Preparing for Life After High School: A Four-Year Checklist for Students

Library Resources | October 30, 2019

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Whether high school students plan to attend college, enter the military or begin a career, this year-by-year checklist can help set them up for success.

Each year of high school, students can take steps to prepare for what they’ll do after graduation. PrepSTEP® for High Schools from LearningExpress offers tools to help students build core academic skills, explore career options, and prepare for college and military admissions tests.

You can help students map out a plan with this year-by-year checklist:

Freshman Year

Freshmen should take every opportunity to make themselves stand out among their peers. Here are some of the steps they can take:

  1. Create a yearly schedule for achieving graduation requirements. School guidance counselors can help students develop a plan.
  2. Explore career interests by conducting online research and attending career fairs. PrepSTEP offers career factsheets, articles and e-books that help students make informed decisions about securing a job in their desired field.
  3. Begin participating in leadership or community-based activities. Many high schools require community service hours for graduation. Students should continue involvement in these activities throughout high school.
  4. Sharpen core academic skills. PrepSTEP offers e-books, tutorials and practice tests that can help students develop their skills in English language arts, social studies, biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, math and computers.
  5. Cultivate good study habits. PrepSTEP’s High School Success Skills module offers strategies to help students use their time wisely, stay organized, take good notes, and develop information literacy skills.

Sophomore Year

Learning how to manage school and extra-curricular activities can be difficult enough without factoring in college or career exploration. Sophomores should schedule time for these activities:

  1. Take more challenging classes. Many high schools offer honors and AP-level courses in core academic subjects as well as rigorous career and technical education classes.
  2. Build workplace skills. Even part-time jobs require students to demonstrate professional behavior. PrepSTEP’s Career Exploration center includes tutorials and e-books on the topics of teamwork, effective communication, workplace etiquette, time management, job interviewing and more. The Career Preparation module includes practice tests for the ACT® WorkKeys® Assessments, which measure the workplace skills that can impact job performance.
  3. Attend college and career fairs. Here are some tips for plotting a course of action. PrepSTEP’s School Finder can help students with their initial college search.
  4. Reach out to mentors in fields of interest. Ask questions about their careers and arrange to shadow them for a day.
  5. Prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT®. PrepSTEP offers practice tests to prepare students for the PSAT/NMSQT® exams in math, reading, and writing and language. Practice tests for the TOEFL iBT® are also available for non-native English speakers.

PrepSTEP® for High Schools from LearningExpress offers tools to help students build core academic skills, explore career options, and prepare for college and military admissions tests.

Junior Year

Junior year is an important year for students, especially if they are college-bound. It’s the year students begin taking college admissions exams. Here is a list of what they should do:

  1. Take the PSAT/ NMSQT®. Students must take the test by grade 11 to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program. PrepSTEP’s simulated full-length practice tests prepare students for taking the official PSAT exam.
  2. Schedule campus visits. It’s important to select a college or university that is the right fit. Campus visits offer a glimpse into what life there would be like and can help students narrow their choices.
  3. Research ways to pay for college. Options include scholarships, student loans and federal student aid for eligible applicants. PrepSTEP’s Scholarship Finder enables students to search more than 24,000 scholarships and other awards.
  4. Take the SAT® and/or ACT®. PrepSTEP offers a guided SAT® Prep Program as well as flashcards and practice tests for all sections of the SAT® and ACT®.
  5. Request transcripts and letters of recommendation from teachers and mentors.

Senior Year

By senior year, the majority of students should have clearly defined goals. Here are some key activities to focus on:

  1. Take (or retake) college admissions or career certification exams. In addition to practice tests, PrepSTEP offers SAT® preparation tutorials. For students wishing to join the military, PrepSTEP offers factsheets about each branch of the armed forces as well as military entrance exam prep (ASVAB). For students planning to work right after high school, PrepSTEP offers certification practice tests for careers in allied health, civil service, culinary arts, firefighting, nursing, law enforcement, real estate and more.
  2. Complete and submit college applications. PrepSTEP offers e-books and tutorials to guide students as they write their college admissions essays.
  3. Complete and submit scholarship applications.
  4. Keep grades up and verify that all graduation requirements will be met on schedule. Students and their guidance counselors should be keeping track.
  5. Optional: Take an AP® exam. Offered each May, AP exams provide students an opportunity to demonstrate mastery of college-level material and earn college credit at most colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada. PrepSTEP includes study tips and practice tests for nearly two dozen AP exams, including biology, calculus, English literature and composition, physics, French, Spanish and world history.

High school is a busy and often stressful time for students. It’s important that they know there are effective tools and resources like PrepSTEP available to help them prepare for their future.

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