As a tenth grader, you can take the PLAN at your high school to assess your academic skills. The PLAN provides you the opportunity to practice for the ACT entrance exam that you should take in your junior or senior year if you plan to attend college. PLAN includes a questionnaire to provide you with guidance on your educational plans after high school and career exploration.
You can also take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT), which is a shorter version of the SAT, the other big college admissions exam. Don't feel obligated to take either "P" (Preliminary) test; however, if you do take one, don't fret over the results as they are not passed on to colleges. They do serve to familiarize you with sample questions. Students that take the PLAN or PSAT can begin receiving information from colleges.
Start your year off right by talking with your guidance counselor about the year ahead. Confirm that your courses will put you on the right track for college admission. Be sure to ask about test dates for the PSAT, ACT, and SAT. You’ll need to register up to six weeks ahead of time.
- Begin to prepare for the ACT or SAT. Free test preparation may be available at your school, your local community colleges, and community based programs; in addition, there are many free resources on the Internet. If you can’t find the best Web sites, ask your counselor. You should plan to take at least one of these tests in the spring and again next fall during your senior year. Ask your counselor if you qualify for a fee waiver.
- Meet with your guidance counselor again to develop your senior schedule. Make sure that you will be enrolled in the most challenging courses for which you are qualified.
- Register for a spring offering of the SAT and/or ACT. Ask your counselor if you should take an SAT Subject Test this spring.
- Ask your counselor about summer opportunities on college campuses. These can be a great way to find out what college life is all about and make you a more attractive candidate for admission to colleges.
- Begin taking a more serious look at colleges and universities. Make a file for each college in which you are interested and gather information about academics, financial aid, and campus life. Go to college fairs and open houses and learn as much as you can about colleges online.
- Begin planning college visits. Spring break is a good time to visit. Try to visit colleges near you and include a large, medium size, and small campus
- Develop a preliminary list of colleges that interest you. Write or email to request a viewbook and additional information.
- Think about lining up a summer job, internship or co-op.
- Continue investigating colleges
- Begin thinking about your applications. Generally, colleges will have their applications online by the beginning of August. Work on the essay before you return to school!
Create a checklist and calendar to chart:
- Standardized test dates, registration deadlines, and fees
- College application due dates
- Financial aid application forms and deadlines
- Other materials you’ll need for college applications (recommendations, transcripts, essays, etc.)
- Your high school’s application processing deadlines
- Some colleges will have deadlines as early as this month. These would include rolling admission, priority, early decision, and early action deadlines.
- If you cannot afford the application fees that many colleges charge, ask your counselor to help you request a fee waiver.
- Finalize your college essay. Many schools will require that you submit at least one essay with your application.
- Request personal recommendations from teachers, school counselors, or employers. Follow the process required by your high school or provide a stamped, addressed envelope, the appropriate college forms, and an outline of your academic record and extracurricular activities to each person writing you a recommendation.
- Research possibilities of scholarships. Ask your counselor, your colleges, and your religious and civic groups about scholarship opportunities. You should never pay for scholarship information.
- Begin to organize regular decision applications and financial aid forms, which will be due in January and/or February.
- Register for the January SAT (If needed). It is the last one colleges will be able to consider for a senior.
- Many popular and selective colleges will have application deadlines as early as January 1. Others have deadlines later in January and February. Keep track of and observe deadlines for sending in all required fees and paperwork.
- If necessary, register for the February ACT (some colleges will be able consider it).
- Ask your guidance office in January to send first semester transcripts to schools where you applied. At the end of the school year, they will need to send final transcripts to the college you will attend.
- It is time to file the FAFSA (no later than Feb 1). The sooner you complete it, the sooner you will have an idea of your financial aid options. Watch the mail for your Student Aid Report (SAR)—it should arrive four weeks after the FAFSA is filed.
- While most of your applications will be complete and you are waiting to receive admission decisions, don’t slack in the classroom. The college that you do attend will want to see your second semester transcript. No Senioritis!
- Acceptance letters and financial aid offers will start to arrive. Review your acceptances, compare financial aid packages, and visit your final choices, especially if you haven’t already.
- May 1 is the date when the college you plan to attend requires a commitment and deposit. When you’ve made your college decision, notify your counselor and the colleges. Send in your deposit by the postmark date of May 1. If you’ve been offered financial aid, accept the offer and follow the instructions given. Also notify schools you will not attend of your decision.
- Make sure that you have requested that your final transcript be sent to the school you will be attending.
- If you are “wait listed” by a college you really want to attend, visit, call and write the admission office to make your interest clear. Ask how you can strengthen your application.