College Preparation: Timeline


1.) Freshman Year

A.     Make a 4-year plan for high school with your counselor.

B.     Enroll in challenging classes. Study hard, your grades now count!

C.     Learn time management, allow for ample homework time. Develop study skills.

D.     Become a “well-rounded” individual. This means choose extra-curricular activities, start logging volunteer hours, join clubs, and develop interests.

E.     Start to dream big about your future.

F. Begin taking practice standardized tests, such as the PSAT and PLAN/EXPLORE.


2.) Sophomore Year

A. Continue your 4-year academic plan. Consider taking AP classes.

 B. Prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT in October and the PLAN/EXPLORE later in the year.

C.  Talk to people in your family or community who have been to college. Ask them about their story. Get ideas and inspiration.

D.  Research and visit colleges. Begin looking at scholarships, and careers on


3.) Junior Year

A. Continue your academic track. Keep your GPA high and make corrections as needed.

B. Seek advice from knowledgeable adults who will help you learn about colleges and the selection process. This might include parents, teachers, counselors, recent college graduates, family friends, and community members.

C. Take the PSAT in October. 11th grade year it is for real.

D. Learn specifics about different majors and colleges: Fiske’s Guide, Rugg’s Recommendation, Insider’s Guide,,,  Your counselor has these!

E. Register for the ACT test in November or January. Plan on taking it 3-4 times. Use the PSAT online results report and to guide you in your studies.

F.  Attend special presentations on Financial Aid, College Fairs, and special weekends at colleges. Visit as many campuses as possible.

G.  Begin to narrow your possible college choices to 5-8.

H.  Apply for multiple scholarships through several websites (see scholarship page) and colleges.


4.) Senior Year

A. SUMMER: Begin to write down ideas for your college essay.

B. SEPTEMBER:  Narrow your colleges down to your top 4-6. One will be your “dream” school, 2-3 will be your “right on the money” schools, and one or two are your “sure thing” schools.

C. SEPTEMBER: Identify teachers and professionals who know you and what kind of a student you are. You might need letters of recommendation.

D. OCTOBER:  Re-take the ACT or SAT test if necessary. Consider taking SAT “Subject Tests”.

E. OCTOBER/NOVEMBER:  Request applications. Be aware of DEADLINES! Most universities have December 1st as their deadline to receive the applications, some even October 1st. Do NOT wait until the last minute.

F.  OCTOBER/NOVEMBER: Prepare for College App Day on: ­­______________________________________________

G. JANUARY: File for the FAFSA online at