College-Bound High School Timeline

writings in a planner

The Back-to-School sales are in full-swing at Target, so the start of the school year must be around the corner. In between lounging at the pool and enjoying a scenic hike, now is a great time for high school students to set goals for the school year and to map out a few key dates and activities. The following is a year-by-year checklist for freshmen through seniors.

9TH GRADE: LOOK AHEAD

FALL

Start strong. Your freshmen grades do matter! Use this year to identify your strengths and weaknesses in different subjects. Check out Khan Academy for subject-specific help and connect with teachers outside of class.

Get some guidance: meet with a school or community counselor to discuss your class choices and how they support your higher education goals.

Get active: join school or community groups, clubs, or teams you’re interested in.

WINTER

Grades matter (it is worth repeating!) College may seem like a distant goal, but your grades from each year of high school will impact your overall GPA and class rank.

Explore: take advantage of opportunities through your school and in your community to learn about different career fields.

SPRING / SUMMER

Keep track: start documenting your academic, extracurricular and community service achievements and awards. Save this list and add to it as you progress through high school. This will be a big time-saver when completing college applications and creating a resume.

Get involved: volunteer, get a job or sign up for an enrichment program during the summer.

Read and Write. Both skills are very important and require consistent practice, no matter your chosen field.

10th GRADE: DIG DEEPER

FALL

Practice standardized testing: Gain confidence in test-taking and discover areas you need to improve upon by taking the PSAT 10 or ACT preparation.

Understand requirements: Take a look at the application requirements for the colleges and universities you’re interested in. Write down your questions or concerns about meeting those requirements and share with your parents or a trusted advisor.

Explore: take advantage of opportunities through school and in your community to learn about different career fields.

Create a Resume & Reassess Extracurriculars: Add to or create a list of your academic, extracurricular and community service achievement and awards. This will be a big time-saver when completing college applications and creating a resume. Are you involved enough? Too much? Make sure your extracurricular activities support and grow your passions.

WINTER

Summer Planning: Many competitive internship applications are due January through March. Research opportunities you would like to participate in over the summer to explore your interests and strengthen your applications.

Review internship or program applications thoroughly and complete the application well before the deadline to show interest and to give yourself room for delays and surprises. If you need recommendation letters, ask early and remind regularly.

Stay focused: Your grades are very important. If you find yourself falling behind, be sure to ask for help now.

Financial planning: check in with your parents or guardians to determine where your family is with financing options. Start researching scholarships and financial planning strategies.

SPRING/SUMMER

Plan out your Standardized Test Timeline: SAT | ACT | SAT Subject Tests | AP Exams

Learn about SAT subject tests, but know that few colleges require subject tests. More selective colleges will consider them if you send them. You can take them and share them with colleges when you apply IF the scores put you in a good light, or not share them if they do not (as long as your schools do not require them.)

Prep over the summer for the PSAT/NMSQT. Taking the PSAT in October of your junior year is great practice for the real SAT and a good way to kick off your standardized testing. If you score in the top 1% of test-takers, you could be selected as a National Merit Semi-Finalist and would continue on in the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Talk to Kristen about a test prep plan.

Explore colleges and universities: You will likely be exploring a dozen or more colleges, so take the opportunity your sophomore year to plan some college visits in your family vacations or athletic trips. Additionally, sophomore spring and junior fall are great times to visit local colleges to get a feeling for your preference on big vs. small, urban vs. rural, private vs. public, and liberal arts college vs. research universities.  Take campus tours or sit in on a class. Research on-campus summer programs and camps that universities often host for high school students.

Read, write, and push yourself to improve a skill or learn something new

Athletes: If you are considering playing your sport in college, put together an athletic resume and video, and start connecting with targeting coaches (match your academics with the school and your playing ability with the program).

clear glass with red sand grainer

11th GRADE: KEEP CALM & DON’T PROCRASTINATE

FALL

Start the year strong: this is the year colleges will evaluate the most, so use or improve your time-management skills and take advantage of opportunities to meet with your teachers. Prioritize test prep.

Explore Colleges: Spend time on their website, email college representatives with thoughtful questions, attend a college fair and meet with colleges that visit your high school, visit colleges during no-school days.

Research: Review application requirements for the colleges and universities you’re interested in. Write down your questions or concerns about meeting those requirements and share with your parents or a trusted advisor.

Reassess extracurriculars: evaluate your academic, extracurricular and community service achievement and awards. Are you involved enough? Too much? Make sure your extracurricular activities support and grow your passions.

Explore job shadows and research competitive spring/summer internships aligned with your interests. Many competitive internship applications are due January through March.

WINTER

Start the 2nd semester strong; find resources early to help you succeed in your classes.

Volunteer to take a leadership position in your primary extracurricular activity.

Plan your summer activities.

Athletes, if you want to play Division I or II sports in college, start the certification process. Be sure to check with your counselor to make sure you meet requirements.

Prioritize your ACT/SAT study plan.

Write down your priorities for college and research colleges using these factors.

Plan college visits in the spring on days off of school.

Strengthen your relationships with at least two teachers.

SPRING

Ask your parents to run Net Price Calculators for colleges on your initial list.

Review your SAT/ACT scores compared to the colleges you are considering.

Continue to keep up in your classes and ask for help when you need it.

Open a Common App account

For highly selective colleges, take an SAT Subject Test (or two) to show colleges your strength in subjects.

Prepare for AP/IB exams. Research what credits you could receive at some of your colleges as motivation.

Athletes should register with the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Plan for a strong senior year of classes.

SUMMER

Plan to use your summer wisely by finalizing your college list and working on your essays and applications.

Research the application, financial aid, scholarship and interview requirements/opportunities for your colleges.

Get parents involved by asking them to research scholarships and rerunning Net Price Calculators for colleges.

12th GRADE: STAY THE COURSE

FALL

Create an application timeline.

Research letters of recommendation requirements and ask one to two teachers for letters of recommendation.

Continue working on your essays.

Connect with your high school counselor. Make sure you understand the process for apply to colleges at your high school.

Prepare for interviews, if offered.

File the financial aid forms required by each of your colleges (FAFSA and CSS, if required).

Submit your Early Deadline applications!

WINTER

Make a habit of checking your email for communications from colleges.

Log into your college portals to make sure all of your application materials have arrived in time.

Apply for scholarships.

Submit the remainder of your applications.

Send thank-you notes to your recommenders.

Prepare to receive your early acceptances, compare your offers, and enjoy the rest of your senior year!