In the spring of the junior year, each junior and his/her parents are invited to meet with the counselor regarding college search and post high school planning. In this meeting, discussions pertain to student and parent responsibilities, researching colleges, internet information, and the college application process. In most instances, this is the first step on the road to selecting colleges that are right for the student.
College Planning Timeline
Freshman Year of High School
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 co-curricular activities.
Meet your high school guidance counselor and discuss your plans for the next four years.
Begin saving money for college.
Sophomore Year of High School
Register to take the PSAT in October. The PSAT is a preliminary test that will prepare you for the SAT Reasoning Test. The results will not be used for college admission.
Sign up, if you have not done so already, for co-curricular activities that interests you. The level of involvement and accomplishment is most important, not the number of activities.
Make sure you are "on top" of your academic work. If necessary, meet with your teacher for additional help. Keep studying!
Volunteer-a great way to identify your interests and to develop skills.
Career interest inventories will be given which can help students with possible career exploration and focus.
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.
Plan now for wise use of your summer. Consider taking a summer course or participating in a special program (e.g., for prospective engineers or journalists or for those interested in theatre or music) at a local college or community college. Consider working or volunteering.
If you work, save some of your earnings for college.
Make your summer productive. Continue reading to increase your vocabulary.
Junior Year of High School
Junior year PSAT scores may qualify a student for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Even though these scores will not be used for college admission, it is still a good idea to take the PSAT.
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!
In January you should receive the results of your PSAT. Read your score report and consult your counselor to determine how you might improve on future standardized tests. The PSAT is excellent preparation for the SAT Reasoning Test, which you will take in the spring.
Register to take the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT (American College Test) in the spring. Most colleges accept either the ACT or the SAT Reasoning Test. Some colleges also require SAT Subject Tests. When you begin to explore different colleges and universities, double-check to see if they prefer or require the ACT, the SAT Reasoning Test and/or the SAT Subject Tests.
You can also prepare for the SAT by using the College Board’s Online SAT Course (www.collegeboard.com) or by doing the SAT/ACT practice tests available in your counselor’s office or in bookstores. But don't spend so much time trying to improve standardized test scores that grades and co-curricular involvement suffer.
Create your personal account on Family Connection using the following link: http://connection.naviance.com/whippanypark. This is a web based program that will allow students to research colleges and begin to investigate which colleges may be a good match.
Schedule a college planning conference with your counselor. Your counselor will help you develop a preliminary list of colleges for you to investigate. Surf the Internet and use the college resources in the College and Career Center or in your counselor’s office.
Write, telephone, or use the Internet to request admission literature and financial aid information from the colleges on your list.
When selecting your senior courses, be sure to continue to challenge yourself academically.
Look into summer jobs or apply for special summer academic or enrichment programs. Colleges love to see students using their knowledge and developing their skills and interests.
Begin visiting colleges. Phone to set up appointments. Interviews are always a good idea. Many colleges will tell you they are optional, but an interview will show interest, enthusiasm and initiative on your part and provide an excellent opportunity to have your questions answered. Do a practice interview with your counselor, teacher, employer, or a senior who has had college interviews. Set up interviews as early as possible-interview times become booked quickly!
After school ends, get on the road to visit colleges. Seeing the college firsthand, taking a tour and talking to students can be the greatest help in deciding whether or not a school is right for you. Although it is ideal to visit colleges during the academic year, going in the summer will be valuable. Admission offices employ their students to give tours and answer questions from prospective students and their parents.
Begin preparing for the actual application process: draft application essays; collect writing samples; and assemble portfolios or audition tapes. If you are an athlete and plan on playing in college, contact the coaches at the schools to which you are applying and ask about intercollegiate and intramural sports programs and athletic scholarships.
Senior Year of High School
Make sure you have all applications required for college admission and financial aid. Write, phone, or use the Internet to request missing information.
Check on application and financial aid deadlines for the schools to which you plan to apply. They may vary and it is essential to meet all deadlines!
Meet with your counselor to be sure your list includes colleges appropriate to your academic and personal record. Review your transcript and co-curricular records with your counselor to ensure their accuracy.
Register for the SAT Reasoning Test and/or SAT Subject Tests, or ACT.
If the colleges require recommendations, ask the appropriate people to write on your behalf. At least three weeks before the due date, ask your counselor and teachers, employers, or coaches to write letters of recommendation. Provide recommendation forms and any special instructions to the people who are writing a letter on your behalf. Be thoughtful! Write thank-you notes to those who write recommendations and keep them informed of your decisions.
Meet college representatives that will be visiting the high schools in the fall. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and find out important information about particular colleges. Listen for announcements as to what colleges will be visiting.
Plan visits to colleges and set up interviews (if you didn't get to them during the summer or if you want to return to a campus for a second time). Read bulletin boards and the college newspaper. Talk with current students and professors.
Work with your counselor to ensure that applications are mailed in time to reach the colleges by the deadlines.
If you need financial aid, look at the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form which can be completed on line at www.fafsa.ed.gov. This is most important financial aid form that all colleges look for when students are applying for financial assistance. Check to see if the colleges to which you are applying require any other financial aid form. Register for the CSS Profile if required and obtain the college's own financial aid forms, if available.
The transcript of your first semester grades are sent to colleges to which you applied.
Parents and students, complete your income tax forms as soon as possible. You will need those figures to fill out the FAFSA. Complete and return your FAFSA as quickly as possible after January 1.
Complete scholarship applications. You may be eligible for more scholarships than you think, so apply for as many as you can.
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 which accepted you, please notify those colleges that you have selected another college.
By May 1, decide on the one college that you will attend. By May 1, send in your tuition deposit to the college you will attend. Notify the other colleges that accepted you that you have selected another college.
Your final transcript is mailed to the college you plan to attend.
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.
Congratulations, you've made it through high school! Enjoy your graduation and look forward to college.