Going to College
after High School

With any luck, you're reading this while you are still in high school. This is important because your high school teachers and counselors can provide you with a great deal of support and ideas.

The main step you can take right now is to do well in your high school classes. This is the foundation of your college future because your transcript is an important part of your college application. Also, consider taking some of the following steps:

  • Look into advanced placement courses. These college level courses are available in about 16 subjects and help prepare you for college-level work. Also, some colleges grant you college credit if you take an advanced placement course and pass the exam with a grade of 3.0 or higher. This can save you both time and money.
  • Talk with your guidance counselor or academic advisor from the college you want to attend. Let this person know that you intend to go to college and ask for his or her assistance. The counselor or advisor could recommend high school courses to take and help establish relations between you and the colleges you are considering.
Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence. Mourning Dove Salish
  • Value the arts. As Native Americans, we know that identity is expressed in many ways—and an important way is through art. Research has shown that students who take art courses and participate in arts (both visual and performing) often do better in school and on standardized tests.
  • Be technology savvy. Make certain you're comfortable with computers. Many colleges encourage applying for admission online. Professors will expect you to complete—and perhaps research—assignments using a computer. You can also use the computer to research colleges and even apply for financial aid online.
  • Become a leader. Become a leader in your school or community. Colleges think highly of students who have held a student government office, organized an event, or volunteered for a worthwhile cause.
  • Ask your school counselor about high school educational programs that are linked with a tribal college or other local college. There are career-focused programs available that are offered by a network of high schools, local colleges, and, sometimes, local employers. Many of these programs are known as "tech-prep," "two-plus-two," or "school-to-work" programs. The high school classes in these programs are linked to the courses offered at the local or tribal colleges. In this way, your high school work better prepares you for college-level work.

Going to College after High School

  • Ask about programs targeted for first-generation college
    students, low-income individuals and others who face special educational challenges to prepare for college. These programs include the federal TRIO programs and Upward Bound . Also, research whether the college you're thinking of attending has a Summer Bridge program that is aimed at helping first semester freshmen successfully transition from high school.
  • Prepare for tests. Most colleges ask for your scores from the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) or ACT (formerly, the American College Testing Program). Depending on the college you choose, you also may take the Accuplacer placement test. The Accuplacer test assesses your reading, writing, and math skills. Based on the results, the school may decide that developmental (or remedial) classes are needed.
  • Practice testing. SAT and ACT tests are given to high school students starting in their junior year. If you take them early enough, you can retake the tests to try to improve your scores. Ask your guidance counselor if there are classes you can take to prepare for the ACTs and SATs.
  • Ask about the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). This practice test not only helps you prepare for the SAT, but, if you score well, it could lead to scholarships.
  • Use social networking sites. If you visit sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc., you can ask other college-bound students or people in college about their experiences and recommendations. BUT, remember these are informal chat sites and although you might get some helpful ideas, you also may get some false information. Check out any information with your high school or college before acting on any advice.

  • What basic academic courses do you recommend I take since I want to go to college?
  • Does it make a difference if I want to go to a junior college instead of a four-year college?
  • How many years of each academic subject does the high school require for graduation?
  • What elective courses do you recommend I take?
  • Since I want to go to college, is there any special help or tutoring available to me?
  • What activities (including extracurricular) can I do at home and over the summers to better prepare me for college?
  • Are there any interpersonal or leadership skills I should develop? Where can I go to develop these talents?
  • How much homework can I expect as a student preparing for college?
  • What do different colleges require in terms of high school grades and SAT or ACT scores?
  • Other questions:

Questions to Ask Guidance Counselors

(adapted from the U.S. Department of Education)

When talking with your guidance counselor, consider asking at least some of the following questions. Note the answers below and any follow-up actions you may need to take.


English - Four years
Types of classes:
  • American Literature
  • Composition
  • English Literature
  • World Literature
Mathematics - Three to four years
Types of classes:
  • Algebra I
  • Algebra II
  • Calculus
  • Geometry
  • Pre-calculus
  • Trigonometry
History & Geography - Two to three years
Types of classes:
  • Civics
  • Geography
  • U.S. History
  • U.S. Government
  • World History
  • World Cultures

Recommended High School Courses for College-Bound Students

(from the U.S. Department of Education)

Although academic requirements differ among colleges, the admissions requirements listed below are typical for four-year colleges. The specific classes listed here are examples of the types of courses students can take. The ACT and the CollegeBoard also have a similar list of courses that will help you prepare for college.

Laboratory Science - Two to four years
Types of classes:
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Earth Science
  • Physics
Foreign Language - Two to four years

Visual & Performing Arts - One year
Types of classes:
  • Art
  • Dance
  • Drama
  • Music
Challenging Electives - One to three years
Types of classes:
  • Communications
  • Computer Applications
  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • Psychology
  • Statistics

image of Going to College after High School

Sample Jobs List

If you are you considering an associate's degree at this point, but might want to get a bachelor's degree later on, click here to learn more.

Two-Year College
(Associate's Degree)
Four-Year College
(Bachelor's Degree)
More Than Four Years
(Various Graduate Degrees)
Computer Technician Teacher Lawyer
Surveyor Accountant Doctor
Registered Nurse FBI Agent Architect
Dental Hygienist Engineer Scientist
Medical Laboratory Technician Journalist University Professor
Commercial Artist Software Engineer Economist
Hotel/Restaurant Manager Computer System Analyst Psychologist
Engineering Technician Dietician Religious Cleric
Automotive Mechanic Writer Dentist
Administrative Assistant Investment Banker Veterinarian
Water and Wastewater Treatment Graphic Designer Public Policy Analyst
Plant Operator Geologist Librarian
Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Technician Social Worker Zoologist
Veterinary Technician Public Relations Specialist Management Consultant
Physical Therapist Assistant Physical Therapist Pharmacist