

Webinar: Mortgage basics: How much house can you afford?

8 steps to take before you buy a home

Is a home equity line of credit (HELOC) right for you?

Webinar: Mortgage basics: 3 Key steps in the homebuying process

Webinar: Mortgage basics: Buying or renting – What’s right for you?

How to use your home equity to finance home improvements

Webinar: Mortgage basics: What is refinancing, and is it right for you?

Should you get a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit?

5 things to avoid that can devalue your home

6 questions to ask before buying a new home

What is refinancing a mortgage?

10 questions to ask when hiring a contractor

What to know when buying a home with your significant other

Webinar: Mortgage basics: How does your credit score impact the homebuying experience?

What is a home equity line of credit (HELOC) and what can it be used for?

Beyond the mortgage: Other costs for homeowners

4 ways to free up your budget (and your life) with a smaller home

Is it the right time to refinance your mortgage?

Overcoming high interest rates: Getting your homeownership goals back on track

Money Moments: How to finance a home addition

Home buying myths: Realities of owning a home

Webinar: 11 insider tips for student debt

House Hacks: How buying an investment property worked as my first home

Should you buy a house that’s still under construction?

10 uses for a home equity loan

Your guide to breaking the rental cycle

Is a home equity loan for college the right choice for your student

Travel for less: Smart (not cheap) ways to spend less on your next trip

How to apply for federal student aid through the FAFSA

U.S. Bank asks: Do you know what an overdraft is?

Tips for working in the gig economy

Which is better: Combining bank accounts before marriage — or after?

Tips to overcome three common savings hurdles

Money Moments: 8 dos and don’ts for saving money in your 30s

Money Moments: 3 smart financial strategies when caring for aging parents

Is it time to get a shared bank account with your partner?

Friction: How it can help achieve money goals

It's possible: 7 tips for breaking the spending cycle

What to consider before taking out a student loan

Here’s how to create a budget for yourself

Common unexpected expenses and three ways to pay for them

3 awkward situations Zelle can help avoid

9 simple ways to save

Do you and your fiancé have compatible financial goals?

What military service taught me about money management

6 pandemic money habits to keep for the long term

How to avoid student loan scams

From LLC to S-corp: Choosing a small business entity

Webinar: U.S. Bank asks: Are you safe from fraud?

Learn to spot and protect yourself from common student scams

College budgeting: When to save and splurge

How I did it: Paid off student loans

The A to Z’s of college loan terms

How to save money in college: easy ways to spend less

Unexpected cost savings may be hiding in your payment strategy

Costs to consider when starting a business

Questions to ask before buying a car

Should you give your child a college credit card?

Webinar: Uncover the cost: Building a home

Webinar: Mortgage basics: Prequalification or pre-approval – What do I need?

Adulting 101: How to make a budget plan

Your financial aid guide: What are your options?

How I did it: Learned to budget as a single mom

An investor’s guide to marketplace lending

What is a CLO?

Multigenerational household financial planning strategies

Your 4-step guide to financial planning

Working after retirement: Factors to consider

Personal loans first-timer's guide: 7 questions to ask

The connection between your health and financial well-being

Should I itemize my taxes?

Dear Money Mentor: How do I set and track financial goals?

Retirement income planning: 4 steps to take

Lost job finance tips: What to do when you lose your job

LGBTQ+ financial planning tips

Understanding guardianship and power of attorney in banking

Financial gifts can be a valuable – and fun – choice for the holidays

What financial advice would you give your younger self?

How to stop living paycheck to paycheck post-pay increase

What you need to know about renting

What’s in your emergency fund?

Car shopping: Buying versus leasing your next vehicle

What you should know about buying a car

What you need to know before buying a new or used car

Take the stress out of buying your teen a car

How to choose the best car loan for you

Practical money skills and financial tips for college students

Tips for navigating a medical hardship when you’re unable to work

Money management guide to financial independence

Money Moments: How to manage your finances after a divorce

Personal finance for teens can empower your child

5 reasons why couples may have separate bank accounts

U.S. Bank asks: Transitioning out of college life? What’s next?

Co-signing 101: Applying for a loan with co-borrower

What’s a subordination agreement, and why does it matter?

Understanding the true cost of borrowing: What is amortization, and why does it matter?

Key milestone ages as you near and start retirement

How to use debt to build wealth

How to track expenses

How to talk about money with your family

How to build credit as a student

30-day adulting challenge: Financial wellness tasks to complete in a month

How to retire happy

How to protect your digital assets in your estate plan

Money Moments: Tips for selling your home

How I did it: My house remodel

Everything you need to know about consolidating debts

Student checklist: Preparing for college

Resources for managing financial matters after an unexpected death

Webinar: Uncover the cost: College diploma

How I did it: Bought a home without a 20 percent down payment

Crypto + Homebuying: Impacts on the real estate market

Your quick guide to loans and obtaining credit

Military homeownership: Your guide to resources, financing and more

U.S. Bank asks: Do you know your finances?

Webinar: Uncover the cost: Home renovation

Webinar: Bank Notes: College cost comparison

Do I need a financial advisor?

4 questions to ask before you buy an investment property

Good debt vs. bad debt: Know the difference

Parent checklist: Preparing for college

Financial steps to take after the death of a spouse

Estate planning documents: Living trusts vs. will vs. living will

Annual insurance review checklist

7 financial questions to consider when changing jobs

Unexpected cost savings may be hiding in your payment strategy

Evaluating interest rate risk creating risk management strategy

Disclosures

Start of disclosure content

Loan approval is subject to credit approval and program guidelines. Not all loan programs are available in all states for all loan amounts. Interest rates and program terms are subject to change without notice. Mortgage, home equity and credit products are offered by U.S. Bank National Association. Deposit products are offered by U.S. Bank National Association. Member FDIC.