We are often asked when certain items need to be completed in the process of finding and applying to a college. The answer can differ for each student depending on their unique circumstance but here is a general outline of many of items that must be considered, and when, in the search for the right college.
Take a solid course load of classes. This means taking courses in all 5 academic areas if possible including English, social studies, math, science and a foreign language. Work hard to insure good grades in 9th grade. Freshman grades count in college admissions.
Read everything you can including books, magazines and news articles. The more you read the stronger your verbal skills will become.
Get involved in activities at your high school or in the community. Be willing to try new activities.
Continue to take a solid course load including classes in the 5 academic areas. Work hard to insure good grades in 10th grade.
Continue your involvement in extra-curricular activities. Begin to focus on your favorite activities and look for ways to show leadership in your main activities..
Take the PSAT exam in October.
Take the PLAN test if offered at your school.
Take appropriate SAT subject tests in May or June (most likely Biology, maybe Math IC)
Explore possible career interests, if any.
In the summer before junior year, visit some colleges near your home to see what types of colleges you might want to attend.
Junior Year Time Line
Take classes in all 5 academic areas if possible.
Take the PSAT exam in October.
Start considering what type of college you might want to attend. Large, small, near or far away, think in broad terms.
Take a practice SAT and a practice ACT to see on which test you do better. Start test preparation for whichever test you were stronger.
Meet with a college admissions counselor to discuss possible list of colleges based on your needs and interests.
Use the Internet to request admission literature and financial aid information from the colleges on your list.
Register for the March SAT or April ACT. Continue preparing for whichever test you plan to take.
Begin visiting colleges if you haven’t already started. Spring break is a good time to visit colleges. Seeing the college firsthand, taking a tour and talking to students can be a great help in deciding whether or not a school is right for you.
Register for the June SAT or ACT whichever test you are taking..
Continue to evaluate your list of colleges based on your test scores and current interests.
Discuss with your parents the issues surrounding how to pay for college including financial aid. Determine your family’s share of college costs with an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Calculator.
Begin preparing for summer college visits including interviews if available. Always do an interview if possible to show your interest in that college. This is also your opportunity to have questions answered about the college to confirm that it is a good fit for you.
Begin to visit colleges to determine your final list of colleges. Ask questions of the tour guides to see if the college is a good fit.
Take the SAT or ACT.
Request applications and financial aid information from your final colleges. Try to narrow your college list to five to eight colleges.
Begin preparing for the application process by working on application essays and putting together portfolios or audition tapes if necessary.
Complete the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse form if you hope to play Division I or II sports. If you plan on playing a sport in college at any level, contact the coaches at the schools to which you are applying to discuss athletic scholarships as well as your ability to participate in college sports.
Senior Year Time Line
Register for the October SAT or ACT exam if necessary.
Mark your calendar with important dates and deadlines for application and financial aid deadlines.
Get started on your applications right away particularly if you plan to apply Early Decision or Early Action. Continue working on the application essays.
Be sure to ask your teachers if they will write a recommendation for you. Give them plenty of time to write the recommendation.
Work on completing your application essays.
Make sure that your SAT or ACT test scores have been sent to all the colleges on your list.
Ask your counselor about local scholarships and search for other scholarships that match your skills and interests.
Male students who will be 18 at the time they complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must register with Selective Service.
Continue to work hard in your classes. Colleges will be looking at your senior year grades in making admissions decisions.
Keep track of your college applications and deadlines to make sure that everything is submitted on time.
Most regular decision applications are due in January. Be sure all the necessary materials have been sent and received including applications, test scores, and recommendations.
You and your parents should prepare tax returns as early as possible — income and asset figures from your tax returns are needed to complete the FAFSA.
Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1. File your FAFSA online and always before the priority financial aid deadlines set by your colleges. If you or your parents can’t complete the tax returns before the financial aid deadline, complete the form using the best information available and do a revision to the form later.
Do any of your colleges require the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE? If so, you should complete and submit this application online.
Colleges like to see strong second semester grades, so avoid senioritis. Colleges can and do revoke acceptances if a student stops working to their normal ability.
Continue to search for scholarships and ask your counselor about local scholarships.
Most admission decisions and financial aid award letters will arrive by now. Read each carefully, and note all reply deadlines.
Review financial aid packages with your parents. Use the Compare Your Aid Awards tool at collegeboard.com to do a comparison of each colleges award.
Send the enrollment form and deposit check to the college of your choice. Notify the other colleges to which you were accepted of your decision.
Study for May AP Exams.
Take the appropriate AP Exams. Have your scores sent to your final-choice college.
Send thank-you notes to teachers and other mentors who wrote you recommendations.
Have your final high school transcript sent to your college.
Send thank-you notes to scholarship programs that have given you aid.
Notify your college of any scholarships received.