General College Planning Timeline
9th through 12th Grades
• Get involved! Join a club at school, try out a sport, and do some community service. Keep track of your activities so you can remember your involvement for college applications and scholarships.
• While getting involved is important, don’t overwhelm yourself. Find a few things that you love to do, and stay consistent. Colleges like to see students who are genuinely interested in their co-curricular activities.
• Do your best in all of your classes.
• Get to know your teachers and college counselor. They will be writing recommendations for you during your senior year, so it is important that they know you well.
• Start exploring colleges on the Internet and visit college fairs in the local area.
• Use the summer to your advantage! This will help build your resume. Take on a meaningful academic (and fun) experience, go to camp, etc.
• Do your best on the PSAT in October to prepare for the SAT. If you don’t do as well as you think you should, relax. You are only beginning high school! You have time to improve and enhance your skills.
• Keep up your involvement with school and co-curricular activities.
• Begin to think about possible academic and career interests. Visit the college counseling office for resources on popular careers, job market trends, etc.
• Do your best on the PSAT to prepare for the SAT.
• Do your best in all of your classes.
• Visit colleges in the spring and over the summer.
• Talk to friends and family members about their college experience. This can be a wonderful way to introduce yourself to a particular college, but it should NOT be the sole factor in deciding where to apply.
• Consider taking honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes your junior year.
• Begin building a list of colleges that interest you. Think seriously about qualities of colleges that are important to you (size, location, academic programs, activities, social scene, etc.). It is important to have a variety of schools on your list. Have some reach schools (colleges that have higher averages of GPAs and standardized test scores than yours), target schools (colleges that are in your range of grades and scores), and likely schools (colleges that have slightly lower averages of GPAs and standardized test scores than yours – these are schools where you’d have a very high chance of acceptance).
• Request information from colleges on your list through their websites. You will begin to receive a lot of mail! Look through everything you receive, and ask questions about any information that is unclear to you.
• Attend college fairs and meet with admissions representatives that visit Stuart Hall! This is an excellent opportunity to ask questions and hear from experts about colleges that interest you.
• Attend admissions events (i.e. open houses, visit days, etc.) at colleges that interest you. Keep visiting colleges in the spring and over the summer.
• Meet with the college counselor in the spring to discuss what the application process is all about, and to discuss your college list.
• It is imperative to take the SAT or ACT at least TWICE during your junior year. By the time senior year arrives, you want to be well prepared to take it only one more time before applications are due. If your colleges require the SAT Subject tests, take those in May around the time of AP exams so you can prepare for both at the same time.
• Plan to take some challenging classes your senior year. Do not overwhelm yourself, but it is important to maintain academic rigor throughout your high school career, even at the end!
• Begin to explore scholarship opportunities, and also begin thinking about your college essay.
• Meet with the college counselor in September to discuss what schools to which you are going to apply. Keep that list around five to eight schools! Going over nine or ten schools means that you need to do some more research to evaluate whether or not these schools would be good fits for you.
• Meet with college admissions representatives that visit Stuart Hall. It is even more important as a senior because these are the people that will read your application, so it is extremely helpful to have a face with a name!
• Stay organized as you apply to your colleges. Maintain a folder on each college. Keep copies of everything! Make a calendar with application deadlines, SAT/ACT test dates and registration deadlines, and other important dates. PLEASE NOTE that if you want merit scholarships from your colleges, those deadlines are often earlier than the Regular Decision deadlines. Don’t expect to get merit aid in the spring after you’ve already applied. Remember, you may only apply Early Decision to one college because it is a binding admission plan. Early Action is not.
• Applying online is currently recommended, but not required. Often times, application fees are waived or are less if you apply this way. If you choose to use the paper application, you can request them through the college's website or by calling the admission office. You can also use the Common Application (www.commonapp.org), which is a common application that is accepted by almost 400 colleges and universities in the United States.
• Have an English teacher and the college counselor review your essay for content, grammar, etc. Also, consider having a close friend read it to see if it has your true “voice” and personality.
• Attend admissions events on college campuses. In the fall, colleges will have events for only seniors, and these often include an overnight visit. The overnight visit is the most powerful determining factor in deciding which college is best for you. Even if a school does not offer an overnight open house, request to spend the night on campus with a student so you can get a comprehensive, true feel for the campus culture.
• With your parents, after January 1, fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. Even if you think your family will not qualify for federal aid, fill it out anyway! Apply as early as possible because colleges will have more to offer early on in the process.
• Maintain good grades throughout your senior year, and remain on your best behavior! Colleges can certainly rescind offers of admission based on poor academic performance and suspensions.
• Apply for any more scholarships that might come your way. Visit the college counseling office for information on scholarship opportunities. Scholarships are offered for almost everything through almost all types of organizations, from large corporations to small churches!
• If you are having trouble deciding where to attend college, visit again the spring.
• Send in your decision/enrollment deposit to your one college of choice by the national deadline of May 1.