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Preparing for College

There are a number of things students should do throughout their high school careers to prepare for college. (Sources: Kentucky Department of Education and Council on Postsecondary Education)

Follow an appropriate curriculum

The table below outlines various minimum curricula for the state of Kentucky.

Minimum Diploma Requirements and Pre-College Curriculum in Kentucky
SubjectDiploma RequirementsPre-College Curriculum
Language Arts 4 credits: English I, II, III, and IV 4 credits: English I, II, III, and IV or AP English
Mathematics 3 credits: Algebra I, geometry and one elective 3 credits: Algebra I, II, and geometry**
Science 3 credits from the following content areas: life science, physical science, and earth/space science 3 credits: Credits to include life science, physical science, and earth/space science (at least one lab course
Social Studies 3 credits from the following content areas: U.S. history, economics, government, world geography, and world civilization 3 credits from the following content areas: U.S. history, economics, government, world geography, and world civilization
Health .5 credits .5 credits
Physical Education .5 credits .5 credits
History and Appreciation of Visual Arts and Performing Arts 1 credit: History and appreciation of visual and performing arts or another arts course that incorporates such content 1 credit: History and appreciation of visual and performing arts or another arts course that incorporates such content
Foreign Language   2 credits in the same foreign language or demonstrated competency
Electives 7 credits 5 credits (3 rigorous)*** Recommended strongly:1 or more courses that develop computer literacy

KEES Authorized Electives

The following restrictions on electives have been established by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) as prerequisite to receiving the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES). For more information, visit http://www.kheaa.com/website/kheaa/curriculum?main=1.

  • Any course whose academic content (not additional credit) is as rigorous or more rigorous than the courses required by the appropriate Minimum High School Graduation Requirements in the following subject areas:
    • Social Studies
    • Science
    • Mathematics
    • English / Language Arts
    • Arts and Humanities
  • Any course whose academic content (not additional credit) is as rigorous or more rigorous than the courses required by the appropriate Minimum High School Graduation Requirements in the following subject areas and limited to one academic credit per area:
    • Physical Education
    • Health
  • Any course whose academic content (not additional credit) includes teaching the spoken and written aspects of:
    • Foreign Languages
  • Any course whose academic content (not additional credit) is beyond the introductory level in the following Vocational Education areas of study:
    • Agriculture
    • Industrial Technology Education
    • Business Education
    • Marketing Education
    • Family and Consumer Sciences
    • Health Sciences
    • Technology Education
    • Career Pathways

KEES Authorized Substitution

High schools will be allowed to substitute integrated, applied, interdisciplinary and / or higher level courses if the alternative course provides the same or greater academic rigor and the course covers the minimum required content areas or exceeds the minimum required content areas (applicable components of 703 KAR 4:060 (Academic Expectations).

Authorized substitutions include, but are not limited to, honors courses, advanced placement courses, dual credit (high school / college) courses, and courses taken at postsecondary education institutions.

Year-by-year breakdown

You should always do your best in school, take challenging classes, and stay involved in school and community-based extracurricular activities. In addition, consider the following tips in each year of high school. (Source: Federal Student Aid web site)

Freshman Year

  • Take challenging core classes
  • Start planning for college and thinking about your career interests.

Sophomore Year

  • Meet with your career counselor to discuss colleges and their requirements

Junior Year

  • Continue to challenge yourself academically
  • Research colleges that interest you
  • Take the ACT

Senior Year

  • Narrow down the list of colleges that you are interested in
  • Meet with your school counselor to make sure you are on track to graduate
  • Work hard all year; second semester grades can affect your college eligibility
  • Apply to the college(s) you have chosen
  • Register in advance for any necessary tests
  • Apply for federal student financial aid (FAFSA)
  • Apply for college and community scholarships
  • Stay involved and seek leadership roles in your activities

Senior Year Timeline

The following is a detailed timeline of college preparations you should make during your senior year.

October – DecemberFebruary – MarchApril – MayJune
Take or retake the ACT test (if needed) -in October, December, February, April, or June. Deadline for FAFSA in Kentucky is March 15 Follow up on your financial aid package. Compare packages if you have more than one school. Let your high school counselor know which school you’re going to so the school can send in final grades, class rank and proof of graduation.
If you haven’t picked a college yet, narrow your list by visiting schools and talking with students and your parents. Submit midyear grades if the colleges you’ve applied to require them. If you’re going to need student loans, compare the benefits offered by the various lenders your college uses. Send thank-you notes to counselors, teachers and other who helped you through the process.
If you’re going through Early Decision, most schools want the applications to be submitted now. (If you went Early Decision and were accepted, withdraw from the other schools that you have applied to). Send in any deposits that are required. If you’re on a waiting list at a school you really want to attend, ask the Director of Admissions how to strengthen your application. Prepare a budget for the coming school year.
If you’re going through the regular admissions process, it’s time to ask teachers to write recommendations and to polish your admissions essay, if you have to write one. If you’ve been accepted by more than one college but haven’t heard from your first choice, contact that school about a decision. Let any other colleges that have accepted you know about your decision. Submit housing applications (deadlines may vary). Check on status of the financial awards you may receive at the college you are going to attend in the fall.
Check application deadlines for college admissions and submit or compile information needed to complete the application process. If you’ve decided on which school to attend, notify that college of your decision. Notify any other colleges that have accepted you know your decision. Take AP tests if you’re enrolled in AP courses. Register and attend your college’s freshman orientation.
Attend a financial aid seminar if your school or community offers one. Beware of financial aid scams; check on the KHEAA website for more information. Check on available scholarships and their deadlines and requirements at the college you will be attending. Meet with your ETS advisor about senior transition and other college information. Make a list of items that you will need for college.
Check with each school’s financial aid office to see what financial aid forms they require in addition to the FAFSA.     Look over your college’s fall schedule for classes you may want to take.
Ask your parents to get their tax return information ready so you can submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1.      

Credential Definitions

There are many credentials you can pursue in college. Here's an overview.

TypeProgram LengthDescription
Certificate 6–18 months Non-degree programs usually in a vocational or technical area.
Diploma 15 months–2 years Non-degree programs usually in a vocational or technical area.
Associate Degree 2–3 years
  • Associate in Applied Science (AAS) and Associate of Applied Technology (AAT) degrees in technological and vocational majors. Won’t usually transfer toward a four-year degree.
  • Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) degrees in non- vocational and vocational areas. Will usually transfer to four-year colleges and can be applied to a bachelor’s degree.
Bachelor's Degree 4–5 years The most common are the BA usually awarded in the humanities and arts, and the BS, often awarded in scientific and technical fields.