SPHS Counseling Dept. Newsletter

High School Planning Guide

4 year Planning in a Glance

We get a lot of questions, especially from 8th and 9th grade families, about what to be thinking about/expect during each of the four years at high school. We hope this newsletter will demystify the process a little. Please reach out to your counselor if you want to discuss planning for your academic/career future!


8th Grade

  • Start thinking about your best academic track for high school classes: which honors classes should you take, what CTE/elective classes will best serve you and your interests.
  • Talk to high school students and get ideas from them
  • Start keeping track of volunteer and extra-curriculur activites
  • Keep track of your CFNC account information and use it to plan for your future!

9th Grade

  • Start exploring careers that interest you. Look into colleges, military branches, job training sites that would help you reach your goals.
  • Keep up your grades and attendance!
  • Be sure to keep track of all your extracurricular/volunteer opportunities. Now is the time to start looking for ways to stand out on college and scholarship applications. Look for ways to start a club, lead a club or volunteer event.
  • Think about AP classes you may want to start taking in 10th grade. AP classes are college level classes, so only take them if you feel mature enough and able to handle the course load. It is better to take honors classes and do well, than take AP classes and not be successful. The first AP classes students typically qualify to take are AP World, AP European History, and AP Human Geography.

10th Grade

  • In the fall 10th grade students can sign up to take the PSAT for free at SPHS. This is optional, but a good way to practice the test and then compare your PSAT scores to your PreACT scores to see which test you are better at taking.
  • ALL 10th graders take the PreACT at school in the late fall. There are study resources online to help prepare for both tests.
  • If you are taking AP classes, but sure to register and pay attention to information about AP exams. AP exams are only offered at the end of spring semester.
  • This is a year when many students start working. Be sure to keep track of any jobs you hold during high school as well as all extracurricular, volunteer, and leadership roles.
  • Time to start thinking about really challenging yourself when you register for 11th grade classes. More AP classes will be available to 11th graders, as well as CCP classes through Gaston College. CCP classes become available to all 11th grade students at the beginning of their junior year. You cannot take CCP classes the summer before junior year. If you take CCP classes, you will need to pay close attention to your school email for information about applying to Gaston College, signing all appropriate documents, and registering for classes at Gaston.
  • To get college credit for an AP class you must pass the AP exam with either a 3, 4, or 5. To receive college credit for a CCP class, you must pass the class and it will need to transfer to your college of choice.
  • The summer before 11th grade is a good time to do some unofficial college campus tours. Walk around the campus of some colleges that interest you and get a feel for the ones you would like to focus on next year.

11th Grade

  • The PSAT is offered at SPHS to any 11th grader who would like to take another practice before focusing on the ACT or SAT. Many students wanting to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship. The cost for taking the test again is around $16.
  • The ACT is given to ALL 11th graders for free at SPHS.
  • Sign-up to take the SAT through the College Board. Statistics show that most students perform best on the ACT/SAT in the spring of junior year. We recommend you take the SAT or ACT at least two times, but no more than 3. Do not mark on the SAT or ACT to automatically send scores unless you know you are prepared to do well. Otherwise, you can wait and have your best scores sent once you have completed all your tests.
  • This is the year to take official college campus tours. Do your research into schools that interest you and start setting up tours.
  • Start creating your activity list and brag sheet to help you keep up with your activities and accomplishments for applications, as well as to share with your recommenders to help them complete referrals and recommendation letters.
  • Determine which classes you want to take senior year that will help you complete CTE/other pathways and that will set up up to meet all your graduations requirements.
  • If you plan to graduate early, now is the time to meet with your counselor to determine if that is possible, and to register for 12th grade classes that will allow you to do so.

12th Grade

  • At the beginning of this year it is important to meet with your counselor to discuss your future plans. They can help you with military pathways, careers, and community college pathways, and 4 year college applications.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open about all the information that counselors will be providing about financial aid, scholarships, and college applications.
  • Decide which staff members will be good recommenders and be sure to give them plenty of notice if you need them to write letters for you. Don't forget to send them a thank you note!
  • Get familiar with CFNC and Common App for completing college applications.
  • You will want to decide if you are going to apply early decision (usually October) or regular decision (usually January). If your test scores are how you want them and you feel good about your classes and GPA, early decision is a good option to get applications out of the way. If you want to continue trying to up your SAT/ACT or your GPA, you should plan to apply regular decision. Check with your college choices for dates. Do not wait until the last minute to turn in applications!
  • Begin working on your college essays with plenty of time to have them read by someone you trust for help with edits.
  • Continue to take the SAT/ACT if you feel you need to raise your scores (in the fall).
  • October is an important month in the college application process. There is a week where several NC schools waive the application fee. It is also the time to complete FAFSA and residency determination.
  • Be on the lookout for information about Cap/Gown purchasing and senior pictures.
  • Stay involved and keep up your grades. It is important to pass all your classes for graduation and do well on AP exams if you are taking AP classes.
  • Once you make decisions on a school, let other schools know you will not be attending.