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How to Create a College Admissions Action Plan

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 have all the information you need or as a preview of what you need to be considering as you plan for college.. For more detailed instructions, you will want to review our detailed College Admissions Action Plan.

College Planning Milestones

Timeframe Milestone
Freshman Planning Begin your college planning with a 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 counselor 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/NMSQT 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 school, join a club, group, or sport team.
Sophomore Planning Learn about scholarship opportunities.
Junior Planning Take the PSAT/NMSQT Test.
Junior Planning Select 15-20 colleges that interest you, research each school online and request any additional printed materials you need.
Junior Planning Determine if your colleges prefer ACT, SAT or SAT Subject Tests.
Junior Planning Determine estimated costs for each college you are considering. Use the college’s net price calculator.
Junior Planning Schedule ACT, SAT and/or SAT Subject Tests.
Junior Planning Take 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, academic transcripts, accomplishments resume, and other necessary materials
  • Your high school's deadlines for application requests, such as your transcript
Senior Planning Submit your admission applications: most applications are due between January 1 and February 15.
Senior Planning Have your high school send your academic transcript to the colleges to which you are applying for admission.
Senior Planning Contact colleges to make sure they've received all of your admission and financial aid application materials.
Senior Planning Submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible on or after October 1.
Senior Planning Explore other methods for paying for college. Some other types of aid have deadlines in January-February.
Senior Planning You should get acceptance letters and financial aid eligibility determinations by late March or early-April. You must notify every college of your acceptance or rejection of offers of admission or financial aid no later than May 1 (National Candidates Reply Date).

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College Resources

Information to help you make the right choices

How to Apply to College

Find out how to complete your college applications, and learn the three steps to take when applying to colleges for the best chances at getting into the right college for you.

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How to Pay for College

Learn how to choose the right resources for paying for college, so you can get the best education with the least amount of debt after graduation.

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SAT and Test Prep Resources

A competitive score on a standardized test could help you get in to your top school. Check out these resources to help you tackle the SAT, ACT and other required tests.

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