Having recently blogged about college readiness and setting manageable expectations to accomplish long-term goals, we thought a nice “culmination” to this discussion to bridge the two concepts would be to talk about some checklists that the Department of Education has released that makes the path to going to college more digestible.

Checklists are quite a handy tool when we have set our minds on something in the future.  Like our last post mentioned, long-term goals are more likely to be achieved if we adopt a mentality that allows us to measure our progress and thus internalize the importance of reaching that goal.

So then, for the future college student (and parents of future college students), using this same logic makes sense if the end goal is college admittance (and subsequently college graduation).

What makes these checklists particularly useful is that they are designed for specific grades, and are both academic and financial in nature.  Similar to our own research on the matter, the DOE stresses the importance of planning for this transition early, and have therefore created these checklists to help ease the burden for parents and students who may not know where to start, which can be found on their website StudentAid.gov.

Here are some of the highlights of each checklist:

1. The elementary checklist stresses the importance of reading and developing an excitement and sense of adventure for learning.  Parents should encourage this passion by reading to their children and checking over their homework.  Also, parents should begin the process of saving for their children’s college funds.  It’s never to early to start.

2. The middle school checklist encourages students to begin thinking about why college is important and even promotes the action of students saving for college themselves.  Academic behaviors are important as well, such as developing study habits and becoming involved in after-school activities.

3. The high school checklists (specific for freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors) are more practical and to-the-point, such as learning about FAFSA and how to apply for financial aid and focusing on academic performance to ensure admittance.  It also encourages students to talk to counselors about their available options when considering colleges, something our own research found students are reluctant to do despite its importance.  The application process is also discussed.

There is even a checklist for adults returning to college or going for the first time.

What these plans provide is a way students and parents can work towards the long-term goal of college.  Going to college is a big step in one’s life, and and confusing one.  Mental preparation helps to create realistic expectations for students and parents, as well as helps students along the way in their academic pursuits (as they can internalize the relevance of good grades and extracurricular activities to their ultimate end goal).