Preparing for College




Why it’s smart to take challenging courses
What are the right courses?
Get a “leg up” on college preparation and save on tuition
College Preparation and Test Web Sites
College Match Information and Guidelines
Put together your college support team
Free "Open Courses" at Yale and MIT

High School Time Line Year by Year


Why It’s Smart to Take Challenging Courses
College may seem like a long way off, but you can get on the road toward college. This is particularly true as you select your classes and start planning the courses you’ll take in high school. Now is the time to plan how to meet requirements to get into college.

Studies show that if students take algebra and geometry early – starting in 8th and 9th grade – they are more likely to go on to college than students who don’t. By taking algebra soon, you’ll probably be able to enroll in chemistry, physics and advanced math courses before you finish high school. Then you will have room in your high school schedule to take a second language, art, or Advanced Placement course. Making good grades in these kinds of tough courses can be a big plus in helping you get into college.

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What Are the Right Courses?
To prepare for college, you should take the following courses: Math, English, Science and History or Geography. These courses make up the “core” courses you should take every year.
You want to take algebra or geometry as soon as possible. Algebra and geometry are the foundation for many advanced math and science courses (such as chemistry and physics) that most colleges want high school students to take. You should also take the following courses:

4 years

American literature
English literature
World literature
Mathematics -
4 years

Algebra I
Algebra II
History and Geography
2 to 3 years

U.S. history
U.S. government
World history
World cultures
Labratory Science
3 to 4 years

Earth science
Visual and Performing Arts
1 to 2  years

Challenging Electives
1 to 3 years

Research Projects & Independent Projects
Foreign Language
3 to 4 years
Computer Science
can help you find more
information and do school
work better and faster.
College course and jobs often
require computer knowledge.
*Note: Taking Advanced Placement courses and Tech-Prep courses in any of these subjects can give students added skills for college.

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Get a “Leg Up” on College Preparation and Save on Tuition
High school students can also take courses for credit at many colleges. These courses – Advanced Placement and Tech-Prep – are available in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades. Middle school and junior high students who plan ahead and take algebra, a foreign language and computer courses by 8th grade are better prepared for Advanced Placement and Tech-Prep courses in high school.

  • Taking Advanced Placement (AP) Courses. AP courses are college-level courses in 16 different subjects that help students get ready for college during high school. Students who score high enough on AP exams can get advanced placement in college or college credit. Your teachers, guidance counselor, or principal can tell you if your local high school offers AP courses.
  • Taking Tech-Prep Courses. Students who want to pursue a technical program at a community, technical or junior college may want to prepare by taking some technical courses in high school in addition to the core courses. Talk to someone at your school or from a community, junior or technical college to find out the best high school courses to take for tech prep involvement. “School-to-work” and “school-to-career” courses can also help connect students to college and the workplace. Work with your school counselor to find local businesses or school-to-work councils that can provide you with these opportunities.
  • Getting Ready for College Admissions Exams. Most colleges require students to take either the SAT or the ACT in their junior or senior year of high school. Ask your guidance counselor how you can best prepare for these exams. Check out this list of common SAT words to help jumpstart your college admissions exam preparation.

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College Testing and Preparation Web Sites

The creator of the ACT, one of America's most widely accepted entrance exams. They provide information for students, parents, educators, policy makers, adult learners and Spanish speakers on education and career planning.

American Chemical Society 
Find out more about different areas of chemistry, what types of jobs are available in chemistry and what the next steps after college would be if you were to explore a career in chemistry.

Big Future - Search for and compare colleges to find the college that works for you. Check out financial aid information and career options as well!
Go to this web site to take a "virtual" tour of many of the nation's colleges and universities.
Buying textbooks can be expensive. Check out this website for savings on textbook purchases and rentals. also provides other student support services such as homework help and course management.

Choose Your Future
The Chicago Public Schools created this site for high school students to help guide them through the process of preparing and applying for college, applying for financial aid and enrolling in college. Don't worry, you don't have to be a student in Chicago to benefit from the info on the site!

The College Board
The creator of the SAT. They provide information for students, parents and educators on college testing, planning for college, preparing for college, finding a college, applying to college and paying for college.
This comprehensive web site provides free materials to students, parents, teachers, career counselors and others interested in helping young people plan a meaningful future.

College Confidential
Here you'll find hundreds of pages of articles about choosing a college, getting into the college you want, how to pay for it, and much more. You'll also find the Web's busiest discussion community related to college admissions, and our College Visits section! - CollegeData is an Online College Advisory Service provided for students and parents of students, FREE OF CHARGE by 1st Financial Bank USA. - CollegeMapper helps you make sense of college admissions by breaking it into seven different sections: classes, resume, tests, colleges, essays, applications, and financial aid. Tasks are split between these sections so you can keep everything straight.  See your progress in the 7 sections, and click on a tab to work at your own pace.  The personalized To Do List guides you through every step of college admissions. The list changes each year of high school and automatically adjusts to help you stay up to date. Start when you want and work at your own pace.
We provide over 1,500 customized internet Admissions Applications built for college and university programs. When applying to more than one program you save redundant typing.  The CollegeNET search engine helps you quickly find the ideal college. Narrow down by region, college sports, major, tuition, and several other criteria.

College Results Online - Allows you to compare colleges with one another by cost, admissions, demographics, graduation rates, college characteristics and more!

College Scorecard - Allows you to find colleges that meet your needs and interests and provides profiles of the colleges based on cost, graduation rate, employment, etc.

College Terms - Terms used for college preparation and success are many and varied.  These resource glossaries for students and parents will clarify the college terms encountered along the college preparation path.  

College Zone
The trusted source for college information and the official Web site for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. Click on the appropriate link above to enter a zone customized just for you (Student, Parent, Counselor, Financial Aid Administrator, Lender or español).

Common Application
The Common Application (i.e., common college adminssions application) is increasingly being used by more and more colleges. Primarily, this is a resource meant to help streamline the process for students who are applying to a large number of colleges. However, not all colleges accept the Common Application, so be sure to check first!

Connecticut College Profiles
The Connecticut College Profiles provides a list of colleges in Connecticut along with important numbers and statistics about the colleges such as Admissions and Costs and Student Characteristics.

CSO College Center
CSO College Center is an initiative of Center for Student Opportunity, a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote college access and opportunity among first-generation and historically underserved student populations. Center for Student Opportunity was founded by a group of concerned parents, admissions professionals, and nonprofit practitioners who sought to fill the need for greater college counseling and preparation resources for first-generation and underserved college-bound students.

Degree Jungle - An in-depth guide on eliminating distractions for more effective study sessions.

Educational Testing Service (ETS) - We help teachers teach, students learn, and parents measure the educational and intellectual progress of their children. - GoCollege is dedicated to furthering educational opportunities for the youth of America. Find a college, take a tour of that college, find the right scholarship, SAT and ACT practice tests and more!

Hispanic Scholarship Fund - Hispanic Scholarship Fun helps you prepare, plan and pay for college.

I'm First - An online community for first-generation college students—and their supporters. Hear inspiring stories and share your own, discover colleges that care about first-gen students, find answers to your questions about college, and receive guidance on the road to and through college.

Khan Academy College Admissions- Khan Academy has created resources to help students and parents navigate the challenging process of college admissions. Its online resources include video interviews and conversations with successful students from all walks of life, as well as admissions officers and counselors at some of the nation's top schools.

Khan Academy Official SAT Practice- Khan Academy has teamed up with the creators of the SAT to create personalized SAT practice for anyone, anywhere. In March 2016, the SAT is changing, and you can prepare for it on Khan Academy—for free. 

Know How 2 Go - In order to turn low-income students' college dreams into action-oriented goals, the American Council on Education, Lumina Foundation and the Ad Council created the KnowHow2GO campaign. This multi-year, multi-media effort includes television, radio and outdoor public service advertisements (PSAs) that encourage young people, primarily those in 8th through 10th grade, to prepare for college using four simple steps.

Mapping Your Future
One-stop site for parents and students with information on financial strategies, career options and college planning.
Free SAT and ACT test prep on line!

The Online Toolbox for College Students - For students and parents: a list of helpful websites that addresses all of your college needs. From financial aid and textbooks to career guidance and entertainment, this site has it all.

For students and parents: prepare for your tests, find the right school, explore financial aid, advance your career.

Princeton Review
Explore schools and careers, improve scores and skills as well as find scholarships and aid. For students, parents and educators.

Story to College - Story to College uses a proven, 3-step process to help high school students differentiate themselves in the college admission process.  Visit our site to learn how!

Student Advisor Blog - Check out this blog for 12 tips to Ace Your College Application Essays.

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Put Together Your College Support Team
You can get plenty of help as you map your way to college. People willing to help you include your parents, teachers, counselors, librarians and MAAX facilitators. All of them can be good resources. But they won’t know you need support and encouragement unless you let them in on your plans. Tell them you’re interested in putting college in your future. Ask them to be on your college support team. Ask for their help.

Ask the folks on your college support team if they know about any programs or activities that can help you reach your goal of going to college. You might ask specifically about:

  • A Before-school or After-school  Program that’s especially for kids who are thinking about college
  • A Mentor Program where you can meet regularly with a college graduate who can tell you what to expect and plan for; maybe you can help tutor a student to read in elementary school.
  • Summer Programs, Internships and Advanced Courses Are any of these a good idea for you? If so, which ones? When should you take them?

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Take free on-line courses at Yale before you even start college!

Free "Open Courses" at Yale University
Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to seven introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn. Open Yale Courses reflects the values of a liberal arts education. Yale's philosophy of teaching and learning begins with the aim of training a broadly based, highly disciplined intellect without specifying in advance how that intellect will be used. This approach goes beyond the acquisition of facts and concepts to cultivate skills and habits of rigorous, independent thought: the ability to analyze, to ask the next question, and to begin the search for an answer. We hope these courses will be a resource for critical thinking, creative imagination, and intellectual exploration. The courses are introductory courses in Astronomy, English, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology and Religious Studies.


Free "Open Courses" at MIT
MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content. OCW is open and available to the world and is a permanent MIT activity.


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