Elementary & Middle School College Prep Checklists

It’s never too early to prepare for college. From elementary school all the way to high school, you can take steps each year to help you and your student prepare for college.


If you have a K-5 student and are wondering where to start, here are just a few suggestions for preparing for a successful journey to higher education.

  • Start saving, either in a savings account or a 529 plan.
  • Instill a love for learning by reading books to your child and engaging in homework and projects.
  • Talk to your children using the following conversation starters:
    • Tell them how you prepared for your career.
    • Ask them what subject they like best in school.
    • Ask them what they want to be when they grow up.
    • Ask them what they are really good at.
    • Ask them about what they think makes them unique.


It is never too early to start dreaming. And the sooner you start, the better prepared you’ll be for education after high school. Middle school students can use this checklist to identify the right courses, tutoring services and career clusters for their future.

  • Take the right courses.
    • Taking the right courses now can set you up to be prepared for college and give you amazing scholarship opportunities.
    • Talk with your school representative or principal to understand your options.
    • Set a goal to take the high school courses required to qualify for the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship. With the right coursework and ACT score, you can receive up to $7,500 for college! (Remember, the classes you take in middle school will set you up for success your freshman year – when you will start to meet these requirements.)
  • Access free online tutoring services through Dakota Dreams Online Tutoring Program for homework help (no appointment necessary) or talk to your school representative or teachers to see if your school offers tutoring.
  • Set regular time and space aside for study and completing homework.
  • Consider both short and long term educational and life goals.
  • Learn about career clusters and take fun personality tests to see what occupations might fit your interests. SDMyLife is a great place to start! (Every 6-12th grade student in SD can access this free career and college planning tool with login information provided by your school.)
  • Tour a business or participate in a job shadow.
  • Find opportunities to get involved in your community and extra-curricular activities – bring a friend too!
  • Attend hands-on career camps, such as the Dakota Dreams Career Exploration Summer Camps.
  • Encourage your parents/guardians to watch the Paying for College SD video series.
  • Start saving money for college now.

Related Resources

Saving for College
Career Exploration
SDMyLife Matchmaker & Personality Styles
Career Launch SD Career Interest Survey
Free Online Tutoring for K-12 Students

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