From middle school to high school, GEAR UP can help you prepare for college!

Male student walking down outside stairs while reading a book.

Whether you’re planning to go to college next year or you’ve only just started to consider college, you can set yourself up for success. GEAR UP knows what you need at each phase of middle and high school, and we’ve highlighted a few key tasks for each grade level and resources for how we can help. Download the complete checklist so you can follow along and begin preparing now.


7th Grade

Develop good study habits. Learn how to study smarter, not harder. Practice devoting two hours to studying or reviewing homework each day. It’s important to create a consistent study routine that increases your ability to learn and improve. 

Maintain good grades. When your grades are good, the chances of getting into the college of your dreams is even better. Additionally, good grades can help you earn more scholarships and grant money for college. 

Get involved in extracurricular activities. Clubs, student organizations, sports and volunteer work are all great ways to spend your time outside of school learning new skills. Colleges look for school and community involvement when considering admission. 

Ask about academic enrichment programs. Find out if there are summer or weekend programs available through your high school or local colleges. Academic enrichment programs offer advanced teachings through a balanced curriculum that meets you at your level of knowledge. These programs are great for students who understand their course content or feel unchallenged and desire to learn at a higher level. 

8th Grade 

Apply for Oklahoma’s Promise. If you’re considering applying for the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship, double check that you qualify and then start your application today. Check out our past blog to learn what Oklahoma’s Promise can do for you. If you have any questions or need any support in this process, contact your GEAR UP school specialist! 

Find out about AP and honors-level courses. Honors classes feature advanced high school coursework, while AP classes are designed to mirror college-level coursework. Both classes can demonstrate a student’s college readiness and high achievement. Find out which classes are offered at your high school, so you’ll be prepared when it’s time to enroll in 9th grade courses. 

Start saving for college. Sign up for a college savings account through Oklahoma’s 529 college savings plan. You can also continue adding money to an existing account. The sooner you prepare for college expenses, the better. 

Use your resources. After doing your own research on preparing for college, ask your counselors, teachers, guardians and friends any additional questions you have. And GEAR UP too! 

 9th Grade 

Take the right classes. Make sure your class schedule includes at least four college-prep classes per year. This includes 4 units of English, 3 units of math, science and history, 2 units of world language or computer technology and 1 unit of fine arts or speech. You’ll also need one additional unit from any of the classes listed above. Your GEAR UP school specialist can help you find the right classes to take! 

Find out college entrance requirements. Now is the time to start thinking of the top colleges you’re interested in and what each will require from you for admittance. Thinking about attending a college in-state? At qualifying universities, GEAR UP has college coaches who are experts on their corresponding college and can answer all your questions. Check to see if there’s a college coach at your college of interest! 

Visit a college campus. Whether you visit virtually or in-person, it’s always a good idea to take a campus tour to learn more about the college and get a feel for what to expect. Check out GEAR UP’s webpage to learn more about how to set up a visit and explore universities! 

Document coursework and grades. Keep track of your coursework and grades throughout high school. When it’s time to show colleges and trade schools all the hard work you’ve completed, you’ll have plenty available. One strategy is to create a Gmail exclusively for your high school work and college prep and saving all your coursework to the Google Drive! 

10th Grade

Keep your grades up. Stay focused on your schoolwork and continue to make good grades. When it’s time to apply for college, higher grades will help your application stand out from the others. Good grades can also earn you additional scholarships and grants for college.  

Take the Pre-ACT. This valuable test helps prepare you for the ACT. Ask your counselor for more information about signing up to take it for free. 

Research concurrent enrollment options. Juniors and seniors can enroll in college courses while still in high school if they meet certain requirements. Check to see if you’re eligible by reaching out to your school specialist. 

Review courses needed for admission into your desired college. Research what courses are required for admission into your top colleges. This ensures you’re prepared when it’s time to begin applying, and if you plan to go to college in-state, GEAR UP’s college coaches are here to answer your questions. 

 Consider a part-time job or volunteer role. If there’s time in your schedule for a part-time job, you can start saving for college early. If you’re not concerned about cost, consider a volunteer role, that way you’re still gaining valuable experience. 

 11th Grade

Last chance to apply for Oklahoma’s Promise. If you didn’t apply for the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program in grades 8th, 9th or 10th, it’s not too late. Double check that you qualify, start your application and contact your GEAR UP school specialist with any questions. 

Talk with guidance counselors or GEAR UP school specialist. Ask your guidance counselor about AP class availability, concurrent enrollment opportunities and important dates and deadlines for exams like the ACT, SAT and Advanced Placement (AP). You can also ask about how to prepare for exams, what admission requirements your top colleges have in place and ways to improve your academic record before you graduate. 

Register for the ACT, SAT and PSAT. Your school district will provide free ACT and SAT testing in the spring, but you are encouraged to register to take the exams a second time. Remember, when you register and take the PSAT in September of your junior year, the scores count toward the National Merit Scholarship Program. Need some help preparing for the ACT? Check out EdReady ACT – GEAR UP’s FREE web-based test prep platform which will allow participants to complete lessons at their own pace. 

Choose strong senior year classes. Choose classes that will strengthen your transcript and fit into your college study plans as well. 

12th Grade

Stay on track. Have regular meetings with your counselor to make sure you’re meeting graduation requirements along with Oklahoma’s Promise coursework, GPA expectations and admissions requirements for the schools you’re interested in.  

Take the ACT. Even if you’ve already taken the ACT, sign up to take it again. You may surprise yourself with an improved score. Be sure to have the testing agency send the official scores to the colleges you’ve selected. Don’t forget to utilize GEAR UP’s free ACT prep platform, EdReady ACT.  

Visit college campuses to learn about their specific programs. When narrowing down your list of colleges to visit and tour, check out programs that match both your skills and abilities as well as your long-term career interests. Need some tips or info about potential colleges? Check out GEAR UP’s college visits page! 

Submit FAFSA application. FAFSA is your application for college federal and most state financial aid programs. You don’t want to miss this deadline! FAFSA applications typically open in early October. Check out our past blog to learn about the FAFSA, and reach out to your school specialist to help you get started! 


Kickstart your college prep journey by ensuring you have the tools you need at each stage, and don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way. Want to know more? Download and view our complete checklist here. This resource also includes to-dos for your freshman year of college to help you stay on track.  

Reach out to your GEAR UP school specialist for additional resources, help with planning for college and any questions. We’re here to help you succeed!