Preparing for College - a working timeline

Getting additional education after high school opens career options and learning opportunities. Choose a grade below to find out what is needed to get ready.


9th grade

  • Talk to your school counselor and teachers.  Tell them you are considering college and talk about the following:
    • Establishing your college preparatory classes. Your schedule  should have at least four college preparatory classes per year, including at least: 
      • 4 years of English
      • 3 years of math (through Algebra II or trigonometry)
      • 2 years of foreign language
      • 2 years of natural science
      • 2 years of history/social studies
      • 1 year of art
      • 1 year of electives from the above list
    • Using a  planner to keep track of your courses and grades (you will need to login to this page to get access to the planner)
    • Enrolling in algebra or geometry classes and a foreign language for both semesters (most colleges have math and foreign language requirements)
  • Create a file  of the following documents and notes:
    • Copies of report cards
    • List of recognition, awards, and honors
    • List of school and community activities in which you are involved, including both paid and volunteer work, and descriptions of what you do
  • Get involved in other activities you enjoy (such as sports, performing arts, volunteer work )
  • Explore different types of colleges on the Internet
  • Find how to save for college and resources available to pay for college by visiting web sites 

10th Grade 

  • Talk to your school counselor and teachers about the following:
    • High school curriculum needed to satisfy college entry requirements
    • Advanced Placement courses:
      • What courses are available
      • Eligibility requirements
      • How to enroll in your junior year
  • Update your “college file”, or start one if you have not already. (See 9th grade above)
  • Continue other activities - these will help in the college admissions process
  • Continue participation in academic enrichment programs, summer workshops, and camps with specialty focuses such as music, arts, science, etc.
  • Take the PSAT  in October. The scores will not count for National Merit Scholar consideration in your sophomore year, but it is valuable practice.
  • Register, in April, for the SAT II for any subjects you will be completing before June.
  • Take the SAT II in June.
  • Explore different types of colleges on the Internet.
  • Find how to save for college and resources available to pay for college by visiting web sites

11th grade

  • Fall Semester: Talk to your school counselor and teachers about the following:
    • Enrolling in Advanced Placement classes
    • Scheduling to take the PSAT, SAT I and II, ACT, and AP exams
    • Signing up and preparing for the exams
    • Take a career assessment on the web or at your school’s career center
    • Asking for a preview of your academic record to determine what gaps or weaknesses exists
  • September:
    • Register for the PSAT exam offered in October. Remember that when you take the PSAT in your junior year, the scores will count towards the National Achievement Program.
  • October:
    • Take the PSAT
    • Create a list of up to twenty colleges of interest
    • Use a college search web site (such as www.collegeboard.org ) for more information on schools of interest
    • Start researching your financial aid options in the paying for college section
    • Begin scheduling college campus visits, tours, and interviews with admissions staff
  • November/December:
    • Review your PSAT results with your counselor to identify your strengths and areas that need improvement
    • You will receive your scores from the October PSAT. Depending on the results, you may want to consider signing up for an SAT preparatory course
  • Spring Semester
    • January/Fedruary:
      • Take campus tours to further narrow your list of colleges
      • Register for the March SAT and/or the April ACT tests. Find out from each college the deadlines for applying for admission and which tests to take
  • March/June:
    • Take the March SAT I exam
    • If you are interested in taking any AP exam(s), you should sign up for the exam(s) at this time.
    • Take the April ACT test 
    • Talk to teachers about writing letters of recommendation  
    • Take AP, SAT I, SAT II, and ACT exams 
    • Add any new report cards, test scores, honors, or awards to your file
    • Narrow your list  to up to ten colleges
    • Visit colleges. Call ahead for appointments with the financial aid, admissions, and academic advisors at the college(s) in which you are most interested
  • Summer between Junior and Senior Years
    • Practice writing online applications, filling out rough drafts of each application, without submitting them. 
    • Write and re-write some essay drafts
    • Review your applications, especially the essays. Ask family, friends, and teachers to review your essays for grammar, punctuation, readability, and content 
    • Decide if you are going to apply for a college's early decision or early action programs . This requires you to submit your applications early, typically between October and December of your senior year, but offers the benefit of receiving the college's decision concerning your admission early, usually before January 1

12th grade

  • Fall Semester
    •   September:
      • Check your transcripts to make sure you have all the credits you need to get into your colleges of choice. Find out from the colleges  to which you are applying whether or not they need official transcripts (transcripts sent directly from your high school) sent at the time of application.
      • Register for October/November SAT I, SAT II, and ACT tests
      • Most early decision and early action applications are due between October 1 and November 1
    • October:
      • Make a final list of schools that interest you and keep a file of deadlines and required admission items for each school. 
      • Take SAT and/or ACT tests. Have the official scores sent by the testing agency to the colleges/universities that have made your final list of schools. Register for December or January SAT I and/or SAT II tests, if necessary. 
    • November:
      • Submit your college admission applications
    • December:
      • Early decision replies usually arrive between December 1st and December 31st.
      • If you haven not already done so, make sure your official test scores are being sent to the colleges to which you are applying.
      • Schedule any remaining required interviews.
      • Complete the FAFSA worksheet (www.FAFSA.ed.gov)
  • Spring Semester
    • January:
      • Complete and submit your college financial aid application and the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) between January 1 and February 15, and check for other financial aid options. 
      • Request that your high school send your official transcripts to the colleges to which you are applying. 
      • Make sure your parents have completed their income tax forms in anticipation of the financial aid applications. If they have not completed their taxes, providing estimated figures is acceptable
    • February:
      • If you completed the FAFSA online, you should receive your Student Aid Report (S.A.R.) within 2-4 days. If you completed a paper FAFSA, the SAR will come within four weeks. Make the necessary corrections and return it to the FAFSA processor. 
      • Complete your scholarship applications. 
      • Contact the financial aid office of the college(s) to which you have applied to make sure that your information has been received, and that they have everything they need from you.
    • March/April:
      • You will probably hear from the colleges as to whether or not you are accepted by April 15. 
      • Compare your acceptance letters, financial aid and scholarship offers.
    • May:
      • Take AP exams for any AP subjects you studied in high school. 
      • You should make a decision by May 1st as to which college you will be attending and notify the school by mailing your commitment deposit check
    • June:
      • Have your school send your final transcripts to the college which you will be attending. 
      • Contact your college to determine when fees for tuition, room and board are due and how much they will be
  • Summer after Senior Year
    • Participate in summer orientation programs for incoming freshmen.  These are critical to a successful first year