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Planning Guide for College Readiness

A Guide to College Preparation for Parents and Highly Capable Students

Successful students cite parental support as the key factor in their achievement.  The purpose of this guide is:

To develop your own plan, you will visit college websites to find their expectations and recommendations to students as to college preparation, visit college testing websites to find test calendars and information, study your high school’s comprehensive list of course offerings for grades 9-12, and find other resources and summer opportunities on the internet.  With this information you can plot out a general plan which will serve as an individualized guide during the four years of high school.  Review your plan periodically and make revisions when appropriate.

College Expectations versus High School Graduation Requirements

High School graduation requirements represent the minimal class and credit requirements for graduation. These are not sufficient for admission to competitive colleges.  This is why you must visit the websites of a variety of selective colleges from across the country in order to get an idea of the college prep coursework they recommend.  This varies from school to school depending upon their mission. 

In general, all of these schools want prospective students to take the most rigorous academic coursework their high school offers, such as Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes.  Generally this means 4 years of English, 3 years of history/social studies, 4 years of mathematics, 3 years of lab sciences, and 3 - 4 years of a foreign language. 

Honors Program:  These are rigorously academic, achievement-based courses for students who have demonstrated mastery of prerequisite skills.  Students generally take Honors classes in the 9th and 10th grade.  Check with your high school for information on how to access these classes.  This may vary from school to school.   

Advanced Placement Program:  This program is a cooperative effort between high schools and the colleges and universities.  It provides students the opportunity to take college-level courses in high school.  College credit may be earned depending upon the student’s score and a particular college’s AP policy.  Each college sets its own policy. The coursework is academically rigorous.  The AP exams are given in May.  Check your high school for information on the AP classes.  They may vary from school to school. 

See www.apcentral.collegeboard.com.

What else can students do to prepare for college work?

Tests for College-Bound Students

PSAT/NMSQT:  Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is a program co-sponsored by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).   See www.collegeboard.com  and www.nationalmerit.org

It is administered every October and may be taken for practice in the 8th through 10th grades, but it is taken in the 11th grade in order to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship program.  Take the PSAT as many times as you can to get the best score possible.  Some colleges base their academic scholarships on the final PSAT score.

SAT I:  The SAT I is a 3-hour reasoning test.  The test is revised and updated every few years.  Check the website for details.  Colleges require that this test be taken and the results sent to them as a part of the admissions process.  It is administered by the College Board several times each year.  See www.collegeboard.com .

SAT II:  The SAT II tests are 1-hour subject tests.  Many selective colleges and universities require particular subjects be tested through these exams.  You must carefully check each individual college for which SAT II tests they require.  A student may submit SAT II results to a college which does not require them as additional evidence of his /her competence in a particular subject.  These tests are administered by the College Board several times each year.  A student may take up to three subject exams per exam date.

Students should take a particular SAT II test as soon as possible after completing that subject or class.  See www.collegeboard.com .  

ACT:  The American College Test is required by some colleges and universities.  It tests aptitude in English, math, social studies and natural sciences.  It is administered several times each year.  Check schools to see if they use this test instead of the SAT I and SAT II.  See www.act.org .

AP:  Advanced Placement Exams are administered each year in May and represent the culmination of college-level work in a given discipline which is taught in the high school setting.  Many competitive colleges give college credit to students for earning a score of 4 or 5 out of a possible 5.  Carefully review each particular school’s policy pertaining to the acceptance of AP credits.  See www.apcentral.collegeboard.com .

College-Prep Planning Calendar

Grades 7 and 8:

Grade 9:

Grade 10:

Grade 11:

Grade 12: