College Planning Timeline

This is a three year time line that can help you stay on task as you plan for college.


• Start thinking about college. Check out a few college fairs in your area or at your school. Sign up for any college workshops that your school might offer.

• Meet with your guidance counselor to talk about your college plans. It’s important to establish a relationship with your counselor—he or she can be extremely helpful in the college and financial aid application process.

• Talk with your parents about paying for college. It’s important to have an understanding of how much you’ll be expected to contribute and who will take the responsibility for filling out the numerous financial aid forms.



• To get in the running for the National Merit Scholarship, take the PSAT/NMSQT.  

• Begin to prepare for the SAT or the ACT.

• Start to research scholarships.

• Think about which teachers, counselors, and employers you’ll ask to write your recommendations and make sure that you’re in touch with them.

• Start thinking about some of your initial college selection criteria.


• Continue to research potential colleges and start working on your “ideal college profile.”

• Register for the SAT or the ACT and continue to study.

• Begin to take stock of your transcripts, activities, and jobs. If you seem to be light on extracurricular activities get involved in a few—it’s not too late to bolster your arsenal.

• Begin to work on your scholarship essays and continue to research scholarships. (Make sure to write any scholarship application deadlines in your college application timeline.)


• Request information from colleges that interest you. Do further research on any that look interesting and start to get your initial list of possible schools together.

• Take the SAT or the ACT.

• Visit a few colleges during MEA, winter, or spring break. Just make sure that it’s not a scheduled break at the college—you want be there when the action is in full swing.

• Sign up for summer school if you need to fulfill any special requirements. Apply for a summer job or an internship and try to make it a great one. Or, consider going to study abroad for a few months—it’s a great experience and can be awesome material for your college and scholarship essays.


• Visit more colleges.

• Request additional materials and applications from colleges where you’re thinking of applying.

• Begin to work on your college and scholarship essays.

• Continue to apply for as many scholarships as possible.

• Consider taking a prep course for standardized tests.



• Schedule a formal appointment with your guidance counselor to talk about where you are in the college application process, your goals, and any questions. Talk about your preliminary college selections and get an opinion about how realistic they might be. Discuss financial aid and scholarships.

• Create a system to keep your application materials organized.

• Take the SAT or the ACT if you haven’t yet, or if you want to improve your score.

• Continue to work on your college and scholarship essays.

• Request letters of recommendation from your teachers and counselors.


• Attend college fairs to find out more about the schools you’re considering. This is a great opportunity to meet with admissions staff from numerous colleges all in one shot.

• Start working on your applications. If you’re applying Early Decision or Early Action, start with those applications.

• Order transcripts for the colleges where you’ll be applying.

• Visit more colleges if you need to.


• If you’re applying Early Decision or Early Action, send in your applications.

• Request that your standardized test scores be sent to the schools where you’re applying.

• If you haven’t yet, take the SAT or the ACT.


• Continue to work on your applications and essays for regular admission.

• Begin to collect the required materials for the FAFSA, the main financial aid application.


• Make sure to check with your prospective colleges about any financial aid forms they might require besides the FAFSA.

• File the FAFSA as soon as possible.

• Continue to apply for scholarships.

• Check with the teachers who wrote your recommendations to make sure they sent them in.

• Send in any finished college applications.

• Take the SAT, the ACT, or SAT II if you haven’t yet, or if you need to improve your score.

February - April

• Review your Student Aid Report (SAR) and make any corrections, if necessary.

• Many scholarships have late deadlines, so continue to apply for any for which you qualify.

• As your acceptance letters start pouring in around mid-April, carefully consider your options. You should also be receiving financial aid awards—contact your school(s) and ask for more money if you don’t receive enough aid.

• Visit or revisit more schools if you have to.


• By May 1st, you should have decided on a college and sent in your notification.

• Send your chosen college your tuition and dorm deposit, if required.

• Apply for any additional loans and scholarships, as needed.


• Work, travel, read, and relax! Enjoy this time and do something you’re really happy doing. It’s a good idea to take it easy, but we suggest that you read some good books to keep your brain cells working and ready for college.

Copyright by NATAVI GUIDES.


Contact: Lana Hollar