COLLEGE PLANNING TIMELINE

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1 COLLEGE PLANNING TIMELINE Freshman Year Get involved! Try out new extracurricular activities, and continue to pursue those that already interest you. Build relationships with your teachers and school guidance counselor. The transition to high school can be tough; don t fall behind, and make sure to seek academic help from your teachers, if you need it. Start thinking about your summer plans. A job? What sort of job? A summer academic enrichment program? A camp or travel experience? Waiting until the last minute is always a bad idea. Prepare! Ask questions! Talk to potential employers. Also talk to your parents about their expectations and budgetary realities. Think about ways to amplify your extracurricular activities. A sports or music camp? A summer community theater production? Build your art portfolio? Make plans for the summer that will be both fun and productive. Plan courses for sophomore year, with an eye to what you will take for the rest of your high school career. Plan ahead, but know that you can always made modifications to your plans as you learn more about what you are best at and what you enjoy most. Continue to make summer plans so that you can hit the ground running as soon as school is out. Implement your plan you started upon in the winter. Read! Nothing can help prepare you for the English language portions of the standardized testing than reading. Novels. Non-fiction. Magazines and newspapers. Even comic books. Read at every opportunity.

2 Sophomore Year Stay involved! Continue to pursue those extracurricular interests that engage you and that give you a sense of accomplishment. It s not what you do: it s how well you do it. Commitment and achievement are more important than the volume of activities. Start bringing more focus to the activities about which you care most. If you can, take the PSAT and/or PLAN tests a year early as a way to discover which format suits you best, and to get some practice in taking these exams. Research indicates that scores improve with familiarity with the tests so go ahead and take them! Make a schedule for your standardized testing. Using your scores on the early tests as a guide, lay out a plan for your junior year, and begin researching test preparation tutors or classes. If you plan on at least applying to a selective college, plan to take one or two SAT 2 Subject Tests in May or June of your sophomore year. For example, if you are taking 10 th grade chemistry, take the chemistry SAT 2 Subject Test while the subject is fresh in your mind. Once again, it s time to plan for summer. A job? A summer program? Academic enrichment? If your family is planning a vacation, make sure to include visits to some campuses that interest you. Think about leadership positions (club officer, team captain, volunteer organizer) that you can pursue in your extracurricular activities. Make your first visits to college campuses. Visit the schools in your local area, even if you aren t sure any of those colleges will ones you eventually apply to. Take tours. Listen to info sessions. Wander around. Most colleges offer Saturday tours, so you ll have an opportunity to learn how to learn about campuses well before the pressure is one next year. Revisit your high school curriculum plan and make any necessary adjustments before you register for junior year classes. Take as many challenging courses as you can, including AP and honors courses. Also investigate dual enrollment options, whereby you take community college classes earn both college and high school credits. If you have a teacher you especially liked and who knows you well, and in whose course you achieved much, let that teacher know it. Good relationships with teachers who know, like, and respect your work are important as you begin to collect college recommendations further down the road. Begin a resume or brag sheet. You ll find lots of templates online, or ask your counselor for tips on structuring the resume. You ll begin to see some patterns emerging, and you ll also see what areas are thinner. Again, remember that the goal is excellence and achievement, not simply checking off boxes on a form. Do what you love, and do it well. A resume

3 will help you to see your achievements, and to point out areas in which you could use more focus. Keep reading. It s fun, and it helps you down the road with those standardized tests. If your family takes a vacation, put a couple of college visits on the itinerary. Make sure to plan for the visits in advance, and if possible, try to meet with an admissions officer, and maybe a professor or two. It s never too early to be thinking about scholarships. Do your research. Talk to your counselor. Check out websites. The best is Fastweb.com, but also have a look at supercollege.com, wiredscholar.com, and scholarshipexperts.com. Junior Year Sign up to take the PSAT in October. This is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarships. Attend college fairs. Ask your counselor about the schedules, or look online. Prepare in advance for these so that you can get the most out of the short amount of time you may have with each college representative. Take an interest inventory or personality profile to help you think more about what you might like to study in college. Some high schools make these available through their own counseling programs. If you haven t already, become more familiar with the SAT and ACT tests, including the writing portions. Investigate whether the colleges that interest you require the writing component; if so, make sure you register for the appropriate tests. You may also want to investigate options for test prep tutoring or classes. Take the ACT and/or the SAT in February. Establish a strong set of criteria for what you seek in a college. Think about what you want to accomplish during your college years, the sorts of subjects that interest you, the possible careers that may suit you, and the activities you enjoy. Write these criteria down and carry them around with you as you begin your research on particular colleges. Make yours summer plans. Think about your activities, community service requirements, and employment opportunities. Make this summer count! Register for more SAT 2 Subject Tests that coincide with your curriculum (for example, if you re taking AP US History, take both the AP exam and the SAT 2 Subject Test in US History. These will be scheduled for May or June. Consider retaking the SAT or ACT, based on your earlier results. You might want to take them in May or June, or spend some time in the summer preparing to retake in the fall. Construct a solid list of colleges to which you plan to apply, based on the criteria you have been considering. If you haven t already, make plans to

4 visit these campuses in the spring. Sign up on the college websites to receive more information from these colleges to let then know, in effect, that you are interested. Think about which teachers know you best and respect your work in their classrooms. Consider asking one or more of them for a college recommendation, and ask them now instead of waiting until the fall the teacher will appreciate your foresight! Keep reading! Talk frankly with your family about college costs. Understand what the limits will be. Make sure that you understand how the merit and need based financial aid processes work. Learn about student loans, and how they work. Be realistic about the costs of college, and how you will pay those costs. In the same vein, get going on those scholarship applications! Hunt for money under every rock. Start those applications, especially the essays. The more you get done over the summer, the more you can focus on school work and on enjoying your final year of high school! Consider whether to apply Early Decision to one of the colleges on your list, if that is far and away your first choice. But be sure that you understand the financial aid ramifications of an early application: you don t want to make commitments you cannot keep. Senior Year Make an appointment with your school counselor to make sure you understand all the procedures for how to get school records to the colleges. Each school has a different procedure, and it is up to you to understand what it is. If you haven t already, identify the teachers who will write your recommendations, and be sure to let those teachers know of your hope they will write a good one for you. Let the teacher know what your college plans are. Take those standardized tests one more time, if you can stomach them, and if you think you can improve your score. Work on those applications; aim to be finished by Thanksgiving. Polish up your essays. Let peers and teachers read them and comment. Parents can read them, too, and they might have good ideas about how to improve them. But don t let them write them! An essay that seems like an adult wrote it can sink your chances: let the essay speak for you, and no one else. Be nice to your parents: they re under a lot of pressure.

5 Start filling out the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is available January 1. Remember, that when it comes to financial aid, the early bird gets more worms. Finish up any last minute applications (for you procrastinators out there!). Continue the search for scholarships. Follow up with admissions offices to be sure all pieces of your application arrived safely in you file. Call the admissions offices and ask if you can arrange an overnight visit on the campus. Visit a class, meet students, meet coaches, and continue to get impressions about how the college will suit your needs and aspirations. Be patient, and keep your grades up. Send a deposit to reserve your space at your chosen college by May 1 st. Look for housing information in the mail, and fill it out as soon as possible. Again, early birds get better, tastier worms. Plan for a summer job: you ll need the money once you arrive on campus. Sign up for whatever orientation programs the college offers.

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