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How to Create a College Plan

College Planning

Before you begin your college search, you should start your college planning. Our college planning guide gives you an overview of the general things which need to be accomplished in each of your high school years. You can use this as a reminder; a checklist to make sure you've got all the information you need or as a preview of what you need to be thinking of next year. For more detailed instructions you will want to review our Detailed College Preparation Action Plans.

College Planning Milestones

Time Frame College Planning Milestone
Freshman Planning Begin your college planning with broad college search to get you started.
Freshman Planning Plan your financial strategy and determine how to pay for college
Freshman Planning Ask your guidance councilor about SAT Subject Tests
Freshman Planning Ask about AP Courses offered at your school. These are great classes to take for those who plan to go to college.
Sophomore Planning Sign up for the PSAT Test. This test will give you an idea of your strengths and weaknesses so that you can study for the SAT.
Sophomore Planning Sign up for AP Courses or make sure that you are planning to take them in the near future.
Sophomore Planning Expand your extracurricular activities. Volunteer after work, join a club, group, or sport team.
Sophomore Planning Learn about scholarship opportunities
Junior Planning Take the PSAT Test
Junior Planning Select 15-20 colleges that interest you and get application materials
Junior Planning Determine if your colleges prefer ACT, SAT or SAT Subject Tests
Junior Planning Determine estimated costs for your colleges
Junior Planning Schedule your ACT, SAT and/or SAT Subject Tests
Junior Planning Take your ACT, SAT and/or SAT Subject Tests
Junior Planning Take AP Exams
Junior Planning Explore CLEP Tests
Senior Planning Narrow your college choices to 5-10
Senior Planning Make a list of the following:
  • Test dates, fees, and deadlines
  • College application due dates
  • Required financial aid applications and their deadlines
  • Recommendations, transcripts, and other necessary materials
  • Your high school's deadlines for application requests, such as your transcript
Senior Planning Send in your applications, most applications are due between January 1 and February 15.
Senior Planning Have your high school send your transcript to colleges.
Senior Planning Contact colleges to make sure they've received all application materials.
Senior Planning Submit your FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible.
Senior Planning Explore other methods for paying for college. Some other types of aid have deadlines in February.
Senior Planning You should get acceptance letters and financial aid offers by mid-April and you must tell every college of your acceptance or rejection of offers of admission or financial aid by May 1.