College Admissions Planning Calendars

 

The college admissions process is a series of steps to take each year in high school which will get you to your goal—to have several great college choices at the end of your college planning journey. Click to expand any of the planning calendars below:

 

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College Planning Calendar for Sophomores

Until you can visit colleges, below are ways to get to know colleges during your college search:

  • Admissions section of a college’s website:
  • Go beyond the admissions website—spend time on these areas of the website: career planning, academics, student life, arts, and athletics
  • College’s vibe: Google YouTube, the name of the college, and students for student-made or independently-made videos of colleges. Check Reddit and Facebook for postings about the colleges you’re considering.

Once you can visit colleges during the summer and school breaks:

  • Get exposure to different types of colleges—large, small, public, and private. Keep an open mind and visit a variety of colleges on your trips. This will give you a sense of the type of educational environment that appeals to you, not to choose specific colleges for your application list. Email a friend or yourself (impressions, not statistics) about each college you visit. You will refer back to these notes many times over the next year or two.

Fall:

  • Start a record of your accomplishments, activities, and work experiences, as doing this will help you complete the activities section of the Common Application. Get involved in activities which hold a deep interest for you. Start a club or organization around an issue or cause which is meaningful to you. Admissions officers take note of initiative. There is no one “right” or “wrong” activity. Some students like to be involved in many different activities, while others like to focus on one or two key areas and through them, show leadership. Search for opportunities to expand and deepen your involvement. Don’t choose activities because you think they will help you get into college. Choose them because they fit you, will help you find what you love to do, and will promote your personal development as you move through high school and college.

Winter:

  • Meet with your counselor to develop your junior year schedule. Enroll in the most challenging courses for which you are qualified and most importantly, which interest you. Take more than the minimum required and take an additional foreign language, math, or science if they interest you. Choose demanding classes which excite you. Don’t try to strategize your way into college or try to figure out the “perfect” curriculum. The best curriculum is the one about which you are most passionate and in which you can achieve. All colleges, especially highly selective ones, are interested in students who are excited about learning and can talk enthusiastically about their courses.

Spring:

  • Sophomore year is not too early to start to develop a preliminary list of colleges. Use the search engines on the college resources sheet and look over the lists on CollegeExpress and the entries in The Fiske Guide to Colleges. If available, attend open houses at nearby colleges and meet with college representatives who come to your school to get a sense of the type of educational environment you like. As well as size, location, and majors, keep in mind the level of challenge with which you are comfortable. Would you rather attend a college where you are in the middle of their academic profile in terms of grades and test scores, at the lower end, or at the higher end?  Sometimes students overlook this and choose to attend the most competitive school which admits them, then are unhappy when they struggle to keep up and can’t enjoy the personal growth benefits of college, such as participation in extracurricular activities.

 

College Planning Calendar for Juniors

Until you can visit colleges, below are ways to get to know colleges during your college search:

  • Admissions section of colleges’ websites.
  • Go beyond the admissions website—spend time on these areas of the website: career planning, academics, student life, arts, and athletics
  • College’s vibe: Google YouTube, the name of the college, and students for student-made or independently-made videos of colleges. Check Reddit and Facebook for postings about the colleges you’re considering.

Once you can visit—during the summer and school breaks:

  • Get exposure to different types—large, small, public, and private.  Keep an open mind and include a variety of colleges on your trips. Get a feel for the type of educational environment that appeals to you, not to choose specific colleges for your application list.  Keep a journal of your thoughts or email a friend or yourself (impressions, not statistics) about each college you visit.  You will refer back to this journal many times over the next year.

Fall:

  • Register for the ACT and SAT.  Free test prep may be available at your school and there many free resources online, such as Khan Academy. When you receive the test results, review them to learn about your strengths and where you can improve your results.
  • Start a record of your accomplishments, activities, and work experiences. This will help you complete the activities section of the Common Application. Get involved in activities which hold a deep interest for you. Start a club or organization around an issue or cause which is meaningful to you. There is no one “right” or “wrong” activity. Some students like to be involved in many different activities, while others like to focus on one or two key areas and through them, show leadership and initiative. Search for opportunities to expand and deepen your involvement. Don’t choose activities because you think they will help you get into college. Choose them because they fit you, will help you find what you love to do, and will promote your personal development as you move through high school and college.

January/February: 

  • Meet with your counselor to develop your senior year schedule. Enroll in the most challenging courses for which you are qualified and which interest you. Take more than the minimum required and take an additional foreign language, math, or science if they interest you. Choose demanding classes which excite you. The best curriculum is the one about which you are most passionate and in which you can achieve.
  • T Your junior and senior grades count as well as your achievement in the first two years of high school. Admissions officers pay close attention to grades and expect students to maintain or surpass their performance in their earlier years. Building a strong academic foundation by continuing to take challenging courses will make your college experience that much more enjoyable.
  • Register for a spring SAT and/or ACT. I recommend taking both tests to see which score is higher.

March/April:

  • Develop a preliminary list of colleges. Attend open houses at nearby colleges to get a sense of the type of educational environment you like, keeping in mind the level of challenge with which you are comfortable. Think about whether you would you prefer to attend a college where you are in the middle of their academic profile, at the lower end, or at the higher end.

May through the summer:

  • Create an account at Common App.
  • Work on your Common Application essay with the goal to have a final draft by the end of the summer, so you can concentrate on colleges’ supplemental essays and on your classes, activities, college visits, and interviews in grade 12.
  • Continue ​investigating and visiting colleges and interviewing at colleges which offer this opportunity. Think of an interview as the best way for colleges to get to know you beyond your transcript and application.
  • Complete the activities section of the Common Application, making sure to describe each activity and your accomplishments thoroughly in the 150 characters and spaces available. Make sure the names of activities are understandable and that your contributions are well-documented and show your impact.

 

College Planning Calendar for Seniors

Summer before senior year

  • Until you can visit in person, below are ways to get to know colleges. The first four listed will be in the admissions section of colleges’ websites.
    • Watch virtual tours; also at You University; You Visit; CampusReel
    • Attend virtual information sessions
    • Use the Ask a Student feature
    • Contact the admissions officer for your state or province.
    • Go beyond the admissions website—spend time on these areas of the website: career planning, academics, student life, arts, and athletics
    • Google YouTube, the name of the college, and students for student-made or independently-made videos of colleges
    • Check Reddit and Facebook for postings about the colleges you’re considering
  • Develop a list of colleges using the College Board website Big Future and the National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator website. Make sure to have a balanced list of colleges with schools in the likely, target, and reach categories. A successful college admissions experience results in having several good choices at the end of the journey.
  • Register for the ACT and the SAT. While some colleges are changing to test-optional, it is good to still take both tests, as strong scores will enhance your application.
  • Complete the activities section of the Common Application, making sure to describe each activity and your accomplishments as thoroughly as you can within the 150 characters and spaces available. Review the descriptions with someone unfamiliar with your school to ensure the names of activities are understandable and that your contributions to each are well-documented and show the impact you had.
  • Work on your Common Application essay and colleges’ supplemental essays, both required and optional. Have at least two trusted adults or friends read your essays to make sure they convey the real you. Read your essays out loud to check for any incorrect word choices—e.g., he, instead of the, which spellcheck would not catch.
  • Interview at colleges which offer this opportunity by video chat. An interview is the best way for colleges to get to know you beyond your transcript and application.

Fall:

  • Meet with admissions officers if they are visiting your high school. “Demonstrated interest” is becoming more of a factor in some colleges’ admissions decisions, so make sure to let colleges in which you are interested, know they are on your list.
  • Finalize your college application list. Note above the point about having a balanced list.
  • Make a chart of colleges’ admissions application deadlines (Early Action, Early Decision, Regular Decision) and application requirements (supplemental essays) and financial aid application deadlines, noting whether each college requires the CSS Profile as well as the FAFSA.
  • Apply Early Action at colleges which offer this option. There is no downside to Early Action, since if admitted, you are not committing to attending, and you will typically receive an admissions decision before the end of December. If you know you will attend a particular college if admitted, apply Early Decision.
  • Refine and review your Common Application and supplemental essays and Common App activities list before submitting them.

January/February: 

  • Ask your guidance counselor to send colleges your mid-year grade report.
    If you have been admitted to a college Early Decision, withdraw all your other applications.

March/April:

  • Attend open houses at colleges to which you have been admitted. If you are not able to do so, ask admissions offices to connect you with current students or recent graduates from your area.

May:

  • Make sure to let all colleges to which you have been admitted know your decision by May 1.

 

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Thank you for helping his star shine through! Every cent well worth it and I wish I had listened to my mom when she said to hire you for my daughter! He credits this mostly to you! (as well as his sanity—he had many sleepless nights, if you couldn’t tell from his frantic emails). We are all beyond happy with his acceptance and full scholarship at BU! More than we ever dreamed possible!