If you’re a junior in high school (or the parent of one), it’s a race to the finish line—and you’ll be packing bags for college before you know it. Not so fast, though. There’s a lot to do between now and then: researching colleges, investigating financial aid, visiting schools that interest you, taking the ACT and/or SAT, and much more.
It’s a lot to keep straight, especially when you’re busy in school. Keep this month-by-month checklist on hand and dive in after the start of the New Year!
JUNIOR YEAR – Spring semester
- Visit your high school guidance counseling office to talk about your college plans, the differences between the SAT and ACT, and more.
- Register for the ACT or SAT this winter or spring. Visit their websites (ACT and SAT) for study tips and free study guides.
- Start looking into scholarships for which you might qualify (and talk to your guidance counselor). com is a good place to start your search online—you can create a profile for free.
- Retake the ACT and/or SAT if you took the exam in the winter and aren’t happy with your scores. There are still exam dates in April, May, and June.
- If you have a spring break in March, consider spending some of that time visiting colleges that interest you. Chances are, colleges’ spring breaks differ from yours so you’ll be able to see campus life in action, take a tour, and maybe even sit in on a class or two.
- Colorado juniors: Study for the SAT, which will be administered in April to all 11th grade students.
- If you’re taking any Advanced Placement (AP) exams this year, talk to the AP coordinator to register to take the appropriate exam this spring (it’s always best to take AP exams as close to the completion of the class as possible, even if you’re a junior).
- Summer is a great time to visit colleges. If you haven’t seen the colleges that interest you in person, it’s time to plan a road trip. Call the colleges’ admissions offices to learn about tours and register for any visitor programs they have for high school students.
SENIOR YEAR – Fall and Spring semesters
- By now you might have a good idea of the colleges to which you’re planning to apply. If so, visit their websites and make sure you know their application deadlines, whether they use the Common Application, and whether they require additional items like letters of recommendation or SAT Subject Test scores.
- And on that note, if you’re applying to a college that requests SAT Subject Tests, visit the College Board website for exam dates and deadlines. It’s best to take these exams as soon as possible after completing the relevant course in high school.
- Start the school year off right and start getting to know your teachers right away. If you need letters of recommendation, you’ll want to make sure they know you well enough to agree to such a request—and it’s never too early to mention this, especially if you’ll be applying to a college in the months to come.
- Start working on your application essays, if the colleges to which you’re applying require one.
- If planning to apply to a college’s early action or early decision program, you should start your application process now. Visit the college’s website for details.
- Submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon after Oct. 1 as possible. The FAFSA should be filled out each year to apply for federal, state and college-sponsored financial aid. This requires your parents’ prior year tax return information, so visit the FAFSA website to make sure you have all the required documents before you start the application.
- If you’re still undecided on colleges, ask your guidance counselor about any college fairs at your school or in your city this fall.
- Still unhappy with that SAT or ACT score? You can retake the exams in October and November. Explore your options at act.org or www.collegeboard.com.
- Start assembling your list of target scholarships. Apply widely and tackle a few a week—you don’t have to be a straight-A student to get scholarships. Many are need-based and evaluate students on a range of criteria, not just grades.
- If you’re a Colorado student, don’t miss College Application Month, which helps high school seniors navigate the application process and gives daily tasks to complete the FAFSA, explore majors, prepare letter of recommendation requests, write personal essays for your applications, and of course, complete those applications. Here’s the October 2016 calendar, and you can learn all about it at ciccollegeappmonth.org.
- Pay attention to college application deadlines. Many colleges and universities have deadlines as early as Jan. 1 for freshman applicants.
- How’s the scholarship applying coming along? Remember: Most scholarship deadlines are between October and March.
- Use your holiday break to work on the FAFSA if you haven’t completed it yet.
- Use your holiday break to work on college admissions essays, request letters to teachers for letters of recommendation, and college applications.
- Use your holiday break to apply for scholarships if you have several on your list with January-March deadlines.
- Discuss your college plans with your guidance counselor and make sure there are no scholarship or other deadlines you might have overlooked.
- Keep on top of scholarship deadlines and make sure you get any applications in on time (or better yet, early).
- You’re in the home stretch! Have you…
- Applied for college?
- Completed and submitted the FAFSA?
- Received the Student Aid Report (which comes 4-6 weeks after you submit your FAFSA) and reviewed it to make sure you’re clear about what each school you’ve applied to is offering you in terms of a financial aid package?
- Decided which college you’d like to attend and let them know?
- If you’re taking AP exams, talk with your school’s AP Coordinator to register for the spring exams. You could receive college credit for scoring well.
If you’re planning on starting your education at Front Range Community College, here’s everything you need to know about applying. Unlike a four-year university or college, we don’t have application deadlines or essays to write. But if you do plan to transfer down the road, keep this timeline handy. One missed deadline can cause a whole lot of stress. As you know by now, there’s a lot to keep track of when you’re applying to colleges.
Don’t stress, though. All this effort will pay off. College is one of the most enlightening and transformative periods of your life. You’ll see!