If you are planning to attend college, you can start preparing in your freshman year by discussing with your guidance counselor which courses, extra-curricular activities, and Community Education activities will best direct you towards your goals. Colleges appreciate that each student is different, but generally they will be looking to see that you have taken the most challenging courses that are available and that are appropriate for you. This can best be determined by thoughtful discussion with your parents, 8th grade teachers and high school guidance counselor. They will also be looking to see that you are developing into a well-rounded member of society, so explore your interests in extra-curricular activities and/or sports, and take advantage of community service opportunities. Please see the Freshman Year Timeline to help you plan.
During your sophomore year, you will want to give the same attention to course selection, as well as focus on keeping your grades up. Hopefully, you have found an organization or two with which to become involved, and are looking for opportunities for leadership. If you anticipate applying for National Honor Society in your junior year, you will want to make sure you are performing community service, and that you are developing relationships with teachers who may be able to write recommendations for you. See Sophomore Year Timeline.
Junior year is pivotal if attending college is your goal. This is the time to start thinking about career choices, preparing for and completing the standardized testing that will be required for college admission, and to begin visiting campuses. This is also the time to discuss with your family what finances may be available to you to pay for college, and to think about potential sources of financial aid or scholarships. You will have your junior interview with your counselor. See the Junior Year Timeline to help you plan, paying particular attention to testing dates for the PSAT, SAT, and AP EXAM dates. It is very important to keep your grades up during junior year.
During your Senior Year, you will begin to prepare your college applications. Some schools have their own applications, while others use the Common Application, which allows you to fill out forms once and send them to a number of schools. You will be writing one or more essays that will need to be reviewed and revised, and you will be expected to ask one or more of your teachers for a recommendation. You will need to decide whether to apply Early Decision, Early Action or Regular Decision. Click the PowerPoint link below for a description of Early Action and Early Decision. You will need to meet with your guidance counselor and prepare college selection forms, as well as fill out forms to request that your transcript be sent to the colleges you have selected. Submitting this form triggers Ashland High School to send out your transcript, guidance letter of recommendation, and the school profile.
Your senior year grades are still important, and you should make sure you continue your involvement with athletic and community service organizations, seeking leadership roles in areas you are naturally drawn to. You may choose to take the SAT again, or take SAT Subject tests, and this should be completed in the fall. After you submit your applications, you should prepare the FAFSA form to see if you are eligible for financial aid, as well as search and apply for scholarships, paying careful attention to all of the various deadlines. See College Application Process tips as well as Naviance, Financial Aid and Glossary of Terms.