Managing Your College Planning Timeline

Most students send in their college applications during senior year. And while your application deadline might be a ways off, you want to take time to plan ahead. Managing your college planning timeline can be a challenge. But we are here to guide you through this process, from freshman to senior year. 

Stick around to see what steps you should take when college planning and managing your timeline!

How to Manage Your Timeline in College Planning? 

You want to get a head start on college planning as soon as you can. Freshman year is the ideal time to put your plan into action. This could seem extreme, but there’s a lot you need to do before applying to college

If you’re already in your junior year, you should have already taken steps to prepare for college. If you haven’t, try to see what you can fit into your timeline before senior year!

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Your College Admissions Journey, Mapped Out!

Introducing our college planning timeline with a handy checklist of essential tasks, a step-by-step guide for every grade level, from freshman to senior year, AND financial aid, college applications, extracurricular activities, and more.

Meet With Your Guidance Counselor Early On

One of the first things we recommend doing to start the college planning process is meeting with your guidance counselor. Doing so can save you a lot of time and stress. While you can schedule your classes and research schools and academic requirements yourself, a guidance counselor is an expert at scheduling high school classes and planning for college. 

We recommend meeting with your counselor often. Get to know them as early as freshman year, and keep checking in. This way, you can get some much-needed help when planning out each year of high school, making it easier to stay on track with college educational requirements!

 Try Different Extracurriculars and Plan Your Schedule

Freshman year, try out a range of extracurricular activities. Doing so can help you figure out your passions and give you the chance to fill your schedule with different activities that will look good on your college application. 

You can join sports teams or debate clubs, perform community service, or take up an instrument. Try out many extracurriculars find an activity that you excel at to make yourself stand out. By sophomore year, we do suggest narrowing your interests to a few activities. It’s time to start focusing! 

Assess Your Academic Performance After Freshman Year

After freshman year, see how you’ve done academically. Are the courses you chose the right fit, and will you need tutors or extra help next year? You want to make sure your GPA stays consistently high throughout your academic career. Consider all of this as you plan your sophomore schedule. 

Sign up For AP and Advanced Classes

You can sign up for AP classes and other advanced classes as soon as freshman year. We recommend starting one or two AP classes your sophomore year. Then, junior year, consider taking up to four as you prepare for AP tests. Taking these advanced classes can be a real challenge, but they will boost your college application and give you an edge over other students.

 Start Learning About The SAT and ACT Sophomore Year

The SAT and ACT are important parts of the college planning process. Most people take these exams during their junior year. But, we recommend learning about the structure of these tests and studying for them as soon as your sophomore year. There are tons of online classes, prep books, and other materials that can help prepare you for either exam.

Begin Looking Into Academic Scholarships

Academic scholarships will help you fund your college dreams, but you need to do some research to see which scholarships you qualify for (or what requirements you need to meet if you hope to qualify in the future). Most scholarships don’t become available till your junior or sophomore year, but it’s still important to do research ahead of time—consider starting sophomore year—to prepare.

Think About Taking The PSAT

Taking the PSAT isn’t necessary, but if you want a little practice before the actual SAT or ACT, the PSAT is a great place to get it. You can take this exam during your sophomore and junior year. We even recommend taking it multiple times to prepare yourself for the actual SATs. Additionally, the PSAT can help you qualify for valuable National Merit Scholarships. 

Study For and Take the SAT or ACT

Obviously, you want to start studying for these standardized tests as early as possible. Sophomore year is a good time to begin getting familiar with the types of questions and information that will appear on the SAT and ACT. Plan to go to prep classes, read books, create flashcards, and do other preparation as you study. Then, take the SAT during your junior year

Keep Your Grades Consistent

As you study for the SATs, participate in extracurriculars, and plan the rest of your school year, don’t forget to maintain your grades. Colleges will consider your test scores and your GPA when you apply, so you don’t want your grades to start slipping—especially junior and senior years. 

Visit Colleges

As you research schools and narrow down your college list, start thinking about visiting college campuses. You can do this as early as your junior year. This is the perfect time to ask questions, see what campus life is like, and figure out which school will be the best academic and social fit!

Letters of Recommendation

You should cultivate strong relationships with your teachers and other leaders at school and in your community. This will help you as you begin asking for letters of recommendation. While you won’t apply for college till your senior year, you can ask for letters of recommendation at the end of your junior year

Fill Out Your College Application and FAFSA

Filling out your college application is one of the final steps of the college planning process. Students should start doing this in their senior year. Doing so requires students to write personal statements or college application essays, gather important documents like transcripts, and prep for college interviews.

This can be one of the most stressful parts of high school, but it’s important to carefully fill out any forms and applications. Take the time to fill out your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) at this time, too.

 Choose Your School

Finally, once all your applications are sent out and you hear back from your schools, you can start making a final decision. Which school you end up attending is up to you, but consider your academic goals, social needs, and other preferences. 

For more information on the College Planning Timeline download our: College Admissions Timeline

At HelloCollege, we know how difficult it can be to prepare for college and aim to make the process as simple and easy as possible. We want to help you get accepted into the university of your dreams!

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The Hello College Team

The Hello College Team

HelloCollege CEO Andrea Emmons has spent the last 15 years guiding students and families across the country on their path to college. Andrea knows the profound impact proactive college planning has on the lives of students and is passionate about mentoring families through the process.
Kevin Krebs - Founder of HelloCollege

About Our Founder

Kevin Krebs

Inspired by his parents, Kevin’s journey from a first-gen, diverse, low-income background to Northwestern University shaped him. After experiencing challenges, including student loan debt, he founded HelloCollege and has spent the last 25 years helping students successfully navigate college admissions.

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