As a high school senior about to enter college, there is a ton of advice I wish I could have given my younger self – now that I know what it entails. I hope you can benefit from this checklist to stay on track and not feel overwhelmed when it’s crunch time!

Here’s my college planning checklist:

Understand Your Interests and Skills and How They Relate to Potential College Majors and Careers

You can do this by taking a Kuder career assessment, especially the  Kuder Career Interests Assessment® and Kuder Skills Confidence Assessment®. These assessments are really valuable because they can help guide your decisions on the classes you should take in high school. Taking classes that align with your interests and skills can help you decide on a future college major or career training program.

Research Colleges or Technical Schools That Best Suit Your Interests and Skills

It’s important to base your college decision off of the school’s merit and affordability instead of where your friends are going.

Think About How You Will Pay for College

This can be done a variety of ways through scholarships, grants, and loans. Additionally, you should talk with your parents early on to know whether they will be assisting with the cost of college. This is important to know early on, because if you do need to pay for it yourself, you can get a jump start on earning money through summer jobs.

Go on a Campus Visit

These are often offered in groups or individual based on your preference. For me, the campus visit was crucial to deciding what college I would attend. One of the colleges I visited did not feel like a good fit at all once I got there, while at the other, I immediately knew would be the perfect second home.

Create a Resume

Even if you don’t need one now, it doesn’t hurt to get a jump start! Take advantage of your school’s resources or counselors for guidance with this. Another online resume building resource is LinkedIn’s profile checklist for high school students.

Job Shadow or Get an Internship in Your Desired Field of Study

I can’t stress this enough; doing a job shadow or internship in your desired field of study can make or break what you think you want to go into.

Get Involved With Your School and Extracurricular Activities

This is important to begin as soon as possible. It not only makes you more well-rounded, but being involved looks great on college applications and resumes!

Take a College Entrance Exam

Depending on the school to which you’e applying, you’ll probably need to take either the ACT or SAT. Take the exam as soon as you can. Trust me, this is important because not only will you have time to prepare, but if you are disappointed by your score, you will have time to retake it. Fun Fact: 57 percent of students increased their composite score when they retook the ACT.*

Find Out College Admissions Requirements

What is the minimum entrance exam score required by the colleges to which you’re applying? Thinking of applying to a college’s honors program? Keep in mind that admissions requirements are typically more stringent than for general admissions. Not looking to apply for an honors program, but considering applying for direct admission to their business college? There is typically a separate requirement for that as well.

Apply to College

The earlier you apply the better your chances of getting perks later on. In my case, it meant getting to choose my own dorm room, which I consider a major perk!

Apply for Scholarships and Grants

This is something not near enough students take advantage of, including me. Scholarships and grants can save you thousands of dollars down the road. They are available through your desired college and also many random sources that can be found online. For example, I took a fire safety quiz just to get entered into a scholarship drawing. Be sure to also check in with your school, typically high schools get announcements from local businesses that are looking to help out local students, these are good because you have much better odds at getting it with a smaller applicant pool.


This article originally appeared in the Kuder Blog April 7, 2015

About the Author

Sarah Fields was a School-to-Work intern at Kuder from 2014 to 2015. Her Kuder assessment results and internship experience affirmed her decision to major in marketing with a certificate in event management. She graduated from the University of Iowa in 2018 and is working in the field of marketing.