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updated 12.18.18



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Alabama FOCUS
A Student's Timeline of Planning for College

Parents and students should begin the planning and decision-making process as early as possible and should work together. Below are some suggested activities for students and a recommended timeline for completing certain tasks.

Grade 7

  • Apply for a Social Security number if you do not already have one.

  • Talk to friends and family about careers and possible school choices.

  • Ask your parents to find out about Alabama’s Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Program (1-800-ALA-PACT). The monthly payment plan for sixty months is available only for children in the seventh grade or below.

Grade 8

  • Find out from your high-school counselor what courses you should take in high school to attend certain colleges or to enter certain career fields. Your school may offer EXPLORE to help you.

  • Ask your parents how much they think they can help you with paying for your future education. Work together to establish a savings plan in which you can participate. Learn about financial aid.

  • Remind your parents to inquire about Alabama’s Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Program (1-800-ALA-PACT). There is still time for a single, lump-sum payment or an extended monthly payment plan.

Grade 9

  • Investigate career information in areas that interest you.

  • Start developing a resume; keep a list of achievements and articles about yourself.

  • Discuss interests and college choices with your parents.

  • Meet and talk with your school counselor about yourself and your future. Take your parents with you.

  • Find out about summer jobs and try to gain the skills you need to obtain one. Look into volunteer activities that will expand your experience and skills.

  • Ask your parents if they have inquired about Alabama’s Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Program (1-800-ALA-PACT). September of your ninth-grade year is the last time to enroll in the program.

Grade 10

  • Begin looking at college catalogs and other college material, including financial aid materials.
  • Take the PLAN in October or November to get an estimated ACT composite score range and career planning information.

  • See your counselor about assessment materials. Many inventories and computer programs are available to help establish your career goals.

  • Make certain your high school course selections are appropriate for your college/career interests.

Grade 11 - Fall (August - December)

  • Choose courses that are appropriate for high-school graduation, your college/career interests, and college admission requirements.

  • Take the PSAT in October to practice taking college admission tests and to establish eligibility for some scholarships (i.e., National Merit/Achievement).

  • Develop a list of possible postsecondary schools; your counseling office and/or school library may have books and materials to help you.

  • Send for admission literature and applications from the schools that are at the top of your list.

  • Talk with an admissions representative to determine if there are any institutional scholarships for which you might apply. These are typically merit based.

  • Attend sessions with college representatives who visit your high school.

  • Begin researching private sources of financial aid (such as scholarships) and write for applications.

Grade 11 - Spring (January - May)

  • Take the ACT and/or the SAT; check with your intended college(s) about the appropriate one. You may repeat these tests to improve your score during your senior year.

  • Begin to narrow your choices for post-secondary schools. Schedule visits with those schools. Consider an overnight trip which would allow you to get a feel for what campus life is like at that particular campus.

  • Check with your counselor, libraries, and community organizations for names and addresses of possible scholarship sources. Send for the applications.

  • If portfolios, audition tapes, writing samples, or other evidence of talents are required for admission or scholarships, start to develop them now.

  • If you are contemplating seeking an athletic scholarship, develop a resume of your accomplishments. Make a highlight tape of outstanding performances. Keep any articles that highlight your successes.

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