Timeline for the College Application Process
We have created the most comprehensive timeline available.
Some of our resource links are repeated because they help in several categories
and apply for more than one year. Go here for over 100 resources:
+100 College Flight Plan Resources
Academic Prep and Goals
- Pursue a quality curriculum and improve your study habits. Work hard to keep your GPA high. Your grades and test scores give you permission to play in your college application. Your extracurricular activities and essays will help you get across the finish line.
- Get help from tutors in classes where you are struggling. Catch it early, especially in math and foreign language.
- Meet with your college counselor to ensure you are on the right track with your courses for entrance requirements into college. Remember: Do not depend on your school college counselor to totally prepare you for the college application process. If you need answers, be the squeaky wheel. The national student-to-counselor ratio is 424:1, and in California, it is 900:1. The recommended ratio is 200:1. Use other resources in addition, if possible.
- Register for the practice PSAT that takes place in October. Take several practice tests before you go to know what to expect. This test is vital to prepare for the actual PSAT in your junior year, which can qualify you for the National Merit Scholarship Program.
- Meet with your counselor to ask about AP (Advanced Placement) and Honors courses you should take.
- Take AP subject exams after completing each course while the information is fresh in your mind.
- If you still plan to play a sport in college, make sure you meet the NCAA requirements. Contact coaches of the schools you want to attend. It is essential to let them know you are very interested in their schools. Research the requirements of the NCAA.
- Get help EARLY from professionals for SAT and ACT preparation. There are specific strategies to follow when taking these tests. Take as many practice tests as possible to learn where you need to improve. Plan which dates you will take the SAT or ACT. Register before the deadlines to avoid late fees.
- Keep all your social media accounts positive and clean. Expect college admissions officers to look you up.
- Stick with your plan to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. Take assessments to clarify them. Live by your values and pursue your purpose in life. College admissions officers are looking for students who know what they stand for and have a plan for their lives.
- Continue to improve your time management skills and break bad habits. (Time management is one of the main struggles of college freshmen.) Perfect this sooner rather than later.
- Take career assessments to narrow in on areas that fit your skills.
- Take assessments to determine what you want your college experience to be. What type of university would you like to attend?
- Ask professionals about their jobs. Do they like what they do? How much education is required? Ask if you can shadow them for a few days sometime in the future.
- Order personalized note cards to send thank-you notes during the next few years. Develop the skill of writing thank-yous to show gratitude: a much-admired trait.
- Stay involved in extracurricular activities. Strive for leadership positions in the activities that best suit you. Remember: Colleges are looking for a student with a dedicated interest in a few specific activities rather than a surface interest in many.
- Work with friends to develop entrepreneurial endeavors and find volunteer opportunities that meet a need in your community or another location. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or time-consuming.
- Plan ahead for your summer activities. Don’t wait until the last minute or many opportunities will be lost. Apply for summer internships, job shadowing, college camps, etc.
- Set up an email account with your full name on it to be used for all college-related correspondence.
- Form a list of colleges you think you might be interested in attending. 10-20 schools.
- Visit universities in your area and places you travel to during breaks or for sports competitions.
- Get contact information from each tour guide, admissions person, professor, or coach that you meet during your visit.
- Keep a journal with all the details of your visits to compare them later.
- Send hand-written thank-you notes on personalized stationery (a rare effort these days) to those who helped you better understand the university.
- Refer to your visit details in your application essays using the notes in your journal.
- Research the universities you cannot visit.
- Attend college fairs and ask interesting questions to the representatives.
- Continue to record all activities, jobs, awards, honors, etc. Keep them in a safe place to use for college, scholarship, and job applications.
- Strengthen your relationships with teachers and faculty. You will be asking some of them to write recommendation letters for your applications, so they need to know you.
- Talk with your parents about college funding. Create a plan. Get a job and save money, if necessary. Continue to explore possible scholarship opportunities. Find professionals who can help in these areas.