2 Thinking Ahead 
             About College

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The clock is ticking... And before you know it, you will be moving up to high school or moving on to college.  It may be hard, right now, to think about whether you want to get a job or to go to college after high school, but you need to be thinking and looking ahead.  The choices that you make now will have an impact on your ability to attend college. 

 When you are entering middle school you should  plan on taking the right courses to qualify fr the college-bound program in high school.  These courses begin in the seventh grade.  Once you are in high school the first choice you must make is to finish high school because a diploma is necessary to open other opportunities.  While in high school, it is important to take college preparatory courses.  You also need to be thinking about and planning for college costs.  Then, when the time to go to college comes, you will be ready.

No matter what you decide to do after high school, pre-college courses will give you a sound, broad background.  The wide range of courses will make it easier for you to earn a living, contribute to your community, and generally enjoy life.  So whether you plan to go to college immediately after high school, later, or not at all, you should seriously consider the benefits of the  college-bound program.  At the very least, you should take courses in middle and junior high school school and high school that give you the option of continuing on to college.

Courses To Take in Middle and Junior High School

If you are a middle or junior high school student, then this is the right time for you and your parents to begin thinking about college. You should begin planning to reach this goal by choosing the classes that will lead to college preparatory courses in high school.  This is also the time to be getting information on paying for college and to start saving for college, if you and your parents are not already doing so.

It is important that you take courses that challenge your abilities.  In mathematics for example, studies have shown that students who take algebra in the eighth grade and geometry in the ninth grade are more likely to attend college than students who do not. 
By taking these courses now, you will be able to take challenging and interesting science and mathematics electives in high school.

These academic subjects make up the important courses that you should take every year in middle and junior high school.  Examples of specific classes are listed next to the name of the subject; the names used at your school may differ.

ENGLISH: (LANGUAGE ARTS) Composition, Literature, Grammar

MATHEMATICS: Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry

SCIENCE:  Biological Science, Environmental Science, Earth Science, Physical Science

SOCIAL STUDIES: History, Geography, Civics

WORLD LANGUAGES: French, German, Italian, Latin, Spanish (or other languages)

COMPUTER SCIENCE: Computer Applications, Word Processing

ARTS: Music, Art, Drama

Extra-curricular activities like student government, clubs, sports, plays, and community service are important for middle and junior high school students too.  Your involvement in these activities shows teamwork, leadership, and commitment to improving your community.

Looking for some community service opportunities that will really help out others and will look good on your college application?

andcan help you find some.

By typing in your zip code, these websites will locate some of the volunteer opportunities in your community.

Courses to take in High School

Colleges have specific courses and categories of courses that they expect you to take in high school such as English, math, social studies, science, and foreign language.  It is wise to check the college catalog or a book that lists the requirements for each college that you are considering because each college may have different requirements.  Be sure that the courses you take are at the college preparatory level.  Colleges also want to know if you tried to challenge yourself by taking honors and AP courses, so take these courses if you can.  Your adviser and your parents can help you choose classes that will help you to meet the criteria of the college of your choice.

Plan to include courses from the list that follows.

4 Years of College Preparatory Courses Required
Good reading, writing, speaking and listening skills are essential to do well in college and for success in any job.  Most employers rate good communications skills as one of the most important factors in getting and keeping a good job.

Types of Classes
American Literature 
English Literature
World Literature
3 Years Required/ 4 Years Recommended
Mathematics helps you learn to use logical reasoning and to develop good problem-solving skills. 
 Types of Classes
 Algebra I
 Algebra II
2 Years Required/ 3 Years Recommended
Studying the history, government, economics, and geography of the United States and the world gives you a better understanding of past, present and potential future events.
 Types of Classes
 U.S. History
 U.S. Government
 World History
 World Cultures
2 Years Required/ 3 Years Recommended
Laboratory science explains the mysteries of the world.  Science teaches you how to be a careful observer and to use logical reasoning to answer questions.
 Types of Classes
 Earth Science
2 Years of One Language Required/ 3 Years Recommended
Studying a foreign language can help you understand and communicate with people from other cultures here and abroad.  Learning a foreign language is the best way to begin understanding another culture and can be valuable because communications technology makes the world a global village.
 Types of Classes
½ Year Required/ 1 Year Recommended
Computers have increasingly become a vital part of everyday life.  It is important for you to know what computers can do and how to use them both for college and for almost any job.
 Types of Classes
 Computer Applications
 Introduction to Computer Science
½ Year Required/1 Year Recommended
Visual and performing arts add to your appreciation of and enjoyment of life.  Studying the arts helps to develop creativity and gives an opportunity for self-expression.
 Types of Classes
4 Years of College Preparatory Courses Required
Electives are the courses you chose to complete your high school program.  If you particularly like one area of the curriculum, for example science, you may chose to elect an additional science course.  Or you may chose to explore another area such as in a college preparatory business course.  Discuss your options with your guidance counselor to be sure that the elective is a college preparatory level course.  It is important that electives you chose be as challenging as your other courses.
 Types of Classes
A total of 18 college preparatory units are required for entrance to many four-year colleges and universities.

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The Total Package: Courses, Grades, and Activities

Courses.  When college admission officers look at transcripts they also look at the level of courses.  Admissions officers say that they like to see applicants challenging themselves by choosing academic subjects beyond the requirements (for example a fourth year of a world language or a science elective), and also honors, and AP courses whenever available.  By selecting rigorous courses every year, including senior year, students are showing that they are taking their studies seriously and are willing to work hard.  AP classes may allow you to get college credit, be exempt from college requirements or provide helpful background for other courses.

Grades and Class Rank. Grades count!  By getting good grades in high school, students are demonstrating to admissions officers that they will be able to do college-level academic work.  The grade point average (GPA) is often used as a criteria by admissions committees in making their decisions.  Another indicator of studentsí academic ability is the class rank which shows where studentsí GPA is in comparison with other students in the class.

Activities.When you list the activities that you participated in while in high school, you are filling in the rest of the picture of who you are.  Colleges are interested in knowing what you might be able to contribute to the college community in skills, talents, and interests.  These activities may be athletics, clubs, volunteer work or paid employment.  Especially noteworthy are activities that involve special talents, community service, or leadership (in student government or as a team captain, for example).  Students may have a unique special talents (as musicians or debaters).  Community service is a good way to develop new skills while you help your community.  It is also a way to qualify for some scholarship opportunities.  Being involved with student council shows school spirit, leadership, and the ability to work with peers and teachers.  Many students have jobs while in high school.  Working and keeping your grades up demonstrates that you can manage your time well.  In deciding on your activities, it will make a better impression to choose a few activities in which you are very involved than joining many organizations as a senior. 


Financial Planning
Paying for a college education is usually the second biggest financial decision a family makes, next to buying a house.  Although paying for college is a big commitment, most people recognize the benefits in greater future earnings and improved quality of life.  While there are very few families that can pay for a college education without any assistance, with early financial planning, using all the resources available, and choosing a college wisely, everyone can afford a college education. 

  • Consider the following strategies, which will reduce your college costs
  • Earning college credit in high school by enrolling in a Tech-Prep or School to Work program
  • Taking AP courses.  By passing the AP exam, you can earn college credit
  • Getting education benefits by serving in the armed forces
  • Taking your first two years at a community college
  • Working for a company that provides tuition benefits and attending college part time
  • Participating in The New England Regional Student Program (RSP) allows students in the 6 New England states to study in approved programs, not offered by public institutions in their home states, and pay reduced out-of-state tuition at public institutions in the region.

Saving for College
Developing a savings plan early is will help to make a college education affordable.  The earlier that families develop a savings plan for college expenses, the smaller the amount to be saved each year.  For information on how much a college education will cost and to figure out how much you need to save, use one of the financial aid calculators in the Financial Aid section.  When you are thinking about the total costs of going to college, include books, room and board, travel expenses, as well as tuition.  Many states have special savings plans for college costs.  Rhode Island residents should visit the Rhode Island Higher Education Assistance Authority (RIHEEA) site for information on state sponsored savings plans.

Financial Aid
Most students rely on some financial aid available through the state or federal government and from the college they attend.  The Federal government provides most of the financial aid through the Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Stafford Loans, Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students Loans, Perkins Loans, and Work-Study Programs.  Your state may also have grant and loan programs (for Rhode Island resources, go to Rhode Island Higher Education Resources.)  For more information on scholarships, loans, and grants see the section on Financial Aid.  There are many sources locally to help you understand and fill out the financial aid paperwork.  Check with the high school guidance counselor and, for Rhode Islanders, the College Planning Center, and the lists of resources in the two sections with the RI state logo.

Other Sections:
Why College Thinking Ahead about College Careers College Planning
RI Resources Choosing a College College Listings Financial Aid
SAT and ACT Sites About Sites RI Opportunity Programs Send us Feedback

Rhode Island Office of Higher Education
Academic Affairs
301 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908-5748
(401) 222-6560

Website Developed in December 1998 by Timothy S. Chace and Phyllis Harnick
Site last updated December 2000