College planning timeline: Juniors and seniors

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

FALL

  • It's never too late to improve your grades. Colleges look for an upward trend. Your GPA and class rank are important for college admission and scholarships.
  • Specialize your involvement in activities. Concentrate on your special talents, abilities and interests. Colleges look for consistency and depth in activities, as well as variety.
  • If you are interested in a military academy, start the application process now.
  • See your guidance counselor.
  • Sign up to meet with college representatives who visit your high school.
  • Attend Kiwanis and other local college fairs in the area. See your counselor for dates and times.
  • Develop leadership skills by accepting responsibility.
  • Participate in the practice program for the PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test).
  • Prepare for and take the PSAT/NMSQT. Discuss your scores with your counselor.
WINTER
  • Take the EMPT (Early Math Placement Test) if available to determine how strong your math skills are.
  • Think about where you would like to go to college. Size, costs, location and academic programs are some of the things to consider. Explore the Internet.
  • Write to request college catalogs. Consult college guidebooks. Talk to your counselor.
  • Continue to research information about scholarships and other kinds of financial aid.
  • Attend your school's financial aid night. Take a parent or guardian if possible.
  • Study for the ACT and SAT tests. Study guides, prep courses and computer tutorials are available in every high school.
  • Register for the early spring ACT and/or SAT tests.
  • If you are planning to apply to a highly selective college, the SAT II subject test may be required. See your guidance counselor.
  • Take the ACT and/or SAT tests.
SPRING
  • Continue to take a full course load of college prep courses in your senior year. It will pay off later.
  • Discuss post-secondary enrollment options with your guidance counselor.
  • Discuss ACT/SAT scores with your guidance counselor. If necessary, develop a plan to increase your scores when you take the tests again in your senior year.
  • Apply for a summer job. It's important to save most of your earnings for college. Be prepared to pay for college application, financial aid and testing fees in the fall.
SUMMER
  • Visit as many college campuses as you can.
  • Talk with students currently enrolled at the colleges and/or alumni who live in the Columbus area.
  • Read, read, read.
  • Become involved in the community by volunteering.
  • Participate in summer academic enrichment activities, such as Summer Scholars.
FALL
  • All male students must register for selective service on their 18th birthday to be eligible for federal and state financial aid.
  • Read thoroughly through all the mail you receive from colleges.
  • Consult with your guidance counselor.
  • Continue to improve your grades.
  • Don't just take the easy courses. The more you are challenged, the better prepared you will be for the first year of college.
  • Continue your specialized activities demonstrating initiative, creativity, commitment and leadership. Consider a more active role. (Get involved in student government or a project.)
  • Narrow your college choices to four.
  • Attend local college fairs.
  • Be sure you are enrolled in the college prep courses needed for college admission.
  • If you haven't taken the ACT or SAT, register now.
  • Sign up to meet with college representatives who visit your high school.
  • Make more college visits, if necessary, to narrow your choice.
  • Apply for scholarship and talent grants. See your guidance counselor or college representative for more information.
  • Search for scholarships on the Internet.
  • Obtain letters of recommendation (teachers, employers, counselors, volunteer organizations, etc.)
  • Meet college application deadlines. Apply early. Be sure you have applied to at least one college you know you can afford, and where you will most likely be accepted.
  • Order the CSS Profile if required by your university.
  • Keep copies of everything you send.
JANUARY
  • Finish completing your college admission and financial aid applications. All applications should be sent prior to winter break. Keep a copy of everything you send.
  • Obtain the need analysis forms: Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from the guidance office. The FAFSA may not be processed prior to January 1. The form also is available on the Internet.
  • Write to the colleges of your choice for their own institutional financial aid applications (some require separate forms).
  • Attend the financial aid night at your high school.
  • Collect college financial and tax information in preparation for completing your financial aid application.
  • Register for financial aid forms assistance nights, which are held in February.
  • See your guidance counselor for your college's specific financial aid deadlines.
FEBRUARY
  • Be sure all forms necessary for admission and all possible financial aid applications have been submitted (keep copies).
  • Attend college workshops in your school.
  • Pass the 12th grade proficiency tests.
MARCH/APRIL
  • When you receive your Student Aid Report (SAR), review it with your guidance counselor.
  • By now you should have received the financial aid award notice from colleges.
  • Discuss results with your guidance counselor.
  • Return acceptance form (for admission and financial aid) to the college you plan to attend. Include all appropriate fees.
MAY
  • Finalize your college choice. If possible, do not make your selection without having made a campus visit.
  • Withdraw your application from admission and financial aid from the colleges you have decided not to attend.
  • Complete the follow-up paperwork for the college (examples: scheduling orientation session, sending housing deposit, having a medical exam, etc.).
  • Notify the guidance office of your college of choice and request a final transcript be sent to the college in June.
JUNE
  • If applicable, apply for a Stafford Direct Loan through a lender. Allow six weeks for processing the loan.
  • Receive orientation schedule from the college.
  • Receive residence hall assignment from the college.
  • Receive course scheduling information and cost information from the college. This may be done during orientation.
  • Congratulations! You've done a great job. Best wishes!