Prepare for College

Develop skills and learn strategies to be successful at college.

What do I need to do to prepare for college?

The transition to college can be both exciting and a bit scary. As a college student, you will get to make more of your own choices and be more independent. To be successful at college, it is important that you learn skills and strategies to help you make good choices.

Read more below about how you can prepare for college while you are in elementary, middle, and high school.

Elementary and Middle School

It is never too early to start planning and preparing for college! Your first formal transition meeting will take place when you turn 14. The purpose of the transition meeting is to discuss what YOU want for your future. During the meeting, you will work with a team to identify what your goals are for life after high school. You will also discuss supports and services that will help you reach your goal.

You do not have to wait until your first transition meeting to start preparing for college. Here are some steps you can take to start preparing for college while you are in elementary or middle school:

  • Explore post-secondary education options. There are many different post-secondary education options including 4-year universities, community college, career and technical education, and inclusive college programs. Work with your family, friends, teachers, and school counselors to explore college options that match your preferences, interests, strengths and support needs.
  • Share your goals. Tell your family, friends, and teachers that you want to go to college. It is important that you have support as you prepare for college. Talk with people you trust about why they went to college, why you want to go to college, and what you need to do to prepare for college.
  • Identify your interests. Now is a great time to explore different hobbies, volunteer, or take different classes. Learning more about your interests can help you identify what post-secondary education option will help you reach your goals.
  • Be more involved in your IEP meeting. In college, you will need to advocate for what you need. A great way to start practicing self-advocacy is in your IEP meeting. Talk to your teacher about taking a leadership role in your next IEP meeting.

High School

There are many opportunities in high school to prepare for college. Here are ways you can prepare for college with support from your school, community, and home:


Your high school teachers, counselors, and peers are dedicated to helping you reach your goals for after high school. Here are some ways you can prepare for college at school:

  • Talk to your peers. Find peers who want to go to college. Talk to them about why they want to go to college and what they are doing to prepare.
  • Join student clubs or organizations. Most high schools have student clubs or organizations that help students learn new skills and explore their interests. Try to find a club that matches your interests or join a club where you can explore something new!
  • Enroll in a variety of courses. Take a variety of courses that will help you graduate and meet college entrance requirements. Talk with your counselor to make sure you are taking the courses you need for college. Consider electives that match your interests or explore new subjects
  • Lead your IEP meeting. Talk with your teacher about how you can take a larger leadership role in your IEP meeting. Ask your teacher or family members to help you prepare for the meeting.
  • Practice positive study habits. Learn and practice study habits that will help you be successful in your classes. Pay attention, take notes, ask questions, turn homework in on time, and prepare for exams.
  • Learn about your accommodations. Talk with your teacher about accommodations that may benefit you. These may include where you sit in the classroom, technology that reads text out loud, and having a peer note-taker or tutor. In college, you will need to advocate for these accommodations.
  • Learn about the differences between high school and college. Work with your teacher and school counselor to learn more about important differences between high school and college. Discuss how these differences may impact you and your family.


Being involved in your community can help you identify new interests and gain new skills that are important for college. It is also important to build connections with people in your community. Here are some ways you can use community resources to help you prepare for college:

  • Join community organizations. Most communities have organizations such as YMCAs, bowling leagues, church or temple groups, library teen groups, chess clubs, community center art classes and sports leagues. Joining organizations like these can help you identify your interests and build connections with people in your community.
  • Volunteer. Identify causes that are important to you and volunteer at them. Volunteering can help you learn new skills, such as self-advocacy and communication.
  • Work. Apply for a part time job or start your own business. Working while in high school can help you learn skills and build connections with people in your community. You can also earn money to help save for college.
  • Learn how to navigate your community. Learn and practice how to travel independently within your community. For example, walk, bike, or take public transportation to different places in your community.


Many college students have the option to live on campus. To prepare for life on a college campus, consider what you can do at home with your family. Here are some ways to prepare for college at home:

  • Manage your health. Work with your family to learn how to handle your health care needs. Learn how to make doctor appointments and manage your medications.
  • Complete household chores. Learn how to take care of your living space. For example, learn how to do your laundry, clean your dishes, and change your sheets.
  • Prepare meals. Help your family plan and prepare meals. Ask to help create grocery lists, shop for groceries and cook meals.
  • Use apps on your cell phone. Learn different ways to use your phone to help you complete tasks. For example, use the calendar to schedule events, write reminders in notes, and use the clock to set timers.
  • Practice good hygiene. Learn and practice good hygiene such as showering and brushing your teeth regularly. Identify what hygiene products, such as deodorant and soap, you need and purchase them at the store.
  • Learn how to budget. Work with your family to create and track a budget. Consider opening a debit card and using an app on your phone to track your income and expenses.

Entrepreneurship Helps You Grow

As a high school student, you may have the freedom to try out different jobs and volunteer positions in your community. These experiences are important because you can learn more about the kinds of work you might like to do as an adult.

  • Create products or services that solve a problem (design/problem solving)
  • Sell to different kinds of people (communication skills/strategic thinking)
  • Earn and save money (financial literacy)
  • Balance a schedule to ensure enough time for school and business (time management)
  • Contribute to their communities

Nationwide, thousands of teens operate their own businesses. They often learn how to create and run their business through school or community entrepreneurship programs.

Jonah Vending

When Jonah Taylor turned 16, his parents helped him line up his first job at their neighborhood bakery, Doughboys Donuts. Tony and Kim Taylor knew he loved donuts, so the bakery was a natural choice where Jonah, who is non-verbal and has an autism spectrum disorder, could get some valuable work experience in a friendly, supportive business. So, every Saturday morning, Jonah counts and bags donut holes, using his I-Pad’s assistive technology to vocalize the count.

To prepare for his bakery job, his parents had Jonah practice counting and bagging, using 96 ping pong balls, goldenrod-colored to look like doughnuts. Several years later, they took just as much care helping him start a small business. After exploring different jobs and businesses to find a good match, the Taylor family started Jonah Vending in 2021 with the help of Jonah’s job coach, Dan Freeman of Developing Potential, Inc.

Since then, Jonah Vending, which offers Coca-Cola® products and snacks, has grown from one contract to 15, serving businesses in Raytown, Lee’s Summit, Independence, Belton, Peculiar, Kansas City, and Blue Springs, Missouri. Making his service rounds with his family, or his job coach, Jonah restocks the machines and takes out the money. Not only do his mom and dad view the business as thriving, but Jonah too, who has a sense of purpose and a place in the community.

Kalu-Crew LLC

Growing up, 21-year-old Seth Kalusniak spent a lot of time outdoors. He rode dirt bikes, tinkered with engines, and mowed the family’s lawn with his dad. Seth and his parents, Kevin and Valerie, understood early on that Seth was a hands-on learner.

When it came time for Seth, who has Tourette’s Syndrome, to look for a job, he already had marketable skills and knew how to work hard. His parents understood, too, that Seth would thrive in an outdoor job that required him to be active. When employment specialist Sullivan McKinney of Diversity Placement Services, talked with Seth about his job search, she asked him why he wanted a job when he knew how to do so many different things. Why not a business?

And that is how Seth Kalusniak became the proprietor of a lawn care business, Kalu-Crew LLC, in 2016, when he was 15. Over the years, his parents continued to be his greatest business advisors and trainers. His dad helps Seth maintain the mowers’ engines and creates a daily schedule and map of his jobs. Seth’s mom set up the business up the QuickBooks accounting program, so Seth would learn recordkeeping and business systems.

Since 2016, Kalu-Crew has grown from one client to 30. Seth now fertilizes, aerates, and performs other services for Kalu-Crew’s Missouri clients – who stretch from Smithville and Parkville to Platte City. The business owns and maintains $80,000 of equipment, including riding and standing mowers, which Seth pulls behind his pickup truck to clients’ yards.

Seth’s best advice to future small-business owners?
“Be a hard worker, be active and care more.”

Yousef Speaks Spices

Yousef Tamsamani’s entry into the business world began at age 2, when he first picked up a wooden spoon to help his mother, Ezdahar, in their Kansas City kitchen. As the two of them stirred and blended their way through recipes, Ezdahar noticed Yousef’s deep focus and willing involvement. Diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder about that same time, Yousef was not expected to talk, go to school, or participate much in the world. Cooking and baking turned out to be lifelines that helped Yousef, now 14, connect more with the world and learn important life skills.

Those skills include both culinary – mixing and blending spices – and business – filling and preparing orders to be shipped throughout the United States and Canada. Customers order online from the Yousef Speaks Spices Facebook page, a cheerful mix of spices for sale, cooking videos, and photos of Yousef and the recipes he and his mom cook together. Yousef Speaks Spices, which has 43,000-plus Facebook followers, was recently featured on Flatland, a Kansas City PBS program that highlights small businesses.

To view the Flatland episode featuring Yousef and his mom’s spice business, click here.

 For general small business resources in Missouri, check out: