College Planning Timeline

As students plan for their academic future, it helps to look at the big picture if they're thinking of pursuing college. What they do before making that all-important decision can make all the difference when it comes time to apply and evaluate schools.

Preparing for Success

Effective planning and preparation are both key to college success for those students seeking to continue their studies after high school. Even if students aren't yet sure about attending college, making the right choices now will keep college attendance available as an option.

9th & 10th Grade

Students should:

  • Schedule meetings with their high school counselor to get to know each other
  • Take a balanced course load
  • Find and participate in clubs, activities, and community service opportunities that they are passionate about
  • Speak with their families and school counselor about opportunities to take AP, Honors, and Dual Enrollment Courses
  • Utilize online and print resources—along with guidance from their counselor—to start researching colleges and universities
  • Take the PSAT—this is a great way for students to become familiar with standardized testing and practice for the SAT
  • Take their grades seriously! Every year of high school matters

11th Grade

Students should:

  • Schedule meetings with their high school counselor to ensure academic course selection is on track
  • Prepare and take standardized tests (SAT, ACT, TOEFL, etc.)
    • If considering any test-optional institutions, make sure to research each school's test-optional policy
  • Make a college list (consider factors like: size, location, program, finances, and environment)
  • Attend local college fairs and high school visits to learn more about higher education opportunities and meet with admissions recruiters
  • Start a high school resume (list extracurricular activities, leadership positions, community service internships, and jobs)
  • Plan college campus visits–keep in mind this is one of the best ways to determine college/campus fit
  • Begin narrowing down their list of schools and ensure they are on track with the admissions requirements
  • Apply for summer internship, job, or college enrichment programs
  • Continue to take their grades seriously! Every year of high school matters, maintaining good standing now helps later on

12th Grade

Students should:

  • Apply for admission to schools
  • Connect with teachers, community members, and mentors who can write a letter of recommendation
  • Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as October 1st
  • Apply for private outside scholarships
  • Attend open house and admitted student day programming
  • Take AP Exams (if applicable)
  • Make their final college decision by May 1 and submit an enrollment deposit
  • Keep their grades up – colleges will request a final high school transcript after enrollment