College Planning Timeline

9th Grade

Fall
  • Meet with the school counselor to talk about college and career options and to make sure you’re taking the most-appropriate classes. Learn more about the high school counselor’s role.
  • Set goals for the school year. Working toward specific goals helps you stay motivated and focused.
  • Explore extracurricular activities. Getting involved in clubs and other groups is a great way for you to identify interests and feel more engaged in school. Read more about the benefits of extracurriculars.
Winter
Spring
  • Start a college list. Visit College Search Step-by-Step to get tips on starting a college search and figuring out what matters most to you when choosing a college.
  • See how much you need to save for college. Use the College Savings Calculator  to get an idea of where you are compared with your savings goal.
  • Make summer plans. Summer is a great time to explore interests and learn new skills — and colleges look for students who pursue meaningful summer activities. Find out ways to stay motivated this summer.

10th Grade

Fall
  • Meet with the school counselor to talk about college and career options and to make sure you’re taking the most appropriate classes. Learn more about the high school counselor’s role.
  • Set goals for the school year. Working toward specific goals helps you stay motivated and focused.
  • Keep up with your schoolwork. If you keep up with your tests, papers and homework assignments, you can celebrate successes and head off problems before they arise. Get homework tips.
  • Get ready to take preliminary exams. Taking the PSAT/NMSQT or the PLAN this fall can help you prepare for college admission tests. Sophomores can also use their score reports to figure out which academic areas they need to work on. Learn more about the PSAT/NMSQT.
Winter
  • Review your PSAT/NMSQT or PLAN results. Your score report indicates your academic strengths and weaknesses. Log in to My College QuickStart to get personalized feedback based on your PSAT/NMSQT score report.
  • Start thinking about ways to pay for college. Most students get help to pay for college costs. Read 7 Things You Need to Know About Financial Aid to learn more.
  • Discuss next year’s classes. Make sure you are challenging yourself — and taking the courses college admission officers expect to see. Learn more about the high school classes that colleges look for.
Spring
  • Make a college wish list. Think about qualities you may want in a college in terms of location, size, majors offered and so on. Check out How to Find a College That Fits You to learn more about deciding on college must-haves.
  • See how much you need to save for college. Use the College Savings Calculator to get an idea of where you are in terms of your savings goal.
  • Make summer plans. Summer is a great time to explore interests and learn new skills — and colleges look for students who pursue meaningful summer activities. Find out ways to stay motivated this summer.

11th Grade

Fall
  • Meet with the school counselor. This meeting is especially important this year as you start to engage in the college application process. Learn more about the counselor’s role in applying to college.
  • Set goals for the school year. Working toward specific goals helps you stay motivated and focused.
  • Stay organized. Make weekly or monthly to-do lists to keep on top of the tasks required to get ready for applying to colleges. For more time-management tips, see 8 Ways to Take Control of Your Time.
  • Get ready for the PSAT/NMSQT in October. This is a preliminary test that helps students practice for the SAT and assess their academic skills. Juniors who score well on the test are also eligible for scholarship opportunities. Find out more about the PSAT/NMSQT.
Winter
  • Review your PSAT/NMSQT results. Your score report comes with a free SAT study plan. This online, customized plan is based on your test scores and can help you work on areas that need improvement. Learn more about this individualized SAT study plan.
  • Prepare for college admission tests. Many juniors take college admission tests, such as the SAT and the ACT, in the spring so they can get a head start on planning for college. See which tests you may need to take.
  • Discuss taking challenging courses next year. Taking college-level or honors courses as a senior can help you prepare for college work — and these are also the courses that college admission officers like to see. Learn more about advanced classes.
  • Consider taking SAT Subject Tests. Many colleges require or recommend taking these tests to get a sense of your skills in a certain academic area. In general, it’s best to take a Subject Test right after taking the relevant course. Learn more about SAT Subject Tests.
  • Take AP Exams. If you take AP or other advanced classes, talk with teachers now about taking these tests in May. Read more about the AP Program.
Spring
  • Search for colleges that meet your needs. Once you have an idea of the qualities you are looking for in a college, enter these criteria into College Search to create a list of colleges to consider applying to.
  • Research scholarships. This form of financial aid provides money for college that doesn’t need to be repaid. Learn more through College Board’s Scholarship Search.
  • Attend college fairs and financial aid events. These events allow you to meet with college representatives and get answers to questions. You can ask the school counselor how to find events in your area. Check out the College Fair Checklist for more information.
  • Make summer plans. Summer is a great time to explore interests and learn new skills — and colleges look for students who pursue meaningful summer activities. Look into summer learning programs or find a job or internship.
  • Visit colleges. Make plans to check out the campuses of colleges you’re interested in. Use the Campus Visit Checklist to learn how to get the most out of these experiences.

12th Grade

Summer
  • Visit colleges. If you haven’t already, make plans to check out the campuses of colleges you’re interested in. Use the Campus Visit Checklist to learn how to get the most out of these experiences.
  • Finalize a college list. Choose which colleges to apply to by weighing how well each college meets your needs, for example. Find out more about how to finalize a college list.
  • Find out a college’s actual cost. Once you have a list of a few colleges you’re interested in, use theNet Price Calculator together to find out the potential for financial aid and the true out-of-pocket cost — or net price — of each college.
  • Get started on applications. Get the easy stuff out of the way now by filling in as much required information on college applications as possible. Read about how to get started on applications.
  • Decide about applying early. If you are set on going to a certain college, you should think about whether applying early is a good option. Now is the time to decide because early applications are usually due in November. Read about the pros and cons of applying early.
Fall
  • Meet with the school counselor. This year, you will work with the counselor to complete and submit college applications. Learn more about the counselor’s role in applying to college.
  • Create a calendar. This should include application deadlines and other important dates. You can find specific colleges’ deadlines in College Search. If you save colleges to a list there, you can get a custom online calendar that shows those colleges’ deadlines.
  • Prepare for college admission tests. Many seniors retake college admission tests, such as the SAT and the ACT, in the fall. Learn more about how to prepare for admission tests.
  • Find and apply for scholarships. You can find out about scholarship opportunities from the school counselor. You will need to request and complete scholarship applications and submit them on time. Learn more about scholarships.
  • Set up college interviews. An interview is a great way for you to learn more about a college and for a college to learn more about you. Get an overview of the interview process.
Winter
  • Apply for financial aid. Contact the financial aid offices at the colleges you’re interested in to find out what forms students must submit to apply for aid. Make sure you apply for aid by or before any stated deadlines. Funds are limited, so the earlier you apply, the better.
  • Fill out the FAFSA to apply for aid. The government and many colleges use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to award aid. Now it’s easier than ever to fill out this form because you can automatically transfer your tax information online from the IRS to the FAFSA. Read How to Complete the FAFSA to learn more.
  • Learn about college loan options. Borrowing money for college can be a smart choice — especially if you get a low-interest federal loan.
  • Take SAT Subject Tests. These tests can showcase your interests and achievements — and many colleges require or recommend that applicants take one or more Subject Tests. Read more about SAT Subject Tests.
  • Take AP Exams. If you take AP or other advanced classes, talk with teachers now about taking these tests in May. Read more about the AP Program.
Spring
  • Process college responses. Read about how to choose a college.
  • Review financial aid offers. Be sure to pay attention to and meet any deadlines for acceptance. Get more information on financial aid awards.
  • Complete the paperwork to accept a college’s offer of admittance. Once you have decided which college to attend, you will need to accept a college’s offer, mail a tuition deposit and submit other required paperwork. Learn more about your next steps.

 

Source: The College Board
https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/make-a-plan