Preparing for Life After High School: A 5-Point Checklist

Life after high school is an exciting time, but also one that can cause some anxiety for students and parents. Preparing for life after high school can reduce stress and help teens and parents feel confident about the future.

1. Prepare for and complete college applications.

Planning for college begins well before graduation. Many students take advantage of dual enrollment courses to begin earning college credits before leaving high school. Attend an Ignite Christian Academy Dual Enrollment Info Session to learn more about how juniors and seniors can earn college credits up to an associate degree. Ignite Christian Academy also offers academic counselors who can provide information, resources, and guidance as you and your child plan for life after high school.

To learn more about preparing for college, your grade 9-12 student can also take the online, one-semester Monarch College Planner elective course, which provides practical lessons on topics like selecting a college, applying for financial aid, and studying for the ACT or SAT.

Whether your teen has already started earning college credits or plans to begin college courses after graduation, let’s explore the steps needed to prepare for college admissions.

Throughout high school

Focus on good grades and keeping track of academic and athletic awards, extracurricular accomplishments, and community service.

Sophomore year

✓Take a PSAT practice test.
✓Your sophomore can start taking dual credit college courses in high school through Ignite Christian Academy as         
     soon as the summer after 10th grade.

Junior year

✓Take the PSAT in the fall, which is good practice for the SAT and qualifies students for the National Merit
     Scholarship Program.
✓Take an SAT and/or ACT practice test in the spring.

Senior year first semester

Begin visiting college campuses.

✓Complete the FAFSA. The deadline is June 30, but it should be completed as soon as the application opens (usually
     October), as colleges and universities have different priority dates.
✓Take the ACT/SAT.
✓Write a college essay.
✓Gather letters of recommendation.
✓Submit college applications.

Senior year second semester

Compare financial aid packages.
Watch for acceptance letters and enrollment information.


2. Explore career options.

Many teens are unsure what career they’d like to pursue, so exploring career options well before graduation is a great way to prepare for life after high school. Teens should first think about their interests and activities they enjoy. Next, think about careers that can put those interests and activities to use. Finally, start to research careers of interest. Find out more about what people in those occupations do, average pay, and demand for the job. Here are some potential sources of career exploration:

→Career fairs: Career fairs provide opportunities to interact directly with employers from a variety of industries. Ignite Christian Academy’s student counselors regularly host career fairs for enrolled students. Career fairs: Career fairs provide opportunities to interact directly with employers from a variety of industries. Ignite Christian Academy’s student counselors regularly host career fairs for enrolled students.

→Career exploration courses: Monarch and Ignite Christian Academy both offer career exploration courses. ICA also has academic advisors that can provide assistance.

→Webinars: Many colleges and universities have on-demand career webinars with alumni and coaches.

→Online research: The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a lot of great advice for exploring careers and publishes the yearly Occupational Outlook Handbook, which provides median pay, education requirements, number of jobs, and projected industry growth rate.

→Part-time jobs, internships, and shadowing: These options help young people gain practical work experience and identify the work environments they like or dislike.

 3. Build financial awareness.

Before graduation, it’s important to sit down with your teen and discuss common financial tasks adults must complete. Most students know little about the financial topics like banking, budgeting, and taxes that will soon be part of their everyday lives. Here are some suggestions:

→Budget: Work together with your teen to decide who will be paying for things like rent, phone, transportation, insurance, and food. Write it out or use a budgeting app.

→Banking: Set up their first bank account and teach your teen about balancing a checkbook, understanding overdraft fees, and setting up low balance alerts.

→Health care: Does your teen know how to make a doctor’s appointment? Do they know who their insurance carrier is? Start having your teen call to make medical, dental, or optometry appointments and learn the ins and outs of filling out forms and how copays work.

→Tax return: Walk your teen through filling out a W-4, show them a W-2, and demonstrate how to file a tax return.

→Credit: Discuss how credit cards and loans work. Make your teen an authorized user on a credit card with a set credit limit and show them how to use it responsibly. Have them make payments on the credit card and discuss how accrued interest and fees increase the cost of using credit.

AOP’s LIFEPAC print curriculum includes the full-year elective Consumer Math, which teaches high school students about all of these valuable concepts and skills.


4. Work on independent living skills.

Living independently for the first time is often an eye-opening experience for young people. The many chores parents complete to keep a household running are often invisible to children, so moving into an apartment or college dorm where they are suddenly responsible for daily upkeep can quickly feel overwhelming. Here are some skills to consider:

→How to clean.
→Food safety and preparation.
→How to do laundry.
→Grocery shopping on a budget.
→How to develop a chores routine or schedule.

5. Ready for the transition emotionally.

Whether your student is going to college, joining the workforce, or enlisting in the military, life after high school can also be a time of emotional highs and lows. Here are some ways to help your teen prepare for this transition:

→Work developing problem-solving skills.
→Practice mindfulness.
→Establish good self-care routines.
→Identify strategies for coping with challenges.
→Connect with an Ignite Christian Academy student counselor.
→Check into college mental health support services.

With this checklist, you can work with your teen to begin preparing for life after high school and embrace the exciting transition knowing they have the knowledge and skills they need to become happy, successful adults! 

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