Phineas Banning High School

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Pilot Center » Checklist for Freshman

Checklist for Freshman




  1. Start Early

Freshman year of high school seems early to start your college search.  But, it’s more about mental preparedness than anything else.  The college application process is like a 3-ringed circus that you have to run while keeping up with your high school classes. The more you can prepare yourself for it, the smoother time you’ll have. Sit down with your high school counselor.  Make sure you’re on the path to graduate on time and that you’re taking classes required for most colleges.  Discuss your future with your parents so you can all be on the same page about your goals. College is a big deal–financially and academically–and will have a huge impact on your life. So, how could it hurt to start thinking about it.

  1. Find a Passion or Hobby

There are too many students out there who just phone-in volunteer hours so it will “look good” on their college application.  Yes, extra-curricular activities, leadership and volunteer services will make your college application appear more well-rounded.  But, college admissions folks weren’t born yesterday. They can tell the difference between surface-deep involvement in an activity and a heartfelt one. A passion or a hobby can be anything.  Sports, birdwatching, an after-school job, tutoring, etc.  Find or continue doing what you love and what interests you.  It will be easier, and far more fun and motivating to grow and find leadership positions doing something you love versus something you think will look good on a resume.

  1. Reach Out to Teachers

Your teachers are probably the most underused resource you have.  If they’re teaching at your school, they went to college and can offer up words of wisdom.  Ask questions about how they discovered they wanted to become teachers or if they know any field of study that you’d be interested in.  Just because it’s not on the syllabus doesn’t mean you can’t ask. It’s also great to keep up a healthy relationship with a couple teachers because you might need a letter of recommendation in a few years.

  1. Every Year Counts

Certain colleges will tell you that they disregard Freshman year from your transcript and GPA. For the most part, this is not the case. Do not throw away your freshman year out of the belief that “it doesn’t matter”. All of your grades go into your GPA, so keep up with your schoolwork. Also, if you get involved in activities your freshman year, you’ll have more flexibility to move up and take on leadership opportunities that a person who starts in a club their sophomore or junior year won’t have.

  1. Plan Your Summer Smartly

The summer going into your sophomore year can really set the pace for the rest of your high school career and college search.  Think about your priorities.  What do you want to be able to tell colleges when you apply to them? 

If you want to show them your work ethic, perhaps taking on extra hours at your summer job is key.  If you want to show them you’re passionate about volunteering, volunteer! Apply for an internship at a local charity.   Use your time in the summer not only to have fun, but to keep yourself growing as a college-bound student.



--Start a College Board account at You will rely on this site for SAT registration, AP scores, PSAT scores, sending your test scores to your potential colleges, test prep, college information, etc.

--We offer outside college preparation help for our students. Also, if you are a member of our local Boys and Girls Club, they have an excellent College Bound program.  They are also at the Pilot College Center four days a week and the club is open Monday thru Saturday.  They can also help you at the club.  ETS (Educational Talent Search) is in the College Center on Tues, Thurs. & Friday’s. They offer great support to our students too.

--Ms. Fernandez is in the Pilot College Center all day Monday-Friday.  Come visit and she can help you with college preparation.

--Students on the Free and Reduced Federal Lunch Program can get fee waivers for the SAT and ACT exams.  Usually these tests cost over $58 each, but if you are on the meal program you can get four fee waivers for these tests.  Also, if you apply to private colleges when you’re a senior, you can get four application fees waived.  If you’re not on the lunch program and think you may qualify, please go to to apply.  It only takes a few minutes and is much quicker than sending your application by snail mail.

--How are those grades?  Are you challenging yourself by taking AP classes or planning to take them?  Are you involved in school activities—sports, clubs, etc.?  Are you involved in outside activities—SPPY, volunteering, church, etc.?  Colleges love smart, active, well-rounded students.  Be the student you know you can be!

--Do College Visits early on OR go to College Websites to see what they offer.  Most College Websites are wonderful, full of vital information, and nice to look at.  Ask your parents to take you to any of our local colleges as a start.  For example, go hang out at Cal State University at Long Beach for the day.  It’s close to home and then you can visit the Aquarium, the Queen Mary, etc.  Make a family day of it.  And being on a college campus is motivating and inspirational.  It will put you in the right frame of mind.

--Community Colleges are a great start to your education.  For example, El Camino College has an Honors Transfer Program and they work in conjunction with UCLA.  This year, 87% of the students in their program were accepted into UCLA for the Fall.  We also have representatives from both El Camino and L.A. Harbor College who help our Seniors at the Pilot Center weekly.  Lots of help is available for EVERYONE! Take advantage of it!

Scholarship site:

Contact Ms. Fernández:

Pilot College Center: (310) 847-3731



Checklist for Freshmen – 9th Grade
• Sign-up to take the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test) in September of the 8th and 9th grade year. This exam helps you prepare for the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) in high school. Colleges and universities require that students take this exam for admissions selection. The more time you take the PSAT, the better prepared you will be to take the SAT in high school.
• Remember to enroll in a math and foreign language class each year that you are in high school. Courses that you will need to take are Algebra I and II, Geometry and a foreign language class such as Spanish or French
• Make appointments with your counselor to inquire how well you are progressing in the academic classes needed for colleges.
• Continue to maintain "A's" and "B's" in your classes.
• Take the opportunity and attend 'College Days' or ' College Nights' at your school.
• Continue to talk about college and university opportunities with your children.
• Take the opportunity and attend 'College Days' or ' College Nights' at your school.
• Continue to call or see your child's counselor periodically.