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[ Choosing a College | Financial Aid | Technical Schools and Apprenticeships ]

High School Timeline (Español)

How many times has someone asked you, "What do you want to do with your life?" Or even worse, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Let's get real. Nobody is a huge success without some degree of planning but you don't have to decide your whole life by the time you're 14 years old. However, with some thought and planning in high school, you can be on the right road to success by the time you graduate.

Use this general overview to see what types of career and college planning steps to take each year of high school. Remember, this is only a guide. It's up to you, your parents and your guidance counselor to work on a plan that's right for you.

Freshman Year

Begin career exploration. In addition to using resources at your school, check out the local library for career information. Use the Education and Career Opportunity System (ECOS) at any Milwaukee Public Library.

Begin asking questions to the people around you. Ask people about their jobs. Ask teachers, church leaders, doctors, plumbers, salespeople, bank tellers, tax preparers, busdrivers, computer specialists, auto mechanics, factory workers, web designers, business owners and anyone else you can think of! There's a difference between a job and a career. Quite often people work at a certain type of job as part of their career plan. Even though you're in high school, do you know what you want to do after high school?

Sophomore Year

Continue career exploration and evaluate your high school course selections and activities. Are you planning to take classes related to your strengths, abilities, interests and career preferences? If you think you might want to be an auto mechanic, then take electives that will help you reach your goal. Likewise, it's hard to be a doctor without scientific knowledge in chemistry and biology. What's your plan? What types of classes will help you reach your goal?

Junior Year

Maintain a good course schedule that will help you reach your goals and make sure you have the credits and courses that you need to graduate on time. Continue to be involved in school activities, explore a part-time job or volunteer. Explore all post-high school choices including college, technical school, apprenticeship programs and military service. Use the Education and Career Opportunity System (ECOS) available at any Milwaukee Public Library.

You may need to take some tests related to your career and college goals. Ask your counselor about PSAT, SAT, ACT and ASVAB tests. Typically, you can take these tests in your Junior year but it is best to talk to your counselor about your personal goals to determine which test to take and at what time.

If you're considering college, think about what's important to you in making that selection: Close to home or far away? Small campus or large? 2 year program or 4 year program? Public or private? Think about the type of career you want and the level of education you need for that type of Career. Use the "Choosing a College" list to help keep track of your choices.

Attend college fairs and college night programs. Prepare for and visit colleges. What other information will help make your decisions? See "COLLEGE TIMELINE FOR HIGH SCHOOL JUNIORS".

Senior Year


Take challenging courses and continue to work toward your goals. Double-check with your guidance counselor to make sure that you have the credits and courses you need to graduate on time. Make decisions about college, military, apprenticeships, etc. and if necessary begin the process of application.

You can apply to a University of Wisconsin school after September 15th for the following school year. Each campus sets its own priority dates and deadline. You can use the UW-HELP website as a reference. CHECK CAREFULLY, no matter which school you choose. Do you have all the necessary forms? Are you sure of the application deadlines? Are you required to write an essay? Obtain application forms. Observe deadlines. Submit transcript and test scores.

Begin a scholarship search. Use COMPASS Guide for local scholarships or use ECOS, for national and local scholarships. Sign up for ECOS at any Milwaukee Public Library. If you use ECOS, you can save all of your information into a "virtual locker" available on the web, for free!


If you are going to college, apply for financial aid; consult the financial aid office at your chosen college. You can complete the FAFSA after January 1, but you will need your parent's completed tax information. See steps in "Applying for financial aid".


Make final decisions. If you are not planning on attending college, what steps do you need to take to reach your goals? Have you inquired about apprenticeship programs or military options? Have you met the deadlines and requirements to begin your training program? If you are not going to college, trade or technical school, you are not starting an apprenticeship program, and you are not enlisting in the military, what will you do?

If you are going to college, and have received an acceptance letter, you must confirm your decision with the school. Make sure that you decline any other offers you received.


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