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Pep rallies, prom and planning for the future are all a part of a high school senior’s experience, and deciding the next steps after graduation can be a challenge to tackle. Seventeen-year-olds do not need to have their life plan in hand, but it helps to be as prepped and ready as possible. Earn Up is here to help students have an easy transition after high school and has created a handy Senior Checklist for those who need a place to start.

✓  Compare and evaluate career pathways.

The best place to begin is to have a sense of direction. Where do you want to be two years from now or five years from now? Think about the classes you enjoy most—including electives—and correlating job fields. Earn Up provides detailed information on Career Pathways for the target and support industries of Northeast Florida and is a great resource to learn about local opportunities in these industries. If you want to find job specifications, such as median pay, education requirements and job outlook, check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

✓ Research secondary education options.

Whether you choose to attend a university or enroll in an industry-specific training program, it is becoming increasingly important to pursue secondary education after high school graduation. According to Florida College Access Network, 65% of jobs will require a degree or credential by 2025.

Northeast Florida is home to several outstanding colleges that offer a wide range of programs, extracurricular activities and financial aid options, and there are a multitude of training programs that provide industry-specific education. Input your zip code or education preferences in the NCES College Navigator to discover colleges and programs in the area, or explore training programs throughout the state at

✓ Get ahead through internships and dual enrollment.

Internships and job shadowing are excellent ways to learn the basics of a job, build mentor relationships and give your anticipated career field a trial run. The earlier you can get an internship, the sooner you will know if your chosen career pathway is a good fit.

High school seniors should also take advantage of dual enrollment opportunities when possible. Dual enrollment provides a way to earn college credit while in high school, allows you to get a sense for the rigor of college courses and is completely free. The U.S. Department of Education says that college credit earned before high school graduation reduces the average time it takes to complete a degree and increases the likelihood that participating students will graduate college.

✓ Study for exams and college boards.

Don’t let senioritis set in and distract you from your studies. Along with staying on top of your schoolwork, it is important to prepare for SAT, ACT, GED and AP tests, as they can be crucial factors in determining what education options you pursue. Look into study groups or tutoring options, and ask your teachers and school librarian for practice tests and booklets.

✓ Write a résumé.

Summarize your accomplishments and experiences into a one-page résumé. From bagging groceries and babysitting to interning or starting a business, job experience is a great thing to include. If you do not have job experience, fill your résumé with extracurricular accomplishments, community service activities and class projects. Communicate the soft skills of leadership and initiative you gained from being captain of your team or treasurer of your club, and highlight the organization and time management skills you utilized on your science fair group project. You will want to include your GPA, awards and relevant coursework as well.

✓ Apply to colleges, training programs and scholarships.

Once you have a résumé, test scores and a list of schools you are interested in, you can complete the application process. Each school may have different requirements, such as essays or reference letters, so it is important to start applications early and stay on top of the given tasks. Many institutions, including a couple of Northeast Florida colleges, utilize the Common App to simplify the application process, so be sure to check if your school-of-choice is a participant.

Scholarships are available for almost every secondary education opportunity and can be extremely beneficial. Consult your school guidance counselor for a list of local scholarships, and utilize online tools such as College Data to find opportunities that you qualify for. It is likely that your college or program will allow you to apply for scholarships once you are accepted, and it is advantageous to submit applications for those as well. You will also want to complete the FAFSA® Form, as this determines your eligibility for federal financial aid during college.

Each student’s pathway to success will look different, but this six-step checklist will ensure an easy transition into whatever comes next. Earn Up encourages high school seniors to prepare well and is excited to see how Northeast Florida graduates will impact the region.