Planning For College: A General Timeline

Sonya Saatzer's picture

By Sonya Saatzer - Posted on 08 July 2010

Going to college after graduating from high school is the plan for many of our students. If you have plans or are even considering attending college – the sooner you plan for that in your high school career, the better off you will be.

In speaking with many of our parents and students, we realize the need that many of you have for guidance in the college planning process, so we created this general timeline of important things to think about each year of your high school career, and we will blog about many of these items in greater length in the coming months.

Freshman Year:

  • Get to know your Learning Coach and keep in contact with him or her about your plans for the future.
  • Think about what interests you and take a class or two that allows you to explore those interests further.
  • Develop good study habits now. As classes get more difficult, you’ll be thankful you did.
  • Consider what type of college you’d like to go to. If it’s a school with more difficult admissions requirements, start taking some more challenging classes to set yourself apart such as an honors course. Also, consider starting a foreign language now, as some of these schools require up to four years of a foreign language.
  • If you take a road trip or drive through a town with a college in it – take a few minutes to drive through the campus or schedule a tour. There are so many different types of schools - if you can eliminate or narrow down what you like and don’t like, you’ll have an easier decision later on.
Sophomore Year:
  • Keep your focus on earning good grades. Your GPA has a lot of weight when applying to college and applying for scholarships.
  • Continue to take classes that challenge you such as honors courses or maybe even an AP course or two.
  • Get involved in your community. Volunteer your time, take a leadership role in a club or spend time developing a hobby. Extra-curricular involvement will not only set you apart as you apply to college, but will help you develop interests and think about what you may want to major in in the future.
  • If you are considering taking PSEO courses your junior year, start looking into that now. Many colleges have minimum GPA requirements and also require you to have taken a standardized test such as the PLAN or PSAT. Contact your Learning Coach for more information about this.
  • Schedule a couple of college visits during your school breaks. If you are going out of the state for a family vacation, consider building a college visit into your trip to see what colleges further away from home would be like.
Junior Year:
  • This is the most important year academically – challenge yourself and strive to get the best grades you can.
  • If you’re considering PSEO, apply by the summer before the year you plan on attending. Keep in communication with your Learning Coach about the number of courses you may take and your plans for your iQ classes.
  • Continue to get involved in other things, challenging yourself and taking a variety of courses so you’re prepared for your future. - Prep for the first ACT or SAT tests. Look into taking a prep course or study some on your own.
  • Sign up to take the ACT’s or SAT’s in the spring of your junior year. Plan ahead as registration deadlines are usually two months prior to the test.
  • Make a list of colleges you’d like to explore in detail. Consider everything from price and location to majors offered and the community.
  • Visit your top colleges by the summer after your junior year.
  • Once you get your ACT or SAT test scores back, consider whether you are happy with them or schedule time to study and take them again. You may take the ACT and SAT a number of times to try and improve your score, but keep in mind that there are costs to taking each of these tests. Try and be done taking the standardized tests by the fall of your senior year.
Senior Year:
  • Continue to focus on your grades. Students often refer to their senior year as the “senior slide,” especially if they’ve already been accepted to the college of their choice. This is not a good idea as you must submit a final transcript to most colleges to make sure you’ve fulfilled all the necessary requirements.
  • Make a list of the top 6 to 8 schools you’d like to visit and apply to. If less than that, that’s ok. Just remember to have a back-up plan in case you are not accepted to your “dream school.”
  • Take a look at the admissions requirements for each of these schools to make sure it’s feasible that you are accepted. Make sure you’ve taken the necessary tests and completed all coursework necessary to be considered as an applicant.
  • Apply to college by December of your senior year. Be aware of early deadlines or priority application deadlines at the colleges you choose to apply to. Remember, the sooner you apply, the sooner you’ll know what your plans will be after graduation.
  • Know what financial aid forms you need to turn in and do so in a timely fashion.
  • Turn in your deposit to the school of your choice - usually by May, to hold your spot and be able to apply for additional things such as housing. Priority is often given to those that put a deposit down first.
  • Enjoy your senior year! Take fun classes, get involved and save your money for what’s ahead!

As always, contact your Learning Coach for help in planning for the future, and let us know in the comments if you have any questions or tips you would like us to address in future posts.

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