loader image

The College Countdown: A Parent & Student Roadmap for Post-Graduation Planning

Many of Anchorage’s high schools celebrated their graduations this past week. Congratulations to these students as they get ready for the next chapter of their lives, whether it’s college, starting a career, or pursuing a different path altogether – and an extra shout out to all those Dimond Lynx! We know achieving academic success is a family affair so congratulations to the parents too.

Next, we turn our attention toward the current and incoming high schoolers. While summer vacation is likely the only thing on their minds right now, this is an excellent time for them to start thinking about their personal goals and future. Parents can kick start kids’ futures by drafting an education budget or “right fitting” any financial support they may need one day. Below is a great jumping off point for parents or friends of high schoolers to begin the conversation:

  1. Self-Assessment and Goal Setting
    1. Identify Interests and Strengths: Think about your passions, skills, and academic strengths. Understanding what you enjoy and excel at can guide your future decisions.
    2. Set Goals: Start to define your short-term and long-term goals. Whether it’s pursuing higher education, starting a job, or taking a gap year, having clear objectives can help you stay focused.
    3. Question Yourself: Ask yourself questions to decide what matters to you in the next stage. Do you want to move to a new city, state, or country? Do you want to go to school with your friends? Are there sports or activities you want to pursue further?
  2. Research Options
    1. Explore Colleges and Universities: Research schools that offer programs aligning with your interests. Consider location, size, campus culture, and extracurricular opportunities.
    2. Vocational and Trade Schools: If college isn’t the right fit, look into vocational training programs. These can provide specialized skills for careers in fields like healthcare, technology, and other trades.
    3. Gap Year Programs: Some students benefit from taking a year off to travel, volunteer, or work before continuing their education. Research structured gap year programs and take the time to reflect on what you want next.
    4. Networking: Connect with professionals in your field of interest. Attend career fairs, join relevant clubs, and use platforms like LinkedIn to expand your network.
  3. Academic Preparation
    1. Maintain Strong Grades: Your GPA is crucial for college applications and scholarship opportunities. Stay committed to your studies and seek help if needed.
    2. Standardized Tests: Prepare for the SAT, ACT, or other required exams. Look into schools of interest for what tests scores they accept. Consider taking these tests early to allow time for retakes if necessary.
    3. Advanced Placement (AP) and Dual Enrollment: Enroll in AP courses or dual enrollment programs to earn college credits while still in high school. This can help you knock out some general education courses ahead of time and even graduate college early.
    4. Internships and Part-Time Jobs: Gain work experience through internships or part-time jobs. This not only builds your resume but also helps you explore potential career paths.
  4. Application Process
    1. College Applications: Familiarize yourself with application deadlines and requirements. Gather transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal essays well in advance.
    2. Financial Aid: Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility for financial aid. Research scholarships and grants specific to your field of interest or location.
      1. Many Alaskan students will be eligible for the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) program that helps keeps tuition down for Western-region schools for out-of-state students.
    3. Vocational Programs: Apply to vocational schools or apprenticeship programs. Prepare for interviews and entry exams as required.
  5. Life Skills
    1. Financial Literacy: Learn to manage your finances. Understand budgeting, credit, loans, and savings. Understand where the funding for additional education or programs comes from and how that will affect you in the long term.
    2. Time Management: Develop strong organizational and time management skills. Balancing coursework, part-time jobs, and social activities is crucial in college and beyond.



Preparing for life after high school is a multifaceted process that requires thoughtful planning and self-reflection. By following this checklist, you can navigate the lead up to your post-graduation journey with confidence and clarity.

Additionally, it’s an opportune moment for parents to consider their own financial plans and budgeting strategies for their children’s future needs. Whether it’s setting up a college fund or planning for other significant expenses, taking these steps now can make the financial aspects of their children’s future much more manageable. Remember, this is a time of exploration and growth for all parties, so stay curious, flexible, and be excited for what is to come next!


Derek Stone
Associate Financial Advisor


Alaska Wealth Advisors is an investment adviser registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about Alaska Wealth Advisors’ investment advisory services can be found in its Form ADV Part 2, which is available upon request. The statements above were made by current clients.


Share this post

Start making informed financial decisions – partner with a knowledgeable financial advisor.

Join Our Mailing List

Sign-up for regular updates to empower yourself with the knowledge to secure a brighter financial future.

Let's Connect

Follow us on social for regular updates to empower yourself with the knowledge to secure a brighter financial future.