Now that we’ve started the New Year, high school seniors and their parents should turn their full attention toward making sure they are prepared for life beyond high school.
Any senior planning to attend college should go online now and fill out a FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Every parent and senior should fill out this form, regardless of family income. It takes about 30 minutes, it’s free, and it puts you in line for part of the $150 billion in grants, loans or work-study funds awarded each year by the federal government. Even if you don’t intend to use federal funds to pay for college or career school, many states and universities use the FAFSA form to determine scholarships and other forms of financial aid. The Oklahoma deadline is March 1.
Seniors and their parents also need to make sure the student has taken all of the coursework required by the state and the local district in order to have enough credits to graduate. Seniors need to score proficient or advanced in Algebra I and English II and at least two of the following five subjects in order to graduate: Algebra II, Geometry, English III, Biology I and United States History. Passing these tests will ensure students are ready for the rigors of college and the demands of the workforce without the need for remediation.
Students who do not score proficient on one of the end-of-instruction exams may use one or more alternate tests or end-of-course projects to meet the requirement. Work on those should begin now, instead of waiting until the last minute. There are also special provisions for students transferring from out of state or for students with an Individual Education Program or those with other special circumstances. For more on Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE) requirements, visit our ACE page on the State Department of Education website.
All students also must complete a Passport to Financial Literacy before graduation. The skills learned in this coursework will help students become wise consumers, savers and investors as they participate in the global workforce and society. The intent of this education is to inform students how individual choices directly influence occupational goals and future earnings potential.
For those students still in middle school, you already should be preparing for your own high school graduation. Take all of the pre-Advanced Placement and Advanced Placement courses available. In addition, take all of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) coursework you can. You also must focus on literacy. If you can’t read, you really can’t do much else. If you need help, now is the time to ask. With these key tools in your tool belt, you will be well-prepared for the rigors of college course work by the time you graduate high school, and you will be well on your way toward securing a well-paying job in the future.
I believe that every child in Oklahoma deserves to graduate high school with the skills and the knowledge to successfully enter college without the need for remediation or to be able to secure a job that will pay them enough to live above the level of poverty. For you high school seniors, the end is in sight. Make the most of this final semester in high school, and best wishes in all of your future endeavors.