Students and families can and should begin planning and preparing for college well before high school! Use this year-by-year guide as a resource to ensure that you (or your student) are ready for the 3Es (Enrollment, Enlistment or Employment) upon graduation.

7th-8th Grade

Submit an application for Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars Program by June 30 of your 8th-grade year. The 21st Century Scholars Program can pay up to full tuition at an Indiana college or university for eligible students!

Come to school and do your best daily! Subjects you take in middle school prepare you for your high school classes, so take school seriously and learn all that you can in order to be successful in high school.

9th-10th Grade

Start early! Begin researching scholarships your freshman year of high school using online scholarship search tools such as:

Apply for scholarships for 9th- and 10th-grader students and keep a file for 11th- and 12th-grade scholarships. By the time you are a senior, you will know exactly which scholarships to apply for, saving you a lot of time!

Work hard in your classes. Many scholarships have GPA requirements and 9th grade is when you start to build your GPA. Start with good habits and As your freshman year so it will be easier for you to meet GPA requirements later in high school.

Take the PSAT as a 10th grader and use your scores to practice for the SAT. After receiving your score report, link your account to the Khan Academy for individualized SAT practice based on your strengths and weaknesses.

Find your passion and get involved. Whether it is athletics, drama, community service or another extracurricular, be sure to become active in your school and community. These experiences will not only help make your resume look great, but they can also help you meet friends and have fun!

11th Grade

Show your leadership skills. Consider running for a leadership position in your extracurricular or even starting your own club/student group. As an upperclassman, you can share what you have learned with younger students and start to make your mark on your school.

Take challenging classes. College and scholarship programs review seniors’ transcripts and look for students who do well in rigorous classes. Think about your academic strengths and talk with your counselor about taking an honors, AP or dual-credit course.

Do your research. There are thousands of colleges with as many degree and certification options. Use the SuperMatch College Search in your Naviance Family Connection account to help narrow down your choices.

Take the SAT and ACT tests for the first time. Taking your college entrance exams as a junior allows you plenty of time to study, become comfortable with the test format, and improve your scores.

Explore both public and private colleges. Don’t be scared off by the sticker price of a private college because many have very generous scholarship and financial-aid packages. Use tools like the Indiana College Cost Estimator and FAFSA4Caster to compare costs before you apply.

12th Grade

Use your summer wisely. Spend your summer building your resume, getting a head start on college essays, and thinking about who is the best person to write you a recommendation letter. If you plan ahead and get organized, application season will go smoothly so you won’t miss deadlines.

Ask teachers, counselors, coaches or other school staff to write letters of recommendation and give them at least two weeks to complete. School staff typically write letters for multiple students and any less time will mean that your letter may not be as detailed and personal as it could be with proper planning. These letters make a big difference to scholarship and college professionals so plan ahead of deadlines and make sure to ask someone who knows you well!

Share your scholarship and college essay drafts with teachers, counselors, parents and friends to receive feedback. Make revisions based on their notes so that you are turning in your very best work.

Apply early! Many colleges have early deadlines for admissions that can increase your chances for getting in and qualifying for their scholarships. Pay attention to these deadlines and be ready to submit your application at least a few days ahead in case you run into any last-minute problems.

File your FAFSA! The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens October 1 and Indiana’s filing deadline is April 15. The FAFSA is completed online at and is required to be eligible for many scholarships and grants including the 21st Century Scholarship, Federal Pell Grants and federal student loans. Talk with your school counselor about Indiana College Goal Sunday or other financial-aid/FAFSA help nights at your school to get free assistance.