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Dept. of Ed. Provides College-Prep Checklist by Grade

There is something so satisfying about checking something off your to-do list.

And when it comes to the overwhelming task of preparing for college, it can be especially encouraging to break down the process into steps that parents and students can check off as completed.

The U.S. Department of Education is providing academic and financial checklists for elementary, middle, and high school students and parents on its website StudentAid.gov. Those pushing for increased college enrollment and completion stress the importance of early planning. This tool is designed to help families save and get students to map out course work so they are best prepared for college.

The elementary school checklist emphasizes the importance of reading and starting college-savings accounts. By middle school, students are encouraged to think about career interests, develop strong study habits and for parents to use the FAFSA4caster to find out how much federal student aid their child might receive.

By high school, the lists are more focused beginning in 9th grade with counselor discussions of AP courses and resume building. It is suggested that sophomores plan courses around possible college requirements and consider doing practice PSAT exams. The to-do list for juniors is especially demanding, as many think of this year as crucial to the college admissions process. There are SAT and ACT exams to take and the fun of coming up with a college wish-list begins. By 12th grade, the checklists include scholarship applications and financial aid forms.

Another resource is the College Board's BigFuture website, which has an interactive tool to create plans for 8th through 12th graders. All good ways to make the college process more manageable and give families a little assurance along the way that they are on the right track.

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