Preparing for College

Preparing for College

Forming Your Graduation Plan

Your graduation plan starts far before you actually enter college. It’s a long journey throughout your academic career, and can provide guidance as you move through your educational career. For more information on specific steps you can take at each grade level, visit our Students & Families section.

Indiana’s high school graduation plan keeps you on track to graduate. It begins in grade 6, when you will commit to completing high school. You should work with your high school counselor and your parents or guardians to create the plan. Download a copy here.

Part of developing your graduation plan is deciding what type of diploma you will receive. And, if you’re in the Class of 2023 or younger, you’ll also need to complete Indiana’s Graduation Pathways requirements. Learn more about diploma options and Graduation pathways here. Note: for information surrounding flexibility for graduation requirements in response to COVID-19, click here.

Beginning in 9th grade, you should review your graduation plan at least once a year to make sure you’re still on track to graduate with the diploma you want. You will also keep track of ISTEP+ and End-of-Course Assessment scores, which will help determine whether you can continue to the next grade. College entrance exams like the SAT and ACT are required for college admissions, so you’ll keep track of those, too. Read more about these tests here.

How can I keep my graduation plan up-to-date?

The easiest way to keep track of your graduation plan is to create an Indiana Career Explorer account. You’ll be able to track your progress, take career interest inventories, print off pages for your parents to sign, and more.

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Applying to college

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You don’t have to wait until you get to college to start earning college credits. High schools offer students the option to take courses that count for college credit. So, what are these courses?

Advanced Placement (AP) Courses

AP courses are offered at your high school in order to provide an opportunity for college credit. At the end of the course, you take a test that is graded on a 5-point scale to determine if you’ll obtain college-level credit for the course. Different schools require different scores, so check with your high school counselor or the colleges you’re interested in to make sure the class will transfer to your prospective colleges before signing up. All Indiana public colleges accept AP courses with a minimum score of 3. You can learn more about AP courses, sign up to take exams and obtain your scores at the College Board.

There is a fee to take any AP exam, but students with financial need may qualify for a reduction or waiver. Learn more about AP exam fees here.

Check here to see which of your Advanced Placement (AP) courses will transfer to Indiana public colleges.

Dual-Credit Courses

Dual-credit courses may be offered at your high school, a local college or even online. Often, the cost is less than it would be if you were taking the course as a college student. Check with your high school counselor or the colleges you’re interested in to make sure the class will transfer to your prospective colleges before signing up.

Indiana College Core

The Indiana College Core is a block of 30 credits of general education — equivalent to a full year of college — that can be transferred seamlessly to all public Indiana colleges and some private intuitions. You can earn the College Core for $750 or less in high school, saving you thousands. Check with your counselor to make sure your high school offers the College Core. Visit TransferIN to learn more.

Early College High School

The Early College High School program is designed for students to be able to earn an associate degree or certificate while still in high school. Not every school offers this program, so check with your school to see if you can participate. This path starts early – usually beginning freshman year – so you’ll want to work with your high school counselor to create a plan before enrolling in your 9th grade courses.

Your counselor can also help determine if the courses you take in this program will transfer, if you plan to attend a four-year college after high school graduation.

Turn One Degree

Into another

Find out how to transfer credit from an Associate Degree into your Bachelor’s.

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Forming Good Study Habits

Classes are harder in college; the majority of your grades come from a few exams and a large assignment. In high school, regularly completing homework in your classes can keep your grades high even if you don’t do as well on tests, but that won’t work when you get to college. There’s no way around it – you’ll need to learn how to study in high school to be set up for a good college career.

A good rule to follow is to spend two hours of study time for every hour you spend in class per week. For instance, for a course that’s two hours per week in the classroom, plan for four hours of studying or working on assignments. Developing good study habits as soon as possible will help you keep on top of your workload in college.

It’s also smart to make a daily schedule and commit to it. A well-planned weekly routine will help you get your studying done with the time to enjoy breaks. Try turning off your phone and other devices while you’re studying, and find a quiet place where others aren’t likely to disturb you, whether that’s your house, the library or somewhere else.

Think about your study style. Do you work better early in the morning or late at night? Do you like reading over your notes after class, or is it better to return to it after you’ve had a break?  You know yourself, so settle on something that you know works. Study time when you aren’t able to get things done efficiently is wasted time.

Download this Hitting the Books worksheet to help you plan your college study routine.

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What steps to take next?

Regardless of your grade, we have checklists for success to help you prepare for college.

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Participating in Extracurriculars

Extracurricular activities are any organized activities you do outside of regular schoolwork. Many of these activities, like band, chorus, athletics, theater, student newspapers and yearbook, student council and a variety of clubs, are offered through high schools. Your extracurricular activities don’t have to be school sponsored, though. You can get involved by volunteering your time in your community through community centers, nonprofits or local youth organizations.

Students who are involved in extracurricular activities learn how to prioritize their time, meet friends and get to enjoy activities they like. Extracurriculars will also help you stand out on your college application, especially when you are the organizer or leader of the group. Employers and colleges like to see you’re a well-rounded student who can balance schoolwork with other responsibilities, and proving you’re a leader only makes you look better.

Choosing an Activity

Think about your interests and skills, or what’s important to you. Pick out activities where you’ll do things you’ll enjoy.

Consider what you want to do in your career, and see if there are any activities that could give you a taste of that. For example, join the school newspaper if you’re interested in journalism or a math club if you’re interested in engineering. Extracurricular activities are a great way to get a taste of what a career is like.

If you aren’t sure how to get involved, ask your parents, school counselors or mentor for help.

You should also check your local colleges and community organizations for summer camp opportunities.

How can college

pay for itself in the long run?

Learn more about the return on investment you can get with a college degree.

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