High School Time Line by Year

Freshman Year – 9th Grade
  • Create a system of organizing all your academic and college planning materials. Keep a journal and/or calendar to remind yourself of what you want to do and when. Put this list in there!
  • Meet with your GEAR UP mentor and Guidance Counselor to start talking about preparing for college – what courses should you be taking to prepare you for college and for life?
  • Talk to your parents about financing college and make a plan for how you will contribute
  • Start researching different colleges to see what they have to offer and figure out what colleges interest you
  • Build your vocabulary by reading: magazines, books, newspapers – anything that interests you!
  • High School course selection and grades are important to colleges, so challenge yourself!
  • Get involved in extracurricular activities and go to college and career fairs whenever you can
  • Visit colleges whenever you are away from home so you can get a feel for what different colleges are like
  • Take Algebra I and your first year of a foreign language if you have not already done so


Sophomore Year – 10th Grade
  • Take the PSAT in October
  • If you’re going to take an SAT Subject Test (like math or biology) it’s a good idea to take it immediately after you finish the course, rather than waiting until later when you take the regular SAT
  • Begin investigating financial aid options, including grants and scholarships (70% of college students receive some form of financial aid)
  • Take Geometry, year two of a foreign language and biology if you have not already done so
  • Get involved in leadership activities in your school or community (through clubs, teams, volunteer or community service experiences)
  • Read, read, read. Read as many books as possible and write, write, write. You will need writing skills no matter what you do. Find a teacher or another adult to help you improve your writing skills and to encourage you when you need it.
  • Continue researching colleges to determine the types of colleges that interest you.


Junior Year – 11th Grade
  • Meet with your Guidance Counselor to review the courses you’ve taken and to see what you still need to take
  • PSAT scores can qualify you for the National Merit Scholarship Competition
  • Make sure grades are high this year – colleges put a heavy emphasis on junior year grades and courses
  • Talk to your Guidance Counselor – the better they know you, the better they can help you select colleges that are right for you
  • Think about the aspects of college that are important to you (like location, size, curriculum, campus life, special programs)
  • Research different colleges on an ongoing basis
  • Make sure you have a social security number for your financial aid and college applications
  • Make a list of the colleges that meet your criteria

  • Begin to look for community service hours. Schedule the time on your calendar even if it’s months away
  • Register for the PSAT if you have not already taken it
  • Develop a college going plan with your GEAR UP mentor

  • Take the PSAT if you have not already taken it, or if you did and are not happy with your score
  • Preview some college applications
  • Polish your essay writing skills

  • Take practice SATs
  • Look for community service opportunities during the holidays
  • If you want to participate in Division I or Division II sports in college, start the certification process. Check with your Guidance Counselor to make sure you are taking the core curriculum required by the NCAA
  • If you are interested in a military academy, talk to your Guidance Counselor now about starting the application process

  • Look up dates for spring SATs
  • Take a serious look at some career options
  • Collect information about college application procedures, entrance requirements, tuition and fees, room and board costs, student activities, course offerings, faculty composition and financial aid. Begin comparing schools by the factors you consider most important

  • Begin thinking about a summer job. Find a job or internship that will give you experience in a career field of interest to you.
  • Stay involved with extracurricular activities (but don’t overdo it!). Colleges look for consistency and depth in activities



  • Narrow your list of college choices down to five or six. Find out exactly what requirements they have for admission
  • Set up a filing system so that each college has its own folder
  • Continue to work on your testing skills by taking practice SATs
  • Schedule an SAT prep class if they offer one at your school or in your community

  • Begin applying for summer jobs or internships
  • Work seriously toward finding financial aid for college
  • Inquire about personal interviews at your favorite colleges
  • See your Guidance Counselor to apply for on-campus summer programs for high school students

  • Schedule and register for the SAT
  • Discuss the college essay with your Guidance Counselor and a favorite teacher
  • Consider who you will ask to write your college recommendations. Think about teachers, coaches or other adults who know you well and will write a positive letter about you
  • Look for community service time for the summer

  • Develop a summer reading list
  • Take SAT. Be sure to have the test scores sent to your schools of choice
  • Visit one or two colleges that are high on your list of choices



Summer between Junior and Senior Years
  • Some universities have excellent summer programs for high school students – see if you can participate and maybe even get some college credit!
  • Be sure to work at a job or internship that will give you some experience in a field that interests you
  • Family vacations that are educational (like going on an archaeological dig, backpacking, touring the country) provide great experience. Be sure to visit colleges in the area whenever your family takes a vacation, even if they are colleges you are not interested in attending. This will give you a feel for what colleges are like
  • Set up interviews at colleges you intend to apply to
  • Practice filling out college applications
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Compose rough drafts of your college essay
  • Create a financial aid application plan, including a list of the aid sources, requirements for each application, and a timetable for meeting the filing deadlines


Senior Year – 12th Grade
  • Continue taking a full course load of college preparatory classes and keep working on your grades!
  • Continue to participate in extracurricular and community service activities
  • For boys, make sure you register for Selective Service on your 18th birthday to be eligible for state and federal financial aid
  • Give recommendation forms, as well as addressed, stamped envelopes to the people writing you recommendations. Be sure to let them know the deadline for each school (and be sure to send them thank you notes later after they’ve written your recommendation)
  • Early Decisions are usually due November 1, so be prepared (only apply for early decision if you are very happy with your grades and test scores, and you have a very clear “top choice” school)
  • If you’re thinking of applying for Early Decision and you’re not happy with your SAT scores, take it again in October
  • Some college applications are due in December, others are due in spring. Be sure you know the application due dates for the colleges to which you are going to apply and get them in on time!
  • For colleges with rolling admissions deadlines, apply early because your chances of getting accepted will increase
  • Be sure to let those writing you letters of recommendation know when your deadlines are and any other pertinent information
  • Visit colleges and try to arrange for an overnight stay with a friend so you can get a real feel for campus life

  • Fill out and submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Study Aid) as soon as your parents’ tax returns are completed

  • Watch your mail for acceptance notifications from colleges

  • Watch your mail for notification of financial aid awards
  • Make your final choice and notify all schools of your intent by May 1. Send your nonrefundable deposit to the school of your choice.


Summer after Senior Year / Before College Freshman Year
  • If applicable, apply for a Stafford Loan through a lender (if you didn’t get enough aid in scholarships or grants, you’ll need student loans to cover your education expenses). Allow eight weeks for processing
  • Receive orientation schedule and residence hall assignment from your college
  • Obtain course scheduling information from your college
  • Congratulations! You are about to begin the greatest adventure of your life!