Asset 1ScholarMatch

College Ready Milestones

Get college ready! Complete the steps below by the recommended due dates and track your progress.



  1. Welcome to Destination College07/15/2020

    We’re so excited to have you join ScholarMatch’s Destination College program! To get started, learn more about us by reviewing our welcome video and signing our program agreement.


    1. Welcome Video: Review our interactive welcome video to learn more about our program and team.
    2. Program Agreement: You will receive a link through email to sign our program agreement electronically. Check your email to sign this form,  then have a parent or guardian review and sign it as well.

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Watch our Welcome Video to learn more about our program.
    2. Review and sign our Program Agreement.
    3. Click the button below to “Mark As Complete”
  2. Build a College List 07/15/2020

    Your college list will change a few times before you start applying – that’s expected! This is the perfect time to explore what you’re personally looking for in a college (we call this “fit”) and research colleges that will challenge you academically (we call this “match”).

    Our goal is to help you build a balanced college list of 10-12 schools and ensure you’re applying for colleges that meet your needs and interests!


    1. Balanced List Overview: Learn about the different factors you should consider when building a balanced college list.
    2. College Application Tracker: Begin creating your college list using this tracker. Refer to the websites below to help you find and research different colleges.
      • Big Future: A college research tool that helps you compare colleges
      • College Greenlight: A tool to read college reviews, compare colleges, and find scholarships
      • ScholarMatcher: A tool (that we made!) to research the best colleges for first-generation, low-income students

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Make a copy of the College Application Tracker and begin to research at least 10-12 schools to put on your college list. These schools may change over time and that’s okay!
    2. “Mark as Complete” below
  3. Prepare for SAT/ACT 08/31/2020

    Many schools require that you take the SAT or ACT for admission. These test scores are just one part of your college application, but doing well means you’ll have more choices in the colleges you get into! We recommend choosing a test, registering, and preparing for it in spring of your junior year. That way, you can retake the test in the summer and fall to continue improving your scores.

    **COVID-19 has affected SAT and ACT test dates and policies. Due to COVID-19, many schools have changed their testing policies. Click here for important updates and to check how this affects the schools on your college list.


    Learn about the differences between the SAT and ACT, how to prepare for these tests, and more!

    1. Compare SAT vs. ACT: Not sure which test to take? Learn more about the SAT and the ACT and the differences between them.
    2. Guide to Registration: Learn how to register for these tests, request fee waivers (so you can take the test for free!), and send your scores to colleges.
    3. Khan Academy SAT Prep:  Free online SAT practice tests, essay prompts, and answer keys for practice SAT tests. Did you know that studying for at least 12 hours using Khan Academy’s SAT prep courses can increase your SAT score by up to 100 points?
    4. ACT Academy: Free ACT test prep

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Review our Guide to Registration.
    2. Sign up for a test date (ACT or SAT), then add your test dates and login information to the ACT/SAT tab of your College Application Tracker.
    3. Sign up for a test prep course OR make an independent study plan to prepare for your upcoming test.
  4. Build a Scholarship List 08/31/2020

    In addition to financial aid from the government and the schools you apply for, outside scholarships are a great way to help pay for college. You’ll want to start considering scholarships before your senior year as some major scholarships have early fall deadlines.


    Check out these resources to help you kickstart your scholarship search!

    1. Important National Scholarships: Learn about scholarship opportunities with early fall deadlines – some scholarships even cover the full cost of attendance!
    2. Scholarship search guide: Use this guide to find local, state, or national scholarships and sign up for scholarship alerts.

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Review the scholarships listed above and identify which scholarship(s) you are eligible for
    2. Add scholarships you plan to apply for on the “Scholarships” tab of your College Application Tracker.


  1. Revise and Finalize College List 10/01/2020

    Now that you’ve finished building your initial college list, it’s time to review this list again to ensure that it’s balanced! This means you have a good mix of safety, match, and reach schools, and you could imagine yourself at all of these schools.  


    Use our Balanced List Guide to help you revise and finalize your college list!

    1. Balanced List Guide: Use this guide to ensure your list is balanced for academic, social, and financial fit

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Complete the “Building your College List” tab on your College Application Tracker and share it with your College Coach or ScholarMatch staff for feedback
    2. Revise your list to ensure it is balanced using the Balanced List Guide above
    3. Clicking “Mark as Complete”
  2. Draft and Revise College Essays11/01/2020

    Your college essays are your opportunity to show colleges and universities your unique voice and demonstrate why you would be an asset to their community.


    Below are some resources to help you brainstorm, write, and revise your essays:

    1. Princeton Review: Tips on telling your story to colleges!
    2. College Essay Guide:  Guides and videos to help you brainstorm and write your essays.
    3. Common ApplicationUniversity of California, and Educational Opportunity Program Essay prompts: Review the essay prompts to get started with your writing process.

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Review the personal statement prompts for each college you are applying to.
    2. Once you review the prompts, determine which prompts you will answer. Begin working on your college essays on a separate document (i.e. Google Doc).
    3. Link your essays in your College Application Tracker on the “College Applications” tab
  3. Submit 8-10 Applications11/15/2020

    Now that tests and essays are behind you, it’s time to show off all your hard work by submitting an all-star application!


    It’s the final countdown! Review the below resources to help you finish and submit your college applications:

    1. Application Fee Waivers: Review this handout to learn tips about receiving a fee waiver for your applications to make applying to college more affordable
    2. Step-by-Step Application Guides:

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Determine if you’re eligible for fee waivers at the schools you’re applying to.
    2. Use the guides above to complete applications for schools on your list and check off requirements on the “College Applications” tab of your College Application Tracker
  4. Apply for Financial Aid12/15/2020

    Complete the FAFSA, CSS Profile or the Dream Act Application to let colleges know what your financial need is and to become eligible for grants, loans, scholarships and work-study (this makes you eligible to work on your college campus!). Before you start your application, make sure that you create your login ID for each application (if applicable).


    1. How do I pay for college? Learn about the different types of financial aid available and the different financial aid applications you may need to complete for college.
    2. FAFSA and CSS Profile Videos: These videos walk you step-by-step through completing these important financial aid forms.

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Complete the FAFSA, CSS Profile and/or Dream Act Application
    2. Download your Student Aid Report (click here for instructions)
    3. Update the “Financial Aid” tab of your College Application Tracker


  1. Apply to Scholarships02/01/2021

    Now that you’ve submitted your college applications, it’s time to focus on applying to scholarships to help pay for college! Apply to as many as you can – we recommend at least 3, especially local ones!


    1. Scholarship Guide: Use this guide to find scholarships and prioritize which to apply for!

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Research local, state, and national scholarships using the Scholarship Guide above
    2. Identify which scholarship(s) you are eligible for and add them to the “Scholarships” tab of your College Application Tracker
    3. Begin drafting your scholarship applications!
  2. Compare Financial Aid Offers04/15/2021

    Congratulations, you’ve been accepted to college! Now it’s time to compare your financial aid award letters and see how you’ll cover the cost of college. For this milestone, you’ll want to have all of your financial aid award letters available so you can compare the cost of each school and see which college gave you the best financial aid package.


    Use these resources to help you understand your award letters and make informed decisions about financial fit:

    1. Understanding your Financial Aid Award Letters: Watch this video to understand how to read your financial aid award letters
    2. Award Letter Comparison Worksheet: Using your award letters, fill in this worksheet with the offers you’ve received to help you determine which schools would be most affordable to attend
    3. How to Appeal an Award Letter: If a school’s financial aid offer is lower than needed to attend, you can use this guide to appeal for more financial aid

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Download and complete this financial aid comparison worksheet with the support of your College Coach or ScholarMatch staff
    2. Upload all required documents and mark as complete!
    3. Begin drafting your applications!
  3. Accept your Admission Offer05/01/2021

    You’ve gotten accepted – now what?

    If you’ve been accepted to more than one school, you’ve got options – and this can be both exciting and scary! The best thing you can do is carefully review all your offers and decide which school is the best fit for YOU!

    You can start by asking yourself a few questions like…

    • Which college provided me with the best financial aid package?
    • At which colleges can I imagine myself being successful and happy?
    • How many students return after their freshman year? (Also known as freshman retention rate)
    • What percentage of students graduate on time?
    • What is the culture on campus like?
    • Is this school an academic fit?

    Deliberate, but decide on time!

    Make your decision before May 1st, as this is commonly known as “Decision Day.” You may need to submit a deposit to confirm your spot, so make sure you send in all the required paperwork and submit your deposit before the deadline to ensure you have a spot on campus!

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Deliberate and Decide
    2. “Mark as Complete” below and complete the survey
    3. Celebrate!
  4. Create a College Transition Plan06/01/2021

    Congratulations! You’re going to college! Now it’s time to make sure you have everything in order before your first day on campus. To prepare for your transition, you will want to make a transition plan and practice self advocacy.


    Check out the resources below to prepare for a smooth transition to college:

    1. College Transition Checklist: Use this checklist to ensure you are staying on track with financial aid, registration, housing and other miscellaneous tasks over the summer.
    2. Advocate for Yourself: Tips on how to speak up and for yourself and ask what you need from your school as you prepare for your transition to college.

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Download and read the Transitioning to College checklist
    2. Complete all of the applicable checklist tasks
    3. Mark as Complete and Celebrate!

Extra Credit

  1. Request a Teacher Recommendation

    Just like a compelling Yelp review makes you want to eat at a restaurant, positive recommendation letters can make you stand out when applying for colleges or scholarships. A good recommendation letter highlights not only your achievements, but your character, and helps colleges get a sense of who you are both in the classroom and beyond.


    Use these resources to help you identify a recommender and understand how you can support them in writing a stellar recommendation:

    1.  Who Should I Ask to Write My Recommendation Letter?  Read this helpful document to help you identify who you should ask to write your letter of recommendation.
    2. Brag Sheet: Sharing highlights of your accomplishments, goals, and character with your recommender can help them write a stronger recommendation letter for you

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Determine which scholarships or applications you’re applying for require recommendations and determine who you’ll reach out to for a letter of recommendation. Add these contacts to your College Application Tracker
    2. Make a copy of this Brag Sheet and complete it to share with your recommenders.
  2. Expand your Horizons

    Did you know schools offer “Fly-In” programs, where they pay for you to come visit their school? That’s right – you could have the opportunity to travel to a school you’re interested in to get firsthand experience with campus life, dorms, food on campus, and more importantly academic programs – for free! Many fly-in programs require applications, but they’re worth it to determine whether a college is a good “fit” for you! 


    Fly-in and Diversity Programs: Search this list of fly-in and diversity programs to find schools you’re interested in.

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Using the list of fly-in and diversity programs above, select 3 programs you are interested in and add them to the “Fly-in and Summer Programs” tab of your College Application Tracker.
    2. Apply to at least one Fly-In or Diversity Program
  3. Prepare for Admission to UCs and CSUs

    If you’re a student in California, there are two types of public schools you’ll want to consider adding to your college list: University of California schools (UC’s) and California State Universities (CSU’s).  There are a few key differences between these university systems to consider.


    Use these resources to learn more about the differences between UCs and CSUs, how to prepare for admission, and how to apply:

    1. UC/CSU Overview: Learn more about the UC and CSU system, A-G courses, and how to calculate your UC/CSU  GPA.
    2. Use this worksheet to calculate your UC/CSU GPA.
    3. Assess your CSU eligibility: This table shows you what GPA and SAT/ACT score you need to be competitive for CSU admission. 
    4. A-G approved courses: Use this tool to determine which courses at your school count for which A-G requirement
    5. Apply to EOP: The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) is a great program to apply for if you are a low-income and/or first-generation college student who will need academic and financial support while in school.

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Calculate your UC/CSU GPA using the worksheet above
  4. Understand your Options as an Undocumented Student

    Choosing the right college can significantly impact your success, your comfort level and be impacted by your legal status. These following resources can help guide you with building a college list and understanding your financial aid options in California if you identify as an undocumented student.


    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Read the attached resources
    2. Mark as complete
  5. Explore your Interests and Strengths

    Having a sense of your interests and strengths can inform what academic programs you apply for and can help you better describe who you are and what you hope to accomplish in the future through your personal essays. Exploring your interests, skills, and values can help you have a clearer picture of your college and career goals.


    1. Strengths Assessment: Understand your personality and personal strengths
    2. Career Clusters: Explore career pathways connected to your personal strengths
    3. Summer and extracurricular opportunities: Use this guide to help you find opportunities to help you get ahead academically, build valuable skills, and explore your interests!

    How to complete this milestone:

    1. Complete the Strengths Assessment (take a screenshot of your results and upload them)
    2. Mark As Complete