The High School Planning Timeline can help you get ready for high school and have a successful high school experience. Follow the steps in the timeline throughout the school year. All the steps you need to follow for high school planning, college planning and financial aid planning are shown for each grade. There’s lots to do. Stay on track.
▢ 7th Grade
▢ Work at developing good study habits.
▢ Maintain good grades.
▢ Start saving for college.
▢ Talk to people who have attended college to learn about their experiences.
▢ Start thinking about which jobs interest you.
What kinds of work would suit your interests, abilities, aptitudes, values and learning styles?
▢ Get involved in extracurricular activities like clubs, student organizations, sports and volunteer work.
▢ If you’re given opportunities to pursue academic subjects and extracurricular activities that are new to you, take them!
It will help you to expand your outlook.
▢ Look into additional academic options that may be available in your area, such as magnet programs and school enrichment programs.
▢ Check out summer programs available in your community.
▢ Practice your time management skills.
Learning to make the most efficient use of your time can help prevent you from getting overwhelmed.
▢ Improve your reading, writing and math skills.
These basic skills will serve you well in both college and career.
▢ 8th Grade
▢ Counselors, teachers, parents and friends are all good sources of information.
Ask them any questions you have about college, in addition to doing research on your own.
▢ Study hard!
Make sure you use good study habits and keep your grades up.
▢ Start saving for college.
You might want to consider signing up for a college savings account.
▢ Start thinking about the courses you’ll take in 9th grade.
▢ Find out about academic enrichment programs, including summer and weekend programs, available through your school or local colleges.
▢ Don’t forget about extracurricular activities like sports, performing arts, volunteer work or other activities that interest you.
▢ Investigate Advanced Placement (AP) and other honors-level courses you can take in high school to help you prepare for college.
▢ Take the ACT EXPLORE test to evaluate your skills in English, math, reading and science reasoning.
It’s good practice and your scores won’t count towards your college application.
▢ 9th Grade
▢ Now that you’re in 9th grade, it’s time to get serious about your post-secondary plans.
By starting early, you’ll be better prepared.
▢ Don’t neglect your study habits!
Keep up the good work, and continue to improve your study skills.
▢ Add to or open a college savings account.
Every bit you and your parents put aside for college helps when it’s time to enroll.
▢ Talk to your school counselors, teachers, family members or trusted adults about your plans for college.
If you’re not sure if college is the best option for you, talk to your counselor.
▢ Use Your Plan of Study to keep track of your courses and grades.
Invite your counselor to view Your Plan of Study.
▢ Find out about college entrance requirements for the schools you’re interested in.
▢ Create a file of the following documents and notes:
• Report cards
• Lists of awards and honors
• School and community activities
• Volunteer work.
▢ Find out about AP and other honors-level courses.
▢ Continue to get involved in campus and community activities.
▢ How are you spending your summer?
Volunteering and educational programs can help give you a better idea about what kind of training or career would be right for you.
▢ College life can be a big change — you’re on your own!
Try taking some small steps towards independence this year, perhaps with more responsibility around your house.
▢ 10th Grade
▢ Keep those grades up!
You might have a lot going on this year, but it’s important to stay focused on your schoolwork.
▢ Talk to your parents about financial aid options.
It’s a good idea to start talking about how you’re going to pay for college.
▢ Continue your conversations with your guidance counselors, teachers, family members or trusted adults about your plans for college or other paths towards a career.Find out about AP and other honors-level courses for junior year.Update your college planning file — or start one, if you haven’t already.Continue extracurricular activities.
Remember, many admissions officers look for well-rounded students who participate in the world around them.
▢ If you have room in your schedule, consider a part-time job or volunteer position.
▢ Look into participating in academic enrichment programs, summer workshops and camps with specialty focuses such as music, arts and sciences.
▢ Take the PLAN test if you plan to take the ACT.
This is a valuable test to help you prepare for the ACT, which you can take next year. Ask your school counselor for more information about the PLAN test.
▢ If you plan to take the SAT, take the PSAT in October.
The scores will not count for National Merit Scholar consideration this year, but it is good practice for taking the PSAT in your junior year (when the scores will count).
▢ It’s not too early to start studying for standardized tests like the ACT and SAT.
A great place to start is with the Test Prep section.
▢ Investigate your options for participating in concurrent enrollment next year.
This allows juniors and seniors to enroll in college courses if they meet certain requirements.
▢ Start thinking about what factors are important to you in choosing a college.
Size, location, availability of extracurricular activities, for example.
▢ Keep reading!
Expanding your vocabulary and learning new things will help with many things over the next few years.
▢ 11th Grade
▢ Maintaining your grades during your junior year is important!
Colleges put a lot of weight on your marks for this year.
▢ Make sure you’re challenging yourself academically.
Colleges will consider how difficult your courses are.
▢ Now is the time to really focus your career and college research.
▢ As you research education and career options, share your discoveries with your family.
You’ll be working together a lot over the next couple of years as you leave high school and enter college or pursue another path.
▢ If your schedule permits, stay involved in school and community activities.
▢ Talk to your school counselor (or teachers, if you don’t have access to a school counselor) about the following:
• Availability of and enrollment in AP classes.
• The possibility of concurrent enrollment: taking college-level courses before you graduate from high school.
• Schedules for the PSAT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests, ACT and AP exams.
• Why you should take these exams and how they could benefit you.
• Which of these exams would be the best fit for you — and then sign up for those tests. Remember, you can always change your mind.
• How to start getting ready for the exams!
• Your academic record. Review it with your counselor and talk about ways to improve.
• The admissions requirements for the colleges you’re interested in. Do your research, and be sure to find out about any additional requirements on top of GPA and test scores.
▢ Obtain schedules and forms for the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, ACT and AP exams.
▢ Register for the PSAT exam offered in October.
Remember that when you take the PSAT in your junior year, the scores will count towards the National Merit Scholar Program and the National Achievement Program (and it is good practice for the SAT).
▢ Keep an eye out for college nights at any schools in your area you may want to attend.
▢ Take the PSAT if you registered for it this month.
▢ Narrow your list of colleges to include a few colleges with requirements at your current GPA, a few with requirements above your current GPA, and at least one with requirements below your GPA.
▢ Begin scheduling interviews with admissions counselors.
▢ If possible, schedule tours of the school grounds on the same days.
You and your parent(s) may want to visit the colleges and universities during spring break and summer vacation so you don’t have to miss school.
▢ You will receive your scores from the October PSAT if you took it that month.
Depending on the results, you may want to consider signing up for free online SAT prep.
▢ If you’re choosing your senior year classes, look for classes that will give you a strong transcript.
You’ll also want to look for classes that will fit your college study plans.
▢ Consider looking for a summer job or internship.
Not only can you earn money for college, you can also learn valuable skills.
▢ Continue with your campus tours online or in person.
You want to be narrowing down your list of potential colleges.
▢ Register for the March SAT or the April ACT, or both.
Research the requirements of the colleges you’re interested in to learn about admission deadlines and which tests to take.
▢ Take the March SAT I exam if you registered to take it this month.
▢ If you are interested in taking an AP exam, you should sign up now.
If your school does not offer the AP exams, check with your school counselor to find schools in the area that do administer the exams, as well as the dates and times they’re offered.
▢ Take the April ACT test if you registered for this month.
▢ Take the AP, SAT, and SAT Subject tests.
▢ Talk to teachers about writing letters of recommendation for you.
Think about what you would like to include in these and politely ask your teachers if they can help.
▢ Add any new report cards, test scores, honors or awards from the year to your file.
▢ Continue with your college visits. Call ahead for appointments with the financial aid, admissions and academic advisors at the colleges in which you are most interested.
▢ If you go on interviews or visits, don’t forget to send thank-you notes.
▢ Take the SAT, SAT Subject, and the ACT tests if you’re registered.
SUMMER BETWEEN JUINOR AND SENIOR YEARS
▢ Continue to work on your application essays and review the application procedures for the colleges you plan to apply to.
▢ Decide if you are going to apply under any early decision or early action programs.
This requires you to submit your applications early, typically between October and December of your senior year.
▢ 12th Grade
▢ Keep studying!
You want to avoid “senioritis” — a drop in motivation and, consequently, grades, that is sometimes experienced by seniors.
▢ Talk to your counselor about possibilities for concurrent enrollment (taking college-credit courses while you’re still in high school).
▢ Some colleges require the CSS/PROFILE, a supplemental financial aid form, in addition to the FAFSA.
Find out if your schools will need this.
▢ Check your transcripts to make sure you have all the credits you need to get into the colleges that interest you.
Find out from the colleges whether or not they need official copies of your transcripts (these are sent directly from your school).
▢ Register for the October/November SAT, SAT Subject, and ACT tests if you plan to take them.
▢ Take another look at your list of colleges, and make sure they still satisfy your requirements.
It’s not uncommon for students’ goals to change.
▢ Make sure you meet the requirements (including any transcript requirements) for all the colleges to which you want to apply.
Double-check the deadlines.
▢ Give any recommendation forms to the appropriate teachers or counselors with stamped, college-addressed envelopes, making certain that your portions of the forms are filled out completely and accurately.
▢ Most early decision and early action applications are due between October 1 and November 1.
Keep this in mind if you intend to take advantage of these options, and remember to request that your high school send your official transcripts to the college on time.
▢ Complete and submit your college financial aid application and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) between October 1 and June 30 of the next year.
Go to the FAFSA on the Web form at: www.fafsa.ed.gov. Complete your FAFSA as soon as possible after the form opens, because funds are typically first-come, first-served.
▢ Make a final list of schools that interest you and keep a file of deadlines and required admission items for each school.
Many students like to have a “dream school” and a “safety school” as well as two or three others.
▢ Take the SAT or ACT tests. Have the official scores sent by the testing agency to the colleges or universities that have made your final list of schools.
Register for December or January SAT and SAT Subject tests, if necessary.
▢ Get started on any essays to be included with your applications.
Give your essays to others (teachers, parents, friends) for feedback.
▢ Submit your college admission applications.
Be sure to check them over thoroughly! Having someone else review your application with you can help you catch any errors.
▢ Be sure to consult with your school counselor about scholarship opportunities.
Not all scholarships are for top students and athletes. There may be a perfect scholarship for you — it’s worth doing a little research.
▢ Work on your scholarship applications, and submit according to deadlines.
▢ Check with the financial aid office of schools you are applying to for specific information on scholarships and costs for tuition, fees, room and board, and any additional financial aid info they require.
▢ Watch your inbox if you submitted an early decision application.
Early decision replies usually arrive between December 1 and 31. If you do get an acceptance, you should withdraw any other applications.
▢ If you haven’t already done so, make sure your official test scores are being sent to the colleges to which you are applying.
▢ Schedule any remaining required interviews.
▢ Start thinking about how you’re going to spend your summer. Summer is a great time to earn extra money and gain work experience.
▢ Ask your counselor about internships, and start researching the summer job market in your area.
▢ Check for other financial aid options.
In order to be considered for financial aid, you will need to submit a FAFSA, even if you have not yet been notified of your acceptance to the college(s) to which you applied.
▢ If you don’t already have a good computer, investigate purchasing one for college.
You or your parents can subsidize the cost of a computer for college in your student loans.
▢ Request that your high school send your official transcripts to the colleges to which you are applying.
▢ Make sure your parents have completed their income tax forms in anticipation of the financial aid applications.
If you have to file taxes this year, do it as soon as possible. You’ll need to do this for any financial aid forms.
▢ Contact the admissions office of the colleges to which you have applied to make sure that your information has been received, and that they have everything they need from you.
▢ Keep an eye out for financial aid workshops and seminars, for both you and your parents.
There is a lot of help out there when you’re looking for info on financial aid.
▢ If you completed the FAFSA, you should receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) within four weeks.
Make the necessary corrections and return it to the FAFSA processor.
▢ Complete your scholarship applications.
▢ Contact the financial aid office of the colleges to which you have applied to make sure your information has been received, and that they have everything they need from you.
▢ You will probably hear from the colleges as to whether or not you are accepted by April 15.
▢ Compare your acceptance letters, financial aid and scholarship offers.
These are all important things to consider when choosing a college.
▢ When you choose a college that has accepted you, you will be required to pay a nonrefundable deposit for freshman tuition.
This should ensure your place in the entering freshman class.
▢ Take AP exams for any AP subjects you studied in high school.
▢ Decision time!
You should decide on a college by May 1. Notify that school by mailing your commitment deposit check. Many schools require that your notification letter be postmarked by this date.
▢ If you were placed on a waiting list for a particular college and have decided to wait for an opening, contact that college and let them know you are still very interested.
▢ Have your school send your final transcripts to the college you will be attending.
▢ Contact your college to determine when fees for tuition, room and board are due, and how much they will cost.
SUMMER AFTER SENIOR YEAR
▢ Participate in any summer orientation programs for incoming freshmen.
▢ Now that you know you will be attending college in the fall, it is a good idea to make sure you have student health insurance in case of any emergencies.
▢ College Freshman Year
▢ Keep thinking about your skills, values and interests, and how they can connect to careers.
▢ Keep your eyes open for internship and job shadowing opportunities arranged by your school.
▢ Participating in campus clubs and organizations is a great way to get some experience and meet people.
Look for activities that fit with careers that interest you.
▢ Keep your resume up to date.
Be sure to note any awards or scholarships you earn, and extra courses or workshops you participate in.
▢ Continue to research scholarships and other awards that fit with your qualifications.
▢ If you’re interested in a certain major, visit your professors during office hours.
You want to develop relationships with people in your field.
▢ Talk to your academic advisor to make sure you’re taking the right courses for your goals.
If you have a career in mind, research the academic qualifications thoroughly.
▢ Arrange informational interviews with people in careers that interest you.
▢ Interested in a part-time job for some extra income and work experience?
Be sure to consider your academic schedule before you commit.
▢ Not sure exactly what you want to study in college?
Visit your campus career center for some assessments that can help.
▢ Attend any career fairs offered at your school.
▢ Try out courses in areas you’d like to explore a little further.
First year is a good time to test out survey classes — classes that give an overview of a certain area of study.
▢ Think about the best way to spend your summer.
There are lots of options to explore: summer jobs, study programs, internship programs.