When preparing for college, there are many things to consider. Listed here are just a few recommendations for each year of high school.
This is the year students begin earning credits toward high school graduation. It is also the year that the high school transcript begins, which will aid in college admission. These grades will also determine eligibility for Honors classes in the sophomore year. This is the time to start exploring skills and interests leading to a future career by getting involved in student leadership, extra-curricular activities, and community service projects. These activities not only help students develop life experience skills, but also build a great resume for college admission and scholarships.
In this year of high school, students should consider registering for Honors classes. These classes are an important step toward developing time management skills, increasing academic rigor, and strengthening critical thinking skills. It also continues to build an impressive college preparatory transcript. Students should continue in student leadership, extra-curricular activities, and community service to add to their student resume. This is a good time to start researching colleges, visiting campuses, and attending college preview days. This is also a good time to start studying and preparing for the PSAT test, which will be taken in the fall of the junior year.
Juniors should continue to register for Honors classes and build a strong academic transcript. Continuing student leadership, extra-curricular activities and community service is also important. This is also a critical year for college and career exploration, especially if you haven’t started this process yet. Start researching and visiting college campuses and make a list of possible college choices. As you visit campuses, make note of what you liked, what majors were profiled at each school, and any other important facts that will help you make a college decision. Many college scholarships are available for high school juniors, too, so this is the time to sign up with a scholarship website and begin the scholarship search.
In early fall, juniors and seniors will attend the National College Fair at the Minneapolis Convention Center. There are literally hundreds of colleges, technical schools, and military options for students to explore, as well as workshops on financial aid, college entrance and scholarship essay writing, and college options. This fair is sponsored by the National Council of College Admissions Counselors and is an excellent source of college prep material and information. Parents are also welcome to attend this fair.
In mid-October, juniors participate in the PSAT/NMSQT test. This standardized test is a pre-test for the ACT or the SAT. This score gives a student insight into the testing process before it will count toward college admission decisions since PSAT scores are not sent to colleges. Scores are only reported to the student and the high school. When students receive their scores, they are also given access to a study website designed specifically for them based on their results. This website will also help the student through the process of career evaluation, college searches, and financial aid information. There are two test dates for the PSAT; CLA participates in this test on the Wednesday test date. Students do not need to register for this test.
The spring of this year is the suggested time to take the ACT; however, it could be taken sooner if preferred. The suggested test dates are in April and June. Students register for this test on-line or there are paper registration packets in the Guidance office, as well as practice exams. The registration fee is $34 without the writing option, $49.50 with the writing option. Some colleges require the writing option, so check with your preferred college to register for the appropriate test. The writing portion does not affect the composite score on the ACT in a positive or negative way, so if you are unsure what your preferred college requires, register for the writing option, also. There are deadlines for registration; if you miss them, you must wait for the next test date or pay a late fee of an additional $21.
Senior year is a busy time for college planning. Here is a timeline to help stay on track.
- If you want to retake your ACT, now is the time to do it. Statistically, students will score one to two points higher on a retake of this test, or stay the same. But sometimes that one to two points can make a difference on acceptance and/or scholarship money given, so it can be worth it. There are September and October test dates that keep you on a good timeline for college acceptance, too.
- Apply for financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Submit this application as soon after October 1 as possible, but you will need your family and student tax information. Make sure to meet your college deadline for this application – it may be different for all universities. If you are a male, as soon as you turn 18 years of age you must register with Selective Service to receive federal financial aid.
- Narrow your list of colleges to approximately five to eight and start applying! There is a strong suggestion to apply to at least one school before Thanksgiving – more if possible/desired. Many universities have a December 1 deadline for priority admissions. Be sure to fill out a transcript request with the Guidance office, too.
- Request letters of recommendation from teachers, pastors, work/volunteer supervisors – anyone who knows you well and can speak to your work ethic, responsibility, and character. Some applications will have a specific form to print for recommendations, so be sure to look for that during the application process. Be kind with this request – give plenty of time before deadlines, provide a stamped, addressed envelope to the college (or at least the address!), and make sure to send a thank you.
- Visit more colleges – especially if you have only visited campus on a CLA field trip. Register with admissions for an individual tour and admissions meeting, especially with your top two schools.
- As soon as you have received acceptance, complete your Housing Application. Completing this does not mean you must attend that school, so complete at multiple schools if you haven’t made a final decision yet. You will need to make a housing deposit, too, but if you meet the required deadlines, you will get the deposit back if you choose another school. This application is just to make sure you are on the list for housing and you have a better chance at getting your first choice for residence hall.
- Review acceptance letters – you should get acceptance letters and financial aid offers by mid-April at the latest.
- Compare your aid awards from different colleges and talk to financial aid officers at your college if you have questions about the award offered. Make sure to only accept what you need if offered loans – you may be offered more than just what covers tuition, but that means more debt so watch the numbers closely.
- Make your final choice by May 1. Typically, you must tell every college of your acceptance or rejection of offers of admission or financial aid by May 1.