GEAR UP’s College Prep Checklist for Middle and High School Students

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Planning for college is an exciting time! It can also be filled with a long list of things you need to complete before you graduate from high school. GEAR UP knows what you need at each phase of your middle and high school careers which is why we’ve highlighted a few key tasks (by grade level) so you can know what your next steps to college. 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 scholarship 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 haven’t applied for this scholarship program, visit to sign up today.

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 next year in 9th grade.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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, visit to sign up today.

Talk with guidance counselors. 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 chat with your counselor 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 Achievement Program. 

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. Don’t forget to update your plan of study!

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.

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.

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. 


Kickstart your college prep journey by ensuring you have the tools you need to be successful throughout your educational career. Want to know more? Download and view our complete checklist HERE. This resource also includes to-dos for your freshman year of college to ensure you stay on track once you reach your higher education goals.

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