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College Preparation & Planning

College Readiness Checklist

9th Grade

  • Complete your Naviance tasks
  • Meet with your high school counselor to discuss your schedule and graduation plan
  • Participate in at least 1 club or extra-curricular activity at school and/or in your community
  • Participate in at least 1 volunteer activity at school and/or in your community

10th Grade

  • Complete your Naviance tasks
  • Remain involved in extra-curricular and volunteer activities and think about obtaining a leadership position (ex. Vice President of Interact Club)
  • Create a resume
  • Register and take the 10th-grade PSAT
  • Begin searching and applying for scholarships

11th Grade

  • Meet with your high school counselor/school mentor to revisit your graduation plan and talk about your college options
  • Register for challenging 12th-grade courses
  • Remain involved in extra-curricular and volunteer activities, preferably with a leadership position in at least one of those activities
  • Register and take the 11th-grade PSAT
  • Register for the ACT or SAT
  • Begin researching colleges and financial aid options by speaking with your school counselor or navigating the resources in Naviance
  • Attend college representative sessions at your school, in the community, or local campuses
  • Draft your college personal essay
  • Ask two teachers and your counselor to write letters of recommendation on your behalf
  • Continue searching and applying for scholarships
  • Create a list of about 10-15 colleges that interest you and research information such as size, location, admission requirements for each school

12th Grade

  • Finalize your college list (recommended: no more than 10 colleges)
  • Match your Common Application to Naviance
  • Attend college representative sessions and if possible, visit college campuses
  • Remain involved in extra-curricular and volunteer activities
  • Update your résumé
  • Submit college applications and supporting materials, such as test scores, essays, letters of recommendation, and transcripts before deadlines
  • Continue searching and applying for scholarships
  • Submit financial aid applications before deadlines (FAFSA, MHEC, CSS PROFILE, and school financial aid forms as needed)
  • Connect with the City Schools Navigator Center to help you successfully enroll in college, sign up for classes, complete health and immunization forms, housing documents. and more.

Finding the Right College for You

There are thousands of college and universities for you to explore and lots of them might feel perfect. When considering colleges, it's important for you to consider your academic, financial, and personal preferences - what are your "deal breakers" and where are you willing to compromise? Your research and investigation should considering the following: 

Academic Fit

  • Does this school have majors and academic areas of study that interest you? 
  • Is this school the right size? Will you learn best in large lectures with 400 students or in a smaller classroom with a discussion based focus? 
  • Does this school have a helpful career center with internship and job opportunities? 

Social Fit

  • Distance from home: how are is too far? Are you will to take a train, bus, car, or plane to campus? 
  • Location: How comfortable will you be in a rural setting or a suburban setting? Must the school offer access to public transportation 
  • Does this school offer clubs, hobbies, sports, diversity, religious, health care services, study abroad or other leadership opportunities that are important to you?

Financial Fit 

  • Is this school generous with merit-based or need-based financial aid?
  • Have you found special scholarship programs through the financial aid office website? 
  • Is this school in the state of Maryland and are you eligible for state funding with Maryland Higher Education Commission? 

Check out the City Schools Youtube Channel and CCR playlist for videos discussing college match and fit! 

Applying to College

There are over 2,000 colleges and universities in the United States! It's important to choose the one that is right for you. Once a balanced college list has been established, students can begin applying through a variety of different applications, including:

Or students can also apply sometimes directly using a college's specific application listed on their website. We encourage students and families to utilize Naviance, the City Schools Navigator Center, and our professional school counselors for direct support.

Naviance Resources

Financial Aid and Scholarships

One of the MOST important steps in the college application process is applying for financial aid. There are a few main sources to get funding for college: 

  • Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA) 
  • State Financial Aid 
  • Institutional Aid 
  • Outside Scholarships
Federal Financial Aid 

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an application that students and families use to apply for federal grants and federal student loans. The government requires students to submit an application each year they intend to be enrolled in college. Complete the following steps to successfully complete a FAFSA. 

1) Apply for an FSA ID

  • Student applies for an FSA ID. Only one Federal Student Aid ID is given per student per lifetime. Don't lose it! We recommend you answer the security questions, offer to register your mobile number and email address, and store it somewhere safe. Students will use this FSA ID to sign the FAFSA. Please make sure your legal name and date of birth registered with the FSA ID match what is registered on your social security card. Undocumented students should not apply for an FSA ID or complete a FAFSA. 
  • Parent(s) or Guardians applies for an FSA ID. Only one Federal Student Aid ID is given per parent/guardian per lifetime. We recommend you answer the security questions, offer to register your mobile number and email address, and store it somewhere safe. Students will use this FSA ID to sign the FAFSA. Please make sure your legal name and date of birth registered with the FSA ID match what is registered on your social security card. Undocumented parents should not apply for an FSA ID or complete a FAFSA. 

2) Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) using prior-prior year taxes. 

3) Follow up with each college the student applied to by checking a portal or calling the college's financial aid office to confirm everything was processed successfully or if you were selected for a process called verification. 

Student & Families may contact their professional school counselor or the City Schools Navigator Center with questions. 

State Financial Aid

The State of Maryland offers generous need-based funding for which students can apply. Baltimore City students are encouraged to create an MDCAPS account with the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) to apply for the following grants and scholarships: 

  1. Guaranteed Access Grant: Free grant that provides up to $19,400 to Maryland high school graduates applying to college in-state 
  2. Educational Assistance Grant: Free grant that provides up to $3,000 o Maryland high school graduates applying to college in-state. Eligible citizens are automatically qualified if he/she creates an MDCAPS account and submits a FAFSA. 
  3. Maryland State Financial Aid Application (MSFAA): Application for state funding specifically for undocumented students.
  4. Senatorial & Delegate Grants: Two separate grants for which students can apply by emails to their state delegate and state senator's office and asking for an application. 
  5. MHEC
Institutional Financial Aid

Some private and often well-endowed colleges are also willing to reach into their own bank account and give students needs-based financial aid. This is often referred to as need-based institutional aid. These colleges typically require an additional form called the CSS profile that complements what is already on the FAFSA. The CSS profile is used to offer students additional need-based financial aid. Schools missing from this list may still offer merit-based scholarships. 

Outside scholarships

Close the gap for a lot of students by offering additional one-time or reoccurring scholarships. Some of our favorite search engines and lists are below.