STEP 1: Plan and prepare as early as possible

How does a youth start to prepare for college? Students should talk to care providers, teachers, and counselors for advice about college, career interests, and future goals. Youth can also greatly benefit from mentoring programs. Youth should speak with their CASA if they have been appointed one. ILP programs can also provide post secondary education planning services. Some schools and communities have programs like AVID or Upward Bound which greatly increase the educational outcomes of youth attending college.

If a youth wants to go to a 4 year university they need to speak to their 8th grade counselors to make sure they take the necessary classes their freshman year of high school to support those goals.

Perhaps the largest decision a youth needs to make is how they plan to begin their college experience. Many variables must be considered including the academic ability of the student, the maturity level and motivation of the youth and of course, finances. If the student lacks the grades or money to get into the college of choice, attending a community college first may be the best choice. Beginning a college education at a community college can save the student money, give the student a chance to improve grade point average and build a stable transition to a four-year school. We would like to point out that foster youth in our county have access to financial support and many programs are designed to help each youth succeed with their education and/or future careers.

Youth need to take the right classes in high school

To be accepted into a four-year university out of high school, both the California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC) require the college preparatory pattern of classes referred to as the "a-g" courses for admission. It is important to keep in mind that this is just a start and that there may be additional requirements such as a grade point average and SAT/ACT test scores, etc. See below for a description of tests.

  • English: 4 years of college preparatory English composition and literature (take one each year)
  • Math: 3 years (4 years are recommended), including Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 or higher mathematics (take one each year)
  • History and Social Science: 2 years, including 1 year of US history (or 1 semester of US history and 1 semester of civics or American government) and 1 year of social science
  • Laboratory Science: 2 years with a lab class
  • Language (other than English): 2 years of the same language (American Sign Language is applicable)
  • Visual and Performing Arts: 1 year of dance, drama or theater, music or visual arts
  • College Preparatory Elective: 1 year of any college preparatory subject

Good grades ensure access to college

Good grades can be the deciding factor on whether or not a student is accepted into a school of choice and we cannot stress enough the value of a strong grade point average. If grade point average in the classes that meet the "a-g" requirement is 3.0 or above, a student automatically meets the minimum eligibility requirements for the CSU, UC and some private colleges. If GPA is between 2.0 and 3.0, eligibility will also depend on ACT or SAT results in combination with GPA (see below).

Take any necessary tests

In addition to classes and grades, there may be additional tests to take as listed below. Youth will want to refer to admission requirements for the school he or she wants to attend for specific information.


Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test is an optional practice test designed to prepare for the mandatory college admissions test. Youth may want to think about taking the PSAT in October of sophomore year or maybe in the fall of junior year. Whatever the youth decides, they will want to start preparing for the SAT and the PSAT the summer before junior year.


Scholastic Assessment Test is a college admission exam measuring verbal and math reasoning, plus a standard written English test. Youth should register to take this test in their senior year.


American College Test is a college entrance exam covering: English, math, science and reading comprehension. Youth should register to take this test in their senior year.


Early Assessment Program is an academic preparation program to help 11th grade students meet college readiness standards in English and mathematics before admission to a CSU campus.


All California high school seniors are required to pass this test in order to receive a diploma.