It's never too soon to get ready for your days after high school. Arkansas Next gives you a few tips on how to prepare.

FRESHMAN YEAR

√ GET GOOD GRADES! As a freshman, your GPA begins to count and accumulate. It will affect you until you graduate high school. Really, focus on academics.

HANG WITH THE RIGHT CROWD! You will change and grow a lot as you transition from elementary and middle school to junior high and high school. Hanging out with the right people will help you make better choices.

GET INVOLVED! Join and participate in extracurricular activities and stay active all four years of high school. Get involved within the confines of your high school and outside your high school through leadership-oriented activities and volunteer opportunities.

√ TALK TO YOUR GUIDANCE COUNSELOR! They can answer your questions and will encourage you to take the most rigorous coursework, especially in core subjects. Ask them about meeting graduation requirements early and taking advanced placement (AP), concurrent and honors courses.

√ KEEP A LIST! As you go, keep a list of accomplishments, awards, and recognitions. It will make your life a lot easier in a few years when you need to fill out resumes and college applications.

SOPHOMORE YEAR

√ KEEP YOUR GRADES UP! Building your GPA is crucial!

√ TAKE A PSAT PRACTICE TEST! You will take the PSAT during junior year, and, if you do well, you can qualify for a lot of college cash. Being prepared will help improve your score.

√ KEEP UP! Keep in touch with your guidance counselor, extracurricular activities, volunteer hours and good friends.

√ MAKE A LIST! On actual paper, list the schools you are interested in and research the degrees offered, enrollment size, tuition cost, campus and surrounding area. Attending college and career information events and fairs are a great way to do research fast!

√ THINK ABOUT MAJORS! Consider what majors and degrees lend themselves to careers within your interests and talents. Reach out to mentors and professionals in fields that interest you.

JUNIOR YEAR

√ BEGIN TAKING THE ACT AND/OR SAT! Take it several times to improve your scores. The more familiar you are with the test and the contents of each section the easier it will be to focus on improving your scores. Check to see what test scores your prospective schools require or recommend and send them your scores. Now is also the time to consider taking ACT prep courses to further improve your scores.

√ TAKE THE PSAT IN THE FALL! Scores on this one-time test can qualify you to be a National Merit Scholar or Finalist, which comes with a lot of scholarships.

√ BOOST YOUR GPA! Get good grades and take challenging courses.

√ NARROW IT DOWN! Narrow down your college choices and use all your allowed college visit days!

√ RESEARCH CAREER FIELDS! Look at the ones that allow you to enhance and use your talents and passions. Make sure your top schools offer the degrees you are interested in.

√ BUILD A RESUME! Remember that list you have been keeping since freshman year? Time to pull it out and compile a resume including extracurricular activities, volunteer work, community associations, work experience and academics. For help, visist JAMyWay.org for a free resume builder.

√ VOLUNTEER! If you didn’t have any volunteer work to put on your resume, now is the time to collect some volunteer hours. These will help you qualify for scholarships too.

√ KEEP UP WITH DEADLINES! Ask counselors and other individuals to submit pieces of your application long before the deadline so you don’t get in a bind last minute.

√ START APPLYING! Begin applying for scholarships, but watch out for scholarship scams and identity theft.

√ APPLY TO YOUR TOP SCHOOLS! Fees are sometimes waived when you apply early as a junior. It can also help you get in line early for freshman housing.

√ KEEP FAIRS! Keep attending college fairs and college-prep opportunities.

SENIOR YEAR

FIRST SEMESTER

√ KEEP TAKING THE ACT AND/OR SAT! Continue until your score levels out. Most schools take your final score for scholarships in November, but some will give you until December.

√ ACQUIRE LETTERS! Collect letters of recommendation and transcripts.

√ APPLY! Apply to you top 3 to 5 schools and revisit them before making your final decision.

√ KEEP APPLYING FOR SCHOLARSHIPS! Apply before the deadline to ensure you don’t miss it. Give counselors and references more than enough time to submit things prior to deadlines. Don’t wait until the last minute.

√ MEET WITH YOUR COUNSELOR! To make sure all graduation requirements are being fulfilled, intentionally meet with your counselor to discuss it.

√ NARROW IT DOWN! Think and make some decisions about your top degrees and career field choices.

SECOND SEMESTER

√ IT’S TIME TO PICK! Pick your top school and go for it. Consider all your acceptance letters, financial packages, scholarships and continue visiting until you decide. Get all your questions answered, see the campus, and experience the atmosphere while deciding. Contact the school of your choosing and let them know.

√ FILL OUT FAFSA! Ensure all paperwork is filled out completely.

√ STAY MOTIVATED! Senioritis is a real thing, and, even though this semester often doesn’t count for acceptance, it does affect scholarships! You have worked so hard for four years; don’t slack off in the end.

√ PICK A MAJOR! Pick a major to declare. You can change it later if you need to. Many people announce this during graduation ceremonies, and it’s no fun to say “undeclared.”

√ HOUSING! Check on your freshman housing arrangements.

√ RESEARCH GREEK LIFE! Find out what rush requirements are if that’s something you’re interested in. Many public and state universities start the process before classes begin in the fall.

√ GRADUATE! Enjoy your summer before college classes start. Attend freshman orientation events, even optional events. It will help you meet lots of people and adjust to college life. Shop for your dorm room essentials.

√ SHOP FOR DORM ESSENTIALS! Use the Arkansas NEXT dorm checklist as a guide!