The College Planning Calendar

By Lee Shulman Bierer - Correspondent

Freshman Year

It’s never too early to plan for the future.

  • Build strong academic, language, mathematics and critical thinking skills by taking challenging courses.
  • Study hard and get excellent grades.
  • Strengthen your vocabulary by increasing your reading.
  • Become involved in extra-curricular activities.
  • Meet your high school guidance counselor and discuss your plans for the next four years.
  • Browse through college literature or research colleges online to get an idea of what kinds of schools may be of interest to you.
  • Take career assessments, college major assessments to determine if you should apply to specific kinds of colleges.
  • Check out what high school courses colleges require.
  • Know NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) requirements if you want to play sports in college.
  • Keep an academic portfolio and co-curricular record.
  • Research career possibilities.
  • Start saving money for college now if you haven’t already done so – consider 529 plans and consult with a financial advisor to understand how, how much you save and where you put it has impacts down the road.

 


Sophomore Year

Concentrate on academic preparation and continue to develop basic skills and co-curricular interests.

October

  • Take the PSAT (pre-SAT) and the PLAN (pre-ACT) if they are offered at your school. The results will not be used for college admission, but provide a great opportunity for students to “test-drive” each of the tests and hopefully determine that one suits them better.
  • Sign up, if you have not done so already, for extra-curricular activities that interest you. Colleges are most concerned with a student’s level of involvement and accomplishment, not the number of activities. One of the biggest changes in the college admissions process is that colleges would rather see depth than breadth and are more impressed with a student’s commitment to one or two activities than a laundry list of clubs that haven’t had much impact on their lives.
  • Keep a record of your extra-curricular involvement, volunteer work and employment (all year).

November

  • Make sure you are “on top” of your academic work. If necessary, meet with your teacher for additional help.
  • Save your best work in academic courses and the arts for your academic portfolio (all year).

December

  • Receive results of PLAN and/or PSAT. Read materials sent with your score report. Consult your guidance counselor to improve on future standardized tests and courses to discuss which may be required or beneficial for your post-high school plans.

January

  • Keep studying!
  • Volunteer—a great way to identify your interests and to develop skills.
  • Start thinking about your summer (academic programs, community service, job-shadowing/internships, etc.)

February

  • It is never too early to start researching colleges and universities. Visit your guidance office to browse through literature and guidebooks or surf the Web and check out college and university home pages.

March

  • Apply for summer programs.
  • Create your initial college list.

April

  • Continue to research career options and consider possible college majors that will help you achieve your career goals.

May

  • Make arrangements to visit a few college campuses over the summer.

June – July – August

  • If you work, save some of your earnings for college.
  • During the summer, you may want to sign up for a PSAT/SAT prep course, use computer software, or do the practice tests in books designed to familiarize you with standardized tests.
  • Make your summer productive. Continue reading to increase your vocabulary.


Junior Year

Begin college selection process. Attend college fairs, financial aid seminars and general information sessions to learn as much as you can about the college application process. Make sure you are meeting NCAA requirements if you want to play Division I or II sports in college.

September

  • Register for the October PSAT. Review your courses for this year and plan your schedule for senior year.
  • Continue to save samples of your best work for your academic portfolio (all year).
  • Use any Teacher Work Days in the fall for campus visits

October

  • Take the PSAT. Junior year PSAT scores may qualify a student for the National Merit Scholarship Competition and the National Achievement and the National Hispanic Scholars Programs. If you wish to receive free information from colleges, indicate on the PSAT test answer form that you want to participate in the Student Search.

November

  • Junior year grades are extremely important in the college admission process, because they are a measure of how well you do in advanced, upper-level courses. Grades also are used to determine scholarships and grants for which you may be eligible. So, put in the extra effort and keep those grades up!
  • If you will require financial aid, start researching your options for grants, scholarships and work-study programs. Make an appointment with your guidance counselor or do research on your own on the Internet.

December

  • During December you should receive the results of your PSAT. Read your score report and consult your school counselor to determine how you might improve on future standardized tests.
  • When you begin to explore different colleges and universities, double-check to see if they prefer or require the SAT Subject Tests.

January

  • Review your list of colleges that you would like to investigate further and research colleges to determine if they are a good academic and social fit for you.
  • Make arrangements to visit colleges over Spring Break

February

  • Meet with your guidance counselor to discuss your list of colleges.
  • Investigate summer opportunities (summer programs on college campuses, job-shadowing or internship possibilities, work, travel, community service, etc. Colleges love to see students using their knowledge and developing their skills and interests.
  • Select your courses for senior year. Make sure you maintain or increase the rigor of your schedule. Beware of dropping core subject courses (Math, English, History, Science or Foreign Language).

March

  • Visit colleges over Spring Break – This is the optimum time to visit, once you make sure it is not Spring Break at the college, because you’ll have the opportunity to see a college in action, with everything from acapella groups performing to eating real dining hall food. It’s also the right time chronologically for the student since by the end of junior year they should be pretty set on their final college list.
  • Contact colleges to request additional admission literature and financial aid information. There is no charge and no obligation to obtain general information about admission and financial aid.

April

  • Register for the May/June Testing (SAT, SAT Subject Tests or ACT)
  • Continue to evaluate your list of colleges and universities. Eliminate colleges from the original list that no longer interest you and add others as appropriate.

May

  • Attend a college fair to get more information about colleges on your list.
  • NACAC sponsors college fairs in cities across the country during the fall and the spring. Visit NACAC’s Web site (www.nacacnet.org) to check out the schedule for the National College Fairs and the Performing and Visual Arts College Fairs.
  • If you work, save part of your earnings for college.
  • Take the SAT and Subject Tests.
  • Ask Junior teachers to commit to writing your letters of recommendation either over the summer or in the fall.

June – July – August

  • After school ends, get on the road to visit colleges.
  • Register for the September ACT or the October SAT or SAT Subject Tests.


Senior Year

Apply to colleges. Make decisions. Finish high school with pride in yourself.

September

  • Make a list of all your colleges with their specific deadlines and your user names and passwords for your applications.
  • Review your transcript and brag sheet/resume to ensure their accuracy.
  • Register for the November SAT and/or SAT Subject Test
  • Follow instructions on each college’s application for recommendations. Provide your recommender with your brag sheet/resume. Be thoughtful! Write thank you notes to those who write recommendations and keep them informed of your decisions.
  • Plan visits to colleges and set up interviews, if available. Talk with current students and professors.

October

  • Complete the FAFSA – FAFSA Deadline has moved earlier, from Jan 1 to Oct 1. FAFSA is using “prior-prior- year” tax returns.
  • Go to College Fairs – view schedule on NACAC’s Web site (www.nacacnet.org) & the Performing and Visual Arts College Fairs.
  • Submit applications. Many colleges now have October 15 and November 1 early deadlines
  • Check with your guidance counselor to make sure your transcript and test scores have been/will be sent.
  • Submit financial aid information if requested from early decision/action candidates.
  • Register for the December/January SAT and/or SAT Subject Tests, or December ACT.

November

  • Take the ACT, SAT and/or SAT Subject Tests if appropriate. Don’t forget to have test scores sent to colleges on your list.
  • Be sure your first quarter grades are good.
  • Continue completing applications to colleges. Make copies of all applications before mailing the applications.
  • Keep all records, test score reports and copies of applications for admission and financial aid. Do not throw anything away until at least the end of your first year in college. Having detailed records will save you time and effort should anything be lost or should you decide to apply in the future to other colleges and scholarship programs.
  • If more than four weeks have passed after sending in your FAFSA and you have not received an acknowledgment, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Service at 319/337-5665 or toll free, at 800/433-3243. To identify you, they will need your name, social security number, address, and date of birth exactly as it was written on your FAFSA.

December

  • Have official test scores sent to colleges on your list if you have not done so.
  • Submit regular decision applications with due dates of January 1 or after.
  • If you applied for Early Decision, you should have an answer by now. If you are accepted, follow the instructions for admitted students. If the decision is deferred until spring or you are denied, submit applications now to other colleges.

January

  • Keep working on your grades! Courses continue to count throughout the senior year.
  • Request that your counselor send the transcript of your first semester grades to the colleges to which you applied.

February

  • Remember to monitor your applications to be sure that all materials are sent and received on time and that they are complete. Stay on top of things and don’t procrastinate; you can ruin your chances for admission by missing a deadline.
  • Complete scholarship applications. You may be eligible for more scholarships than you think, so apply for as many as you can.
  • Enjoy your final year in high school, but don’t catch senioritis!

March

  • Revisit colleges for “Accepted Student Days” to help make your decision.

April

  • Review your college acceptances and financial aid awards. Be sure to compare financial aid packages in your decision- making process. If you are positive you will not enroll at one or more of the colleges that accepted you, please inform those colleges you have selected another college. Keeping colleges abreast of your plans might enable those colleges to admit someone else.

May 1

  • By May 1, decide on one college and send in your tuition deposit. Notify the other colleges that accepted you that you have selected another college.
  • If your first-choice college places you on their waiting list, do not lose all hope. Some students are admitted off the waiting list. Talk with your counselor, and contact the college to let them know you are still very interested. Keep the college updated on your activities.
  • Take Advanced Placement examinations, if appropriate, and request that your AP scores be sent to the college you will attend.

June – July

  • Request that your counselor send your final transcript to the college you will attend. Notify the college of any private scholarships or grants you will be receiving.
  • Know when the payment for tuition, room and board, meal plans, etc., is due. If necessary, ask the financial aid office about a possible payment plan that will allow for you to pay in installments.
  • Look for information from the college about freshman orientation, housing, roommate(s), course selection, etc. Respond promptly to all requests from the college.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte.
Send questions to: lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com;
www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com