Career & College Planning

Once you start high school, you need to start thinking about your future. Whether that means a career without college, with college or a trade school, there are steps you can take and resources to explore to initiate career planning. The following steps are the recommended sequence for students in grades 9-12 to keep on top of their career and college planning.

9th Grade

  • Continue to think about careers, as well as college or other post-secondary options through your Career Cruising account. Check out and
  • Schedule the appropriate college- or tech-prep courses that best meet your needs. Language is a good choice for college-bound students. Colleges want to see two years of the same language.
  • Strive to get good grades. Grades you earn in 9th grade are applied to your high school GPA and class rank, and ultimately affect college admission and scholarship opportunities.
  • Explore your interests and possible careers.
  • Get involved in extracurricular activities (both school and non-school-sponsored).
  • Talk to your parents about planning for college expenses. Start (or continue) saving for college.
  • Look at the college information in the Guidance Office and Library, as well as the public libraries. Check out college websites.
  • Tour a nearby college, if possible. Visit relatives or friends who live on or near a college campus. Check out the dorms, go to the library or student center, and get a feel for college life.
  • Investigate summer enrichment programs.

10th Grade

  • In October, take the PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test for practice. This is mandatory if you’re considering dual enrollment classes in 11th grade.
  • Take the ASVAB.
  • Keep up your grades so you can have the highest GPA and class rank possible.
  • It’s not just grades that matter. Get involved in activities outside the classroom. Work toward leadership positions in the activities that you like best. Become involved in community service and other volunteer activities.
  • Read, read, read as many books as possible.
  • Work on your writing skills; you’ll need them no matter what you do. Find a teacher or another adult who will advise and encourage you to write well.
  • Continue to explore interests and careers. Also continue your search for colleges and other post-graduation choices.
  • Check out, and
  • Become familiar with general college entrance requirements.
  • Begin narrowing your college preferences (two-year or four-year, small or large, rural or urban).
  • If you are interested in attending a military academy, joining a military branch or entering an ROTC program, start planning and getting information.
  • Write/email colleges you may be interested in and ask for additional information. Create a personal email account to communicate with and request information from colleges.
  • In the spring, schedule courses that best meet your future school and career goals (academic math, English, science, and foreign language).
  • Consider Advanced Placement (AP) and dual enrollment courses to earn college credits in high school.
  • Visit college campuses and read all of the mail you receive from colleges. You may see something you like.
  • Keep saving for college.
  • Get a summer job.

11th Grade

  • Check your class rank. Even if your grades aren’t great, it’s never too late to improve. Colleges like to see an upward trend.
  • Sign up for and take the PSAT/NMSQT.
  • Make sure your post-graduation plans will allow you to meet your career goals.
  • Make a list of colleges that meet your most important criteria (size, location, distance from home, majors, academic rigor, housing, and cost).
  • Speak to college representatives who visit your high school.
  • If you want to participate in Division I or Division II sports in college, start the certification process. Check with your counselor to make sure you are taking a core curriculum that meets NCAA requirements.
  • If you are interested in a military academy, start the application process.
  • If you are interested in an ROTC program, start the application process.
  • Collect information about college application procedures for those schools that interest you.  Review these colleges’ entrance requirements, tuition and fees, room and board costs, student activities, course offerings, faculty, accreditation, and financial aid opportunities. Visit college websites to obtain this information. Begin comparing the schools by the factors that you consider to be most important.
  • Begin narrowing down your college choices. Find out which college readiness exams they require: SAT I, ACT, or SAT II Subject Tests for admission.
  • Register for the SAT and the ACT for one of the spring or summer dates available. This information can be obtained in the guidance office. For SAT registration, go to: For ACT registration, go to:
  • Begin preparing for the tests you’ve decided to take. Preparation materials can be found online and are available in the Guidance Office.
  • Discuss your college preferences with your parents. Examine financial resources, and gather information about financial aid.
  • Set up a filing system with individual folders for each college’s correspondence and printed materials.
  • Make sure you are making appropriate senior-year course selections and on-track for completing graduation requirements.
  • Discuss the college essay with your guidance counselor or English teacher.
  • Stay involved with your extracurricular activities. Colleges look for consistency and depth in activities.
  • Consider whom you will ask to write your recommendations. Think about asking teachers who know you well and who will write positive letters about you. Letters from a coach, activity leader, or an adult who knows you outside of school (e.g., volunteer work contact) are also valuable.
  • Inquire about personal interviews at your favorite colleges. Call or write for early summer appointments. Make necessary travel arrangements.
  • Begin saving for college application, financial aid, and testing fees in the fall.
  • Request applications from schools of interest by mail or via the Internet.
  • Visit the campuses of your top-five college choices.
  • After each college interview, send a thank you letter to the interviewer.
  • Talk to people you know who have attended the colleges in which you are interested.
  • Continue to read books, magazines and newspapers.
  • Practice filling out college applications, and then complete the final application forms or apply online through the websites of the colleges in which you’re interested.
  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Compose rough drafts of your college essays. Have a teacher read and discuss them with you. Proofread them, and prepare final drafts. Proofread your final essays at least three times.
  • Request letters of recommendations to be sent with your college applications and transcripts.
  • Complete the required shadowing experience for your Senior Project.

12th Grade

  • Attend college-preparatory events, such as Financial Aid Night, held at school or by local organizations.
  • Beginning October 1, apply for a FSAID (a password for you to complete your FAFSA) at Complete the FAFSA (the universal and FREE financial aid form used for all colleges and technical schools) at Attend your local Financial Aid Night. The FAFSA uses prior-prior year tax information.
  • Continue to take a full course load of classes relevant to your career plan. Make sure you have taken the courses necessary to graduate in the spring.
  • Work on your grades.
  • Continue to participate in extracurricular and volunteer activities. Demonstrate initiative, creativity, commitment, and leadership in each.
  • Male students must register for selective service on their 18th birthday to be eligible for federal and state financial aid.
  • Talk to counselors, teachers, and parents about your final college choices.
  • Make a calendar showing application deadlines and important dates for admission, financial aid, and scholarships.
  • Check resource books, computer programs, and your guidance office for information on scholarships and grants. Ask colleges about scholarships for which you may qualify.
  • Give recommendation forms to those individuals you have chosen. Providing them with stamped, self-addressed envelopes is courteous if they will be mailing the letters directly to the colleges. Be sure to fill out your name, address, and school name on the top of the form.
  • Complete Transcript Request Form for those colleges to which you are applying. (The form is also available at the Guidance Office.) If you are sending other information along with your transcripts, make sure you have it ready when you request your transcript.
  • If needed, based on your junior year scores, register for the ACT and/or SAT exams.  Have these newer scores sent directly to the schools to which you have applied or plan to apply.
  • Understand early-admissions and early-decision commitments.  Mail or send electronically any college applications for early-decision admission by November 1.
  • If possible, visit colleges while classes are in session.
  • If you plan to apply for an ROTC scholarship, remember that your application is due by in the fall.
  • Print extra copies or make photocopies of every application you send.
  • If needed, request that your mid-year grade reports be sent to colleges. Continue to focus on your schoolwork!
  • Mail or email any remaining applications and financial aid forms before the holiday break. Make sure you apply to at least one college that you know you can afford and where you know you will be accepted. This should be a PA state school. A list of these schools can be found at
  • Follow up to make sure that the colleges have received all application information, including recommendations and test scores.
  • Check with your counselor to verify that all applicable forms are in order and have been sent out to colleges.
  • Between March 1 and April 1, look for college acceptance notifications.
  • Between April 1 and May 1, look for financial aid award notifications. (Your colleges can tell you when to expect these.)
  • Compare the financial aid packages from the colleges that have accepted you.
  • Make your final choice, and notify all schools of your intent prior to their deadlines. If possible, do not decide without making at least one campus visit. Send your nonrefundable deposit to your chosen school by the specified deadline.  Request that your school counselor send a final transcript to the college following graduation.
  • Be sure that you have received a FAFSA acknowledgment.
  • If you applied for a Pell Grant (on the FAFSA), you will receive the Student Aid Report (SAR) statement. Review this Pell notice, and forward it to the college you plan to attend. Make a copy for your record.
  • Complete follow-up paperwork for the college of your choice (scheduling, orientation session, housing arrangements, and other necessary forms).
  • Receive the orientation schedule from your college.
  • Get residence hall assignment from your college.
  • Obtain course scheduling and cost information from your college.
  • Congratulations! You are about to begin the greatest adventure of your life. Good luck.