College Prep Checklist – Don’t Forget About These!

Reality Changers helps at-risk San Diego students acquire the necessary funding to attend college. Some of our greatest challenges involve finding enough money to secure the dream of higher education. With generous donations from individuals and companies, relentless fundraising efforts and persistent applications for grants and scholarships, we’re able to meet college’s considerable financial requirements.

Yet as difficult (and rewarding) as that process is, that’s only half the battle. One of the other ways in which we assist local youth in their pursuit of the college experience is through college prep. In this instance, money isn’t the big hurdle; attitude is. In many aspects, college preparation is a tougher test than senior year finals!

Preparing for college is a critical part of the pre-university buildup. Take care of the college prep process, and you’ll enjoy a relatively hassle-free (and headache-free) experience. But if you’re preparing for college without a clear sense of direction, you’ll soon lose focus. And before you know it, the process is controlling you, instead of the other way around.

This blog will outline how to prepare for college with specific checklist items to focus on for each year of high school.

College Prep: It’s Never too Early to Start

Many high school students make the mistake of preparing for college during their junior or senior year. That’s contrary to one of our favorite adages here at Reality Changers: “victory loves preparation.”

And “preparation,” in this case, means getting a head start on your high education prep process by adhering to a college checklist; the following tips & tricks provide a four-year plan to keep your educational goals in sight – and on track!

Ready to start? Let’s begin at your freshman year. During 9th grade, you should:

  • Meet with your guidance counselor to discuss possible career choices.
  • Try to take academically challenging courses – this is the perfect way to prepare for college’s rigorous and challenging schedule.
  • Talk to professionals that work in the fields you’re interested in.
  • Start a log of all your accomplishments and accolades; continue this until your senior year.


For sophomores, it’s all about keeping the momentum going:

  • Start looking into grants and scholarships; next year at this time, you’ll be eligible for actual college money!
  • Take practice tests for the SAT, PSAT and other college-level entry exams.
  • Follow up with your guidance counselor and look at additional career choices.
  • Sign up for AP (advanced placement) courses, if you haven’t already done so.


For many high school students, their college checklist is busiest during their junior year. Here are some things you can do:

  • Fill out the Common Application; this single app allows you to apply to hundreds of colleges, both private and public.
  • Sign up for the PSAT. If you’re following this college checklist, you’ve already completed a few practice rounds.
  • Take a few informal visits to colleges.
  • Go to as many college fairs as you can, especially ones sponsored by your high school.
  • Register for the ACT and SAT tests.
  • Talk to your parents or guardians about how you’ll pay for college.


One more year to go! Seniors should focus on the following tasks:

  • Narrow down college choices to less than five.
  • Visit all the colleges on your wish list.
  • Contact college admission representatives to make sure your application isn’t missing any information.
  • Ask as many questions as you can – your guidance counselor, parents, mentors, etc.
  • Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
  • Apply for as many scholarships (especially local grants) as possible.
  • Ensure your high school graduation requirements are on track.
  • Firm up your financial aid; find out how much grant & scholarship money you’re getting, what types of loans you need, etc.

This four-year plan isn’t foolproof. You’ll have to adjust and adapt accordingly. Many high school seniors opt to work for a year to help pay for college. Others decide that commuting for the first semester or two might make sense, from a social standpoint.

Regardless of your particular path, keep this checklist in mind as you prepare for college – stay focused, have confidence in yourself, and continue to work hard! Thanks for stopping by the Reality Changers blog. To learn more about how we help San Diego youth attend college, click here. You can also give a donation; we rely on the generous contributions of individuals, civic organizations and private enterprises to help at-risk youth attend college.

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