Purdue University Office of Admissions logo
Admissions and other student-facing offices have moved to the first floor of Stewart Center. Full details can be found here.

College Preparation Timeline

Deciding to go to college is a big decision and figuring out everything you need to do to prepare can be overwhelming. We’re here to help break down the timeline of what you need to do and when you need to do it to make sure you are ready for your Next Giant Leap!

How to Prepare for College

What to think about, what to do, who to talk to, what’s next.

Middle School 

  • Start saving money or discuss college finances with your parents.
  • Begin learning about college and if it is the right fit for you.
  • Explore your career interests and passions – try this one!
  • Plan to take the right courses in high school.
  • Discuss the best courses to take in high school to pursue your college plans with your counselor.

Parent Tips 

  • Open a college savings account for your student.

Freshman year

  • Have a conversation with your school counselor about the courses you’d like to be sure to take in the next four years to ensure you’re on the right path.
  • Get involved in extracurricular activities that excite you.
  • Explore internships and apprenticeships.
  • Focus on getting good grades.
  • Engage in summer volunteer and leadership opportunities.
  • Develop your support system - talk to your high school counselor, your favorite teachers and trusted adults in your community about college, and of course, talk to your parents.

Parent tipS

  • Use summer vacations and other road trips to casually stop and walk around college campuses so that your student can get a feel for different types of colleges and locations.

Sophomore year

  • Take a career interest assessment - try ours!
  • Get workplace experience – get a summer job, try shadowing someone in a field you’re interested in or volunteer within your community.
  • Start or continue to research the cost of college.
  • Make a list of the colleges you may want to visit.
  • Continue participating in extracurricular activities – theater, clubs, sports, volunteer work, etc.
  • Begin creating a list of colleges that interest you (TIP: Finding 10-15 schools that interest you is a great place to start. Consider what is important in a college to you such as location, size, cost, programs, etc. )

Parent tipS

  • Help your student stay organized by creating a list or spreadsheet so you can easily move schools up and down "the list" - for each school create columns with important items (availability of major, location, cost, etc.). As the list narrows, the columns can be expanded to include things like application deadlines, requirements, etc. 
  • Talk with your student about finances so you and your student understand who and how college will be paid for/ how much you are willing to spend on education.

Junior year

  • Take an appropriate amount of college AP, IB and dual credit courses, if available.
  • Visit college campuses you may want to attend.
  • Go to college fairs and sign up for college mailing lists. (TIP: Make a personal email account if you haven't already to use for college-related things - applications, sign-up lists, etc.) 
  • Prepare for the ACT/SAT.
  • Begin looking for scholarships to apply for.
  • Start narrowing down which colleges to look at 5 visit them if possible.
  • Unsubscribe from college emails that come from places you’re no longer interested in.
  • Ask teachers, counselors and others if they would be interested in writing a letter of recommendation for you.
  • If you haven’t already, get workplace experience.
  • Talk with a counselor about careers that interest you and see what types of majors or careers you may be interested in.
  • Learn about the admissions process for colleges you are interested in.
  • Practice writing college essays.
  • Take ACT/SAT. 

Live in Indiana? Explore Fast Start, a more affordable path to assured admission at Purdue.

Senior Year

  • Decide which schools you want to apply to (TIP: Make a list of their important deadlines so you don’t miss out! Also, make sure you use a personal email and not a high school email.)
  • Retake ACT/SAT, if necessary.
  • Submit your college application (TIP: most schools have an early action deadline that can offer additional opportunities or even scholarships!)
  • Visit schools on your shortlist.
  • Submit your FAFSA online.
  • Search and apply for scholarships.
  • Compare financial aid packages and talk about college costs with your parents.
  • Finish your grades out strong.


Connect with us!