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College Preparation Timeline

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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.


  • Begin learning about college and if it is the right fit for you.
  • Explore your career interests and passions – Try this one!
  • Discuss the best courses to take in high school to pursue your college plans with your counselor.
  • Develop good time management and study skills. High school is right around the corner.
  • Plan a fun trip to a college campus for a sports event, lunch, or just to walk around.


  • Talk with a Financial Advisor about the cost of college and your options.
  • Encourage your student to explore their interests.
  • Introduce yourself to your school counselor in the first week. This relationship will be vital as you navigate high school and prepare for college
  • Share your goals, hobbies, and challenges with your counselor early in your high school career.
  • Get involved in extracurricular activities that excite you.
  • Ask a professional if you can shadow them for a day to understand what their career is like.
  • Prioritize getting good grades. It is much easier to start strong than recover in later grades.
  • Find volunteer organizations in your community and pitch in. This will help others and look great on your resume
  • 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.
  • Join the mailing list of 5 colleges – Try this one!
  • Explore summer programs hosted by colleges – Try this one! 
  • Big Goal – Study at least 5 hours a week, every week outside the classroom.


  • Planning a road trip? Casually visit college campuses near your destination so you and your student can get a feel for several types of colleges and locations.
  • Get to know your student’s school counselor.
  • Take time to understand your student's academic, extracurricular, home, family, and community expectations to properly support them.
  • Take a career interest assessment - Try ours!
  • Time to gain some experience that may lead to your passion. Try a job, shadow someone in a field you are interested in, or simply volunteer in your community
  • Share a list of things you are passionate about. They can help you take classes that will prepare you for the college of your dreams.
  • Talk to your parents about college costs and family resources.
  • 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.)
  • Maintain strong grades and begin practicing for the ACT or SAT exam.
  • Big Goal – Take one official college visit with a campus tour and admissions presentation.


  • Help your student create a separate email address for colleges. This email should only be used for college engagement, campus visits, and signing up for college activities and events.
  • 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. Use a financial aid estimator tool for more research – Try this one!
  • Explore National Scholarships and awards with your student. Some require significant efforts beyond grades to be competitive. Starting early is key.
  • Be available to join your student on an official college visit.
  • Talk to your counselors about taking an appropriate amount of college AP, IB, and dual credit courses, if available.
  • Visit college campuses you may want to attend. Plan for at least five official visits.
  • Go to college fairs in your area. Your high school counselor can help you learn about these.
  • Look for college admission counselors visiting your high schools. They are typically in the library, counseling office, or cafeteria.
  • Begin looking for scholarships to apply for.
  • Unsubscribe from college emails that come from places you are no longer interested in.
  • Ask teachers, counselors, and others if they would be interested in writing a letter of recommendation for you.
  • Adapt your job, extracurricular activities, community service, and hobbies to your passion, the things you want to study in college.
  • Explore the admissions process for colleges you are interested in.
  • Practice writing college essays.
  • Prepare for the ACT/SAT with practice exams and eventually take the actual test.
  • Big Goal – Make this your best academic year.


  • Allow your student to begin understanding their passion. This may mean leaving jobs or activities they no longer find interesting to make more room for their true goals.
  • Junior year is incredibly challenging academically. Many students are taking their first heavy schedule of advanced coursework. Support your student by helping them identify places to study and outline how much time they need to reach their goals. Offer to help or find tutors to assist.
  • Help your student find a professional that works in their future career field.
  • Be available for college visits, college fairs, interviews, and camps.
  • Create a time once per week to talk about “college stuff”. Keep college conversations here to ensure everyone is on the same page.


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  • Application Time! Some schools have application and scholarship deadlines as early as November. Understand the dates, deadlines, and application requirements of all your top schools so you can apply with confidence.
  • Plan your Senior Year courses in preparation for your college major freshman year courses. (Ex. If your freshman year of college requires College Calculus take Pre-Calculus or AP Calculus as a Senior.)
  • Retake ACT/SAT, if necessary.
  • Campus visits and college fairs are still available. Take the time to get those final questions answered.
  • Submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid online. Need more information – Try this!
  • Search and apply for scholarships.
  • Take your time before committing to a school. Consider the cost, location, campus, and how they will help you reach your goals.
  • Attend admitted student days at your top colleges. These visits are a bit different from prospective visits and typically offer more access to Academic Advisors, faculty, students, and campus life.
  • Finish the year with strong grades.
  • Big Goal – Apply to all your colleges by their priority deadline.


  • Have the financial fit conversation with your student before they begin applying to college. No need to apply to a school that is not a good financial fit.
  • Discuss dates and deadlines for college applications with your student. Avoid planning events around application deadlines.
  • Celebrate your first admission letter. No matter which school accepts you first; make it a celebration. All the hard work is paying off and college is in your future.
  • Be prepared for tough days. Undoubtedly every school may not be a good fit and a denial letter can be tough to swallow. Be there for your student, they need you.
  • Set aside funds for admitted student visits and an Enrollment Deposit to the college your student selects. Also, a hoodie, they will need a college hoodie to wear during the final months of high school.