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College Planning Timelines

College Planning Timelines for Parents


9th Grade - Freshman Year
10th Grade - Sophomore Year
11th Grade - Junior Year
12 Grade - Senior Year

College Planning Timelines for Students


9th Grade - Freshman Year
10th Grade - Sophomore Year
11th Grade - Junior Year
12 Grade - Senior Year

College planning is not just a senior year activity anymore! Plan early as you need to prepare yourself to be competitive for admission to the best colleges and universities and for making your transition to college as smooth as possible. The sooner you begin the better. Here are some general guidelines:

Parents Timeline:

Parents - 9th Grade

You need to be there for your child in their High School years. This is the first year where your child's grades appear on official transcripts, so you need to pay special attention to the report cards. If your child has certain strong academic interests, you need to offer them encouragement, but don't forget any areas weakness that need to be worked on, such as English or algebra. Be there for them as they will have many questions.

  • Assist them in starting to explore career goals
  • Spend time with your teen to review their course selections (IMPORTANT)
  • Assist them during the initial weeks of high school, they can be a difficult adjustments
  • As classes progress, encourage involvement in meaningful activities in and out of school.
  • Help your child begin keeping an activities record that lists participation as well as accomplishments
  • Schedule regular conversations with your child about their academic progress
  • Develop any required improvement plans together if your child is struggling and remember that the best motivation is encouragement.
  • Remain open to change from your child, as students need explore their interests
  • Work with your child on summer activities such as a job,, volunteer work, or other activities

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    Parents - 10th Grade

    Tenth grade is a very important year for your child as much of the courses taken this year will represent the prerequisites to courses they will take in 11th and 12th grades.
    Some of the important college testing preparation will also begin (PSAT and PLAN assessments). Your child may also be thinking about AP courses and you need to help them properly prepare for the requirements of those courses.

  • Help your child stay in contact with the school guidance counselor about the PSAT/PLAN
  • Make sure the dates for the PSAT or PLAN are understood.
  • If they are having troubles with the tests, consider training services.
  • Continue working with your child regarding their class selections
  • It’s not too early to start visiting college fairs with your child
  • Try to balance your child’s extracurricular activities vs academics
  • As with every year, work with them to make their summer count

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    Parents - 11th Grade

    This is a challenging year in the college planning process for your child as they will be taking standardized tests, constructing their lists of possible colleges, and you as parents will begin to review options connected with the college financing process. You will also need to stay involved in your child’s high school courses and activities.

  • Work with your child to start constructing their list of possible colleges, think about the values that are important to both you and your child
  • Make sure your child registers for the October PSAT
  • You and your child should try to meet together with your child’s college guidance counselor to discuss your college planning
  • Continue to assist you child when reviewing College Fairs and what college representatives will be visiting the high school
  • Help your child on their ‘Brag Lists’ and ‘Resumes’
  • Plan to start visiting colleges that your child may be considering and take campus tours
  • If you haven't done so, get a Social Security number for your child
  • If you have questions about PSAT scores result, don’t hesitate to contact your child's guidance counselor
  • Take a quick look at some of the financial forms that will be needed (such as the FAFSA)
  • Look ahead to the SAT or ACT testing dates for your child
  • Work with you child regarding ‘beefing up’ their senior year courses
  • Start taking a look at scholarship programs with your child

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    Parents - 12th Grade

    You and your child are now in the final stretch! This will be busy but not hectic because you have been doing your homework all along. Start the year off by sitting with your child and reviewing what has been completed and what is still to be done this year. Discuss the colleges on their list thus far, the pros, the cons, and help them to narrow down the list to a manageable size.

  • Confirm that you child has taken the SAT/ACT and you are both satisfied with the result
  • If your child is male, make sure they are register for the draft in order to complete the FAFSA forms.
  • Continue to attend College Fairs
  • Gather your tax information so that you can complete the FAFA as close to Jan 1 as possible
  • Work with your child on all college applications and any letters/recommendation
  • You may need to ‘nag’ your child to make sure any early application deadlines are met
  • Make sure your child’s list of schools include their ‘safety’ and ‘reach’ schools
  • Make sure all your college applications are complete before January
  • Work with your child to keep track of all applications and any follow-ups
  • Help your child review both the acceptance and any rejection letters for action
  • Compare financial aid packages at ALL schools (to include school scholarship and grants)
  • If waitlisted, work with your child and a counselor to review options
  • Decision is made, now it’s time for the deposit
  • Contact the chosen college so that your child can get connected to a mentor or student who can help them in the days to come

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    Student Timeline:

    Students - 9th Grade

    At this initial stage in the game, you need to properly lay down a strong foundation for your high school experience. This is a time to establish your academic/extracurricular credentials. You should also begin to explore options for your career or further education.

  • Introduce yourself to your guidance counselor
  • Pick the right classes (mix should be reviewed)
  • Prepare academically for college by keeping up your grades
  • Start researching careers that you think will interest you
  • Get involved in school activities, athletics or join a local club or organization
  • Make sure you keep track of academic/extracurricular awards, community service etc.
  • Save money for college by starting a college savings plan if you haven't already
  • Start learning about college
  • Make summer count… such as volunteering, a job, or signing up for an enrichment program

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    Students - 10th Grade

    Tenth grade will be a great year! You will get a chance to explore many of the foundation classes that you will need to take as prerequisites to courses you may want to take in 11th and 12th grades. You will also start your college testing practices (PSAT and PLAN assessments). Your may also want to explore the possibilities of taking some advanced courses (AP courses) as they add to your overall academic excellence. Also, look at your summer activities too as a chance to prove yourself and build your skills even further.

  • Continue working with your school guidance counselor about classes and testing, as they can be an excellent resource
  • Stay on top of the prep and dates for the PSAT or PLAN
  • Take the PSAT or PLAN
  • It’s not too early to start visiting college fairs
  • Work with your parents to balance your child’s extracurricular activities vs academics
  • Start getting familiar with some general college entrance requirements
  • Continue exploring potential careers
  • How are your grades? Remember your grades affect your GPA and class rank—two factors that colleges consider in the admissions process
  • Start reviewing college search and review tools
  • Follow-up with specific school of interest regarding their candidate review processes and requirements

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    Students - 11th Grade

    11th grade is a key year in your college planning process because you’ll be narrowing down your college list, taking the standardized tests, and learning more about financial aid from the various colleges. In addition, you’ll need to stay involved closely in your high school courses and activities.

  • Stay on track with your classes and grades
  • Take the PSAT
  • Evaluate your education options
  • Make a college list.
  • Continue gathering college information
  • Go to college fairs, attend college nights, and speak with college representatives
  • If you play sports, make sure you’re meeting any special requirements for your field
  • Stay involved with extracurricular activities
  • Keep all your college information organized
  • Continue to work on your college list, narrow it down as much as possible
  • Continue to tap into your parents for support and guidance
  • Continue to work with your schools guidance counselor
  • Work with your parents regarding financial aid at some of the colleges you are reviewing
  • Start investigating scholarships that you may qualify for. Create a plan to review them
  • Start speaking to those who you will be asking for a reference letter, such as Teachers, Coaches, etc.
  • Visit colleges
  • Set up extended visits or ‘overnights’ at colleges on your short-list
  • Start tapping into your network of friends and talk to some of them about their college search
  • If you have access to current college students, speak with them as well
  • Start reviewing your possible college essays
  • If you are thinking about ‘early decision’ you need to be working on that now
  • As always, continue to monitor your grades and extracurricular activities

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    Students - 12th Grade

    Just think, almost done with high school… almost! Senior year is often an extremely busy time, with schoolwork, activities, and special events. That makes it very hard to stay on track with the college admissions process and you really need to stay on top of it. Get organized, be aware of deadlines, and whatever you do, don’t procrastinate!

  • If you are a male student, you must register for the draft in order to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Take or retake standardized tests, if necessary
  • Attend a college fair
  • You and your parents should gather income tax information so you can complete and mail the FAFSA as soon as possible in January or February. See if the schools you are applying to require the PROFILE
  • Complete applications and essays; ask for letters of recommendation and transcripts
  • Continue looking for scholarships and financial aid information
  • Make college decisions; notify all schools that accepted you. Send deposits
  • Set up your initial meet with your college counselor, once you have accepted
  • Register for the fall/winter SAT-I, SAT-II, and/or ACT tests, as appropriate. Release any SAT-II scores from tests taken previously
  • Make plans for taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language, if necessary
  • Review your senior courses. Have you met all of the requirements for the schools you are interested in? Is your schedule challenging? Should you add courses?
  • Attend presentations by university representatives coming to your school and college fairs in your area
  • Write or call for any applications that you do not yet have
  • Begin applying, the sooner the better. Decide if you want to apply EA or ED to any college. Many highly competitive schools do not accept applications after given dates. Applications may be due in mid-November. Scholarships are often allocated to students who have applied for scholarship assistance early
  • Work on narrowing your final list of colleges, especially if you plan to apply for early admission (EA) or early decision (ED). Many counselors suggest applying to two or three of the most competitive schools you think you qualify for, as well as three or four that are somewhat less competitive
  • Photocopy your applications so that you will have a practice form to work on
  • Revise and polish required essays. Get assistance in proofreading your essay
  • Create a final list of five to seven colleges to which you will apply
  • Follow-up with teachers/coaches for recommendations. Ask early and give your teachers a written list of the schools to which you are applying. Provide the teachers with a stamped, addressed envelope for them to use to mail the letter of recommendation. Give them at least three weeks time to prepare this letter
  • Research scholarship opportunities. This information is available from online sources, as well as from the financial aid offices at all campuses
  • Make sure that your counselor has a list of the colleges to which you are applying
  • Make sure that you have had your transcript sent to the schools of your choice
  • Revise and finalize your essay. Get reactions to it from your counselor and from other people. See if they find it to be a good response to the request of those colleges that request essays
  • As you submit your applications to universities, confirm that they have been received
  • When you receive your SAT scores, see if your scores have improved. Make sure you've released all subject test scores to be sent to colleges you have applied to
  • Make sure that you keep copies of your applications and supporting materials arranged by university
  • Talk with friends (first-year and advanced students) who are home from college to get their impressions of their campus. Try to understand whether you share their likes and dislikes
  • If you need financial aid, request and complete campus financial aid forms
  • If necessary, register for the winter SAT-I and/or tests
  • If you did not qualify for early admission or early decision at the campus of your choice, submit regular decision (RD) or rolling admissions (RA) applications
  • Have your parents complete the FAFSA
  • Check your recommendations. Has everything been sent?
  • Keep your grades up. Winter grades will be sent to colleges you apply to
  • Register for spring AP tests if you are taking any
  • Watch for announcements to attend spring and summer orientation and registration programs. These programs provide you with orientation activities, placement exams, meetings with academic advisers, and course selection advisement
  • Review all responses you received from colleges with your college counselor, and keep counselor fully informed
  • If at all possible, try to visit the college of your choice before committing yourself
  • Maintain your academic focus. Colleges see and evaluate your final transcript
  • Keep copies of everything you send to colleges
  • Make your final choice and notify school(s) no later than May 1. Send acceptance letters and any necessary documents and deposits to your school of choice. Write a polite letter of refusal to others. Continue to give your best effort academically—colleges want students that have taken their senior year seriously
  • Send final transcripts to the school you are attending
  • Set up a bank account and, perhaps, a credit card account
  • After you have been accepted at a college of your choice: 1. Send in your acceptance letter 2. Notify other colleges that you do not plan to attend their campus so they can free up space for other students 3. Mail in your application for campus housing, if you plan to live on campus. Most campus living accommodations are in high demand 4. Send in all required deposits 5. Notify your counselor of your decision to attend a university

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