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The Official Web Site of the State of South Carolina

Preparing for College

Nursing StudentsSouth Carolina is home to more than 80 institutions of higher education which offer programs to prepare students for nearly any career. From large research universities with over 40,000 students, to technical and private colleges with 1,000 or less, there are many options in-state to suit your post-high school plans.

View the list of all public and independent colleges in South Carolina

Applying for college, selecting a college, and financing an education can be a complex but achievable task, and it is never to soon to start preparing. 

 

Grade-by-grade college preparation tips:

Middle School

Students:

  • Think about college as an important part of your future.
  • Discuss your thoughts and ideas with your family and with people at school.
  • Start saving for college if you haven’t already.
  • Take challenging and interesting classes to prepare for high school.
  • Ask your parent of guardian to help you research which high schools or special programs will most benefit your interests.
  • Develop strong study habits.
  • Do your best in school and on standardized tests. If you are having difficulty, don’t give up–get help from a teacher, tutor, or mentor.
  • Become involved in school- or community-based activities that let you explore your interests and learn new things.
  • Speak with adults, such as your teacher, school counselor or librarian, relatives, or family friends, who you think have interesting jobs. Ask them, “What do you like about your job?” and “What education did you need for your job?”

Parents:

Plant a Seed: It’s never too early to start a conversation with your son or daughter about college.
Join the Club: Make sure your child stays involved with student organizations, clubs and extracurricular activities at school.
Keep Reading: Encourage your kids to read for pleasure, not just for school.
Watch the Clock: Help your son or daughter develop time management skills while doing their homework so they can stay organized and prepared.

8th Grade

Students:

  • Think about college as an important part of your future.
  • Discuss your thoughts and ideas with your family and with people at school.
  • Start saving for college if you haven’t already.
  • Take challenging and interesting classes to prepare for high school.
  • Ask your parent of guardian to help you research which high schools or special programs will most benefit your interests.
  • Develop strong study habits.
  • Do your best in school and on standardized tests. If you are having difficulty, don’t give up–get help from a teacher, tutor, or mentor.
  • Become involved in school- or community-based activities that let you explore your interests and learn new things.
  • Speak with adults, such as your teacher, school counselor or librarian, relatives, or family friends, who you think have interesting jobs. Ask them, “What do you like about your job?” and “What education did you need for your job?”

Parents:

Set a Good Example: Talk to your child about the importance of studying hard and getting good grades as they look ahead to high school and college.
Stay in Touch: You’ll want to meet with your child’s teachers and counselors to stay updated on their progress in the classroom.
Get Social: Talk to neighbors, relatives and friends with students in college — you’ll learn a lot by asking questions about their experiences.
Go to School: Find out if your child’s middle school hosts any college information programs featuring admissions representatives or college graduates.

9th Grade

Students:

  • Work with one of your parents to estimate your financial aid and continue to save for college.
  • Take challenging classes in core academic subjects. Most colleges require four years of English, at least three years of social studies (history, civics, geography, economics, etc.), three years of mathematics, and three years of science, and many require two years of a foreign language.
  • Round out your course load with classes in computer science and the arts.
  • Stay involved in school- or community-based activities that interest you or let you explore career interests. Consider working or volunteering.
  • Remember – it’s quality (not quantity) that counts. Talk to your school counselor and other mentors about education after high school. Your counselor can answer questions about what classes to take in high school, how to sign up for standardized tests, and where to get money for college.
  • Talk to your guidance counselor or teachers about Advanced Placement courses. Find out what courses are available, whether you are eligible, and how to enroll in them. 
  • Use the U.S. Department of Labor’s career search tool at www.mynextmove.org to research your career options.
  • Make a list of your awards, honors, paid and volunteer work, and extracurricular activities.
  • Consider participating in academic enrichment programs, summer workshops, and camps with specialty focuses such as music, arts, and science.

Parents:

Plan It Out: Help your child plan activities outside the classroom like athletics, and encourage them to stay involved.
Know What’s Required: Stay current on what’s required of your child to graduate high school — and also what’s required to qualify for college.
Never Too Early: Start getting informed about financial options for college now so you’ll have time to make necessary adjustments before it’s too soon to make a difference.
Ballpark It: You can get a rough estimate of your family’s expected financial contribution (EFC) so you’ll know about how much you’ll be expected to pay toward your child’s education apart from financial aid.

10th Grade

Students:

  • Work with one of your parents to estimate your financial aid and continue to save for college.
  • Take challenging classes in core academic subjects. Most colleges require four years of English, at least three years of social studies (history, civics, geography, economics, etc.), three years of mathematics, and three years of science, and many require two years of a foreign language. Round out your course load with classes in computer science and the arts.
  • Stay involved in school- or community-based activities that interest you or let you explore career interests.
  • Consider working or volunteering. Remember – it’s quality (not quantity) that counts.
  • Talk to your school counselor and other mentors about education after high school. Your counselor can answer questions about what classes to take in high school, how to sign up for standardized tests, and where to get money for college.

Parents:

Read and Read Some More: Whether it’s online or at the local bookstore, start educating yourself on all aspects of the college process: financial aid, scholarships and applying to school.
In the Know: Talk to your child regularly about their favorite subjects in school, and whether they’d like to pursue those subjects after high school. Follow up to make sure they’re taking the right classes that match their goals for the future.
Better Now Than Ever: If you haven’t already, calculate your approximate EFC and adjust your savings plan and budget to account for your family’s projected contribution to college costs.
Beat the Rush: Help your child register online for PSAT, SAT and ACT exams in the fall.

11th Grade

Students:

  • Take challenging classes in core academic subjects. Most colleges require four years of English, at least three years of social studies (history, civics, geography, economics, etc.), three years of mathematics, and three years of science, and many require two years of a foreign language.
  • Round out your course load with classes in computer science and the arts.
  • Stay involved in school- or community-based activities that interest you or let you explore career interests. Consider working or volunteering. Remember – it’s quality (not quantity) that counts.
  • Talk to your school counselor and other mentors about education after high school. Your counselor can answer questions about what classes to take in high school, how to sign up for standardized tests, and where to get money for college.
  • Explore careers and their earning potential in the Occupational Outlook Handbook at www.bls.gov/oco.
  • Learn about choosing a college at StudentAid.gov/prepare-for-college/choosing-schools.
  • Go to college fairs and college-preparation presentations by college representatives.
  • (Fall) Take the PSAT/NMSQT. You must take the test in 11th grade to qualify for scholarships and programs associated with the National Merit Scholarship Program.
  • (Spring) Register for and take exams for college admission. The tests that many colleges require are the SAT, the SAT Subject Tests, and the ACT. Check with the colleges you are interested in to see what tests they require.
  • (Spring) Use the U.S. Department of Labor’s scholarship search at www.careerinfonet.org/scholarshipsearch to find scholarships for which you might want to apply. Some deadlines fall as early as the summer between 11th and 12th grades, so prepare now to submit applications soon.
  • (Summer) Narrow down the list of colleges you are considering attending. If you can, visit the schools that interest you.
  • (Summer) Contact colleges to request information and applications for admission. Ask about financial aid, admission requirements, and deadlines.
  • (Summer) Decide whether you are going to apply under a particular college’s early decision or early action program. Be sure to learn about the program deadlines and requirements.
  • (Summer) Use the Studentaid.gov financial aid estimator and compare the results to the actual costs at the colleges to which you will apply. To supplement any aid estimates you might receive, be sure to apply for scholarships. Your goal is to minimize the amount of loan funds you borrow.

Parents:

  • Take a look at your financial situation, and be sure you’re on the right track to pay for college. Get in-depth information on the federal student aid programs.
  • Create your own FSA ID if you don’t have one yet. (The FSA ID is a username and password that you’ll use for such purposes as signing your child’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid.) Note: You must create your own FSA ID. If your child creates it for you, or if you create your child’s, that’ll cause confusion later and will slow down the financial aid application process. (Need help? You and your child should watch the "How to Create an Account Username and Password (FSA ID)” video.)
  • Talk to your child about the schools he or she is considering. Ask why those schools appeal to your child, and help him or her clarify goals and priorities.
  • Attend college fairs with your child, but don’t take over the conversation with the college representatives. Just listen, and let your child do the talking.
  • Take your child to visit college campuses, preferably when classes are in session.
  • Make sure your child is looking into or already has applied for scholarships.
  • Ask your employer whether scholarships are available for employees’ children.
  • Learn about student and parent loans in Federal Student Loans: Basics for Students and Federal Student Loans: Direct PLUS Loan Basics for Parents.
12th Grade

Students:

  • Take challenging classes in core academic subjects. Most colleges require four years of English, at least three years of social studies (history, civics, geography, economics, etc.), three years of mathematics, and three years of science, and many require two years of a foreign language. Round out your course load with classes in computer science and the arts.
  • Stay involved in school- or community-based activities that interest you or let you explore career interests. Consider working or volunteering. Remember – it’s quality (not quantity) that counts.
  • Talk to your school counselor and other mentors about education after high school. Your counselor can answer questions about what classes to take in high school, how to sign up for standardized tests, and where to get money for college.
  • Work hard all year—second-semester grades can affect scholarship eligibility.
  • Stay involved in after-school activities, and seek leadership roles if possible.
  • (Fall) Meet with your school counselor to make sure you are on track to graduate and fulfill college admission requirements.
  • (Fall) If you haven’t done so already, register for and take such exams as the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, or ACT for college admission. Check with the college s you are interested in to see what tests they require.
  • (Fall) Apply to the colleges you have chosen. Prepare your applications carefully. Follow the instructions, and PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO DEADLINES!
  • (Fall) Well before your application deadlines, ask your counselor and teachers to submit required documents (e.g. transcript, letters of recommendation) to the colleges to which you’re applying.
  • (Winter) Encourage your parent(s) to complete income tax forms early. If your parent(s) has (have) not completed tax forms, you can provide estimated information on your federal student aid application, but remember to make any necessary changes later.
  • (Winter) As soon as possible after Jan. 1, complete and submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), along with any other financial aid applications your school(s) of choice may require. You can complete the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.gov or on paper, but completing the application online is faster and easier. You should submit your FAFSA by the earliest financial aid deadline of the schools to which you are applying, usually by early February.
  • (Winter) If you have questions about the federal student aid programs or need assistance with the application process, call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or the TTY for the hearing impaired, 1-800-730-8913.
  • (Winter) After you submit the FAFSA, you should receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) within three days to three weeks. Quickly make any necessary corrections and submit them to the FAFSA processor.
  • (Winter) Complete any last scholarship applications.
  • (Spring) Visit colleges that have invited you to enroll.
  • (Spring) Review your college acceptances and compare the colleges’ financial aid offers.
  • (Spring) Contact a school’s financial aid office if you have questions about the aid that school has offered you. In fact, getting to know your financial aid staff early is a good idea no matter what—they can tell you about deadlines, other aid for which you might wish to apply, and important paperwork you might need to submit.
  • (Spring)  When you decide which school you want to attend, notify that school of your commitment and submit any required financial deposit. Many schools require this notification and deposit by May 1.

Parents:

List of All Academic Programs by School (As of July 22, 2022)


We also recommend that students and families check out the following college preparation resources:

National Center for Education Statistics Interactive College Navigator

Federal Student Aid: Preparing for College 

College Prep at BigFuture.org (includes college search and financing information)

Get Smart SC (CHE affiliated site)

SC Can Go (CHE affiliated site)