Why College?

The case for college is clear. People who earn a postsecondary credential are more satisfied with their careers, wealthier, and better prepared to achieve their dreams.

Bachelor’s degrees

Bachelor’s degree holders are 24% more likely to be employed than those with only a high school diploma.



Those with only a high school degree are 3.75 times more likely to live in poverty than those with a bachelor’s degree.


Lifetime Income

Workers with a bachelor’s degree make $1.2m more over a lifetime than their counterparts with just a high school diploma.

A Path to College Success

College success is a realistic and attainable goal. Start today and take it step by step.

Getting to college:

  1. Set your sights on college.
    Set your sights on college. If you don’t believe it already, college is a real option for you! If you’re not convinced, have a real conversation about it with your college adviser or school counselor. Taking the next step to higher education can set you on a path to achieve your dreams, whatever they are.
  2. Hit the books and keep your grades up.
    College is a step up in many ways, not the least of which is academics. It’s no secret: one of the keys to getting to college and succeeding once you’re there is to do the very best you can in high school.
  3. Check out what college is really like.
    The best way to see yourself at college is to get a preview. Ask your college adviser about options to visit a local school and take a tour. To get a taste for what college-level study is like, ask your school counselor about dual enrollment opportunities.
  4. Take college entrance exams. . .seriously.
    ACT, SAT, or ACCUPLACER scores are required for admission to Georgia public colleges as well as most private and out-of-state colleges. APS students take the PSAT during their sophomore and junior year during the school day to give you an idea of how these tests work. As an APS student, you also will take the full SAT at school during the spring of your junior year—this counts for college! Preparation for these exams is essential. Ask your counselor or college adviser about how to link your College Board and Khan Academy accounts so you can get free, online practice plans that are tailored to you.
  5. Build a balanced college list.
    During your junior year, you should build a list of colleges to which you’re interested in applying. The list should be balanced—in other words, it should have colleges across all academic match categories: target, reach, and likely. As an APS student, you should use the Match & Fit List Builder to build your balanced list of at least 2 target, 2 reach, and 2 likely colleges—all of which you would be excited to attend! 
  6. Apply to college.
    At the start of senior year, you will want to finalize your college list and make any adjustments based on research, college or rep visits, or updated grades or test scores. Remember, you not only want to go to college, but you want to earn a degree or credential! So make sure you apply to at least three colleges (preferably more!)—including at least one in-state option.
  7. Complete the FAFSA and look for scholarships.
    Your first step in getting money to pay for school should be to complete the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Learn more about the FAFSA here, check out the Achieve Atlanta Scholarship, and search for other scholarships here and here.

Getting through college:

  1. Reach out for help when you need it.
    Whether it’s studying for your first midterms, learning how to manage your schedule, or just getting comfortable with life at college, the best thing you can do for yourself is ask for help when you need it. Seek out older students, advisors, and professors when you feel stressed or have questions.
  2. Get involved and get connected.
    College can feel intimidating and even foreign sometimes. The trick is to find your community. Getting involved in student activities is one of the best ways to pull this off—and it makes school much more fun too!
  3. Start early in thinking about the next step.
    Higher education pays dividends and opens doors to future opportunities. To make sure you’re able to get a return on the investment you’re making in yourself, start exploring careers early. Visit Career Services at your school to ask about internships, co-op opportunities, and career paths.

Student Checklists

  • Manage your time wisely and get organized. Use a planner to keep track of important due dates, appointments, and deadlines.
  • Create an account on GAfutures and My Giving Point to start planning for college and a career, and track your community service hours. Visit GAfutures.org and MyGivingPoint.org.
  • Take challenging courses that will prepare you for college. Talk to your school counselor to understand the importance of taking rigorous courses.
  • Get involved at your school in sports, clubs, and leadership roles.
  • Work hard to get no lower than a B average.
  • Aim high! Set goals for things you want to achieve in high school. Keep track of all your accomplishments and honors during the school year.
  • Explore career options that relate to your personal interests. To get started, visit GAfutures.org, click on “Career Planning,” and find the “Interest Profiler.”
  • Research the requirements for the HOPE Scholarship and Achieve Atlanta Scholarship.
  • Begin researching colleges and universities. Explore different areas of study, school location and environment, school size, tuition, and graduation rates. The College Scorecard and Big Futures are helpful places to start.
  • Get familiar with college admissions test requirements. Research the SAT and the ACT. Understand the difference and scoring for both tests. Take the PSAT given at your high school.
  • Continue to take challenging courses. Register for AP, IB, Dual Enrollment and other rigorous courses for your Junior year.
  • Stay involved in your community. Your resume should become more robust every year.
  • Plan to use your summer wisely. Get an internship or job, volunteer, or participate in a summer enrichment program.
  • Schedule a meeting with your school counselor and/or graduation coach. Sign up for rigorous courses and make sure you’re on track to graduate on time.
  • Check the status of your community service hours. You must complete 75 hours to graduate. See your counselor or graduation coach for available community service opportunities.
  • Take advantage of the chance to get a preview of college. Research schools and be sure to attend college tours, college fairs, and meetings with college representatives who visit your high school.
  • Get smart about the college admissions process. Know the general requirements, especially grades and standardized test scores.
  • Use the Match & Fit List Builder to build a list of colleges that interest you. Your list should be balanced, which means it should include at least two target, two reach, and two likely colleges. Six schools is a minimum though—now is the time you should be exploring, so add as many schools to your list as you are interested in!
  • Practice essay writing for college admissions. Answer questions like: How would your friends characterize you? What are your career aspirations? Describe a personal, moral, or ethical dilemma and how it impacted your life.
  • Enroll in SAT/ACT prep courses to get ready for SAT School Day in the spring.
  • Once you get your SAT scores back in late spring, review your college list in the Match & Fit List Builder to see if you have a better chance of admissions at any of the colleges on your list. Make any updates to your list based on your scores and other research you have done.
  • Continue to use your summer wisely. Get an internship or job, volunteer, or participate in a summer enrichment program.
  • If you aren’t happy with your SAT scores so far, take the SAT again or take the ACT. Speak with your counselor or college adviser if you need a fee waiver to register for the test.
  • Narrow your college choices to 5—10 schools, including a few in Georgia. Make sure you know the application deadlines for each college/university. Remember, some schools offer early decision or early action options.
  • Get recommendations from your teachers, school counselor and/or college adviser. Provide them with a list of accomplishments or awards you have received over the past 2 to 3 years. Let them know the schools you are applying to and why you want to study there. Explain your goals and ambitions so your recommenders can write strong, personalized recommendations.
  • Complete the FAFSA with your parent(s) or guardian(s) at www.fafsa.gov. The application opens October 1 and the earlier you apply, the better!
  • Apply to your final list of schools. You should apply to at least one school by December and a minimum of three schools by March of your senior year. Categorize your schools as “Target”, “Reach”, or “Likely.” and make sure at least one school is in Georgia.
  • Apply for as many scholarships as possible, including the Achieve Atlanta Scholarship. Review the applications with your college adviser or school counselor before you submit them.
  • Enjoy your senior year! You are almost finished with high school. Maintain a well-rounded lifestyle and stay on track!

Information and Tools

Match & Fit List Builder

This tool was designed specifically for Atlanta Public School students to help them build a list of colleges that are a good academic match and a strong personal and financial fit. You should use the tool starting your junior year to build a balanced list of Target, Reach, and Likely colleges. Once you take the SAT or ACT, log back in and see how this changes your options. Make sure to update your list as you research colleges and improve your academic scores.

10 Questions to “Discover Your Future”

Check out this slideshow on the College Board’s Big Future website. While you’re there, be sure to explore the great information throughout the site. 

The College Scorecard

Search the US Dept. of Education’s database for details on technical, 2-year, and 4-year programs nationwide. Learn more about school graduation rates, average annual cost, and salary after attending. 

Help with Federal Financial Aid and FAFSA

Get information on the FAFSA and more at the US Department of Education’s official financial aid site. 

For help on appealing the financial aid package provided by a college, visit FormSwift for letter templates and advice. 

uAspire provides a number of useful resources, including how to create a college list that factors in affordability, a scholarship toolkit, and how to understand financial aid offers.

Scholarship Resources

Explore this site from the Georgia Student Finance Commission to learn about a range of college scholarships, including the HOPE and Zell Miller Scholarships. 

College Greenlight has a helpful database of scholarships you can access for free. 



The Achieve Atlanta Scholarship is a need-based award designed to support APS students pursuing various postsecondary paths after high school. When combined with other possible sources of financial aid, the Achieve Atlanta Scholarship should reduce the need for students and families to take out high-interest, private loans to pay for school. The Achieve Atlanta Scholarship is an important part of Achieve Atlanta’s broader effort to dramatically increase the number of APS students who earn a postsecondary degree or credential.

Learn more