College Search Timeline
Fall of Your Junior Year
Take the PSAT
Start making a list of colleges you are interested in
This should be an on-going process. By this time you should become serious about those schools you are truly interested in and can afford. Spend some time reading the articles in this publication about what to look for in a college.
Start coming up with a standardized testing plan
Talk to your school counselors about putting a plan together to improve on the PSAT score. You should almost treat this as another course. Set aside some time to master the SAT or ACT.
Begin looking at financial aid options
There are thousands of organizations willing to help you with your college education. They do not come to you; you have to find them. See your school counselor about financial aid opportunities, especially scholarships, in your community.
Winter and Spring of Your Junior Year
Continue to look for scholarships
Now is the time to start getting serious about scholarships. Determine eligibility requirements. Many competitions occur over the summer of junior-senior year.
Narrow down your list of colleges and set dates to visit during the spring
You should never enroll in or even apply to a college without first visiting the campus. Visit the campus when classes are in session and definitely stay in the dorms on a Friday or Saturday night. (See our tips for making a campus visit.)
Take the SAT/ACT
Take it the first time in the spring of your junior year. You may want to take the test again in the fall of your senior year.
Summer Between Your Junior and Senior Years
Many schools have “summer experiences” where you live and study at the school for a week or more. If you have a particular college (or maybe two max) that you are interested in and it may be difficult to get into, your participation in their “summer experience” and excelling at it may be the deal maker for you. But beware that these weeks typically have a fee.
Fall of Your Senior Year
Re-take standardized tests if you need to raise your score
Get letters of recommendation
Application essays, recommendations and forms
The application forms and essays can be daunting, so start writing drafts early in the fall! And remember that the people you ask for recommendations are busy and will need time to complete them, so ask them as soon as you know you want to apply to a particular college.
Have admissions applications completed and finalized well before deadlines. And there may be some advantage to getting in early before space fills up at the colleges to which you are applying. Whatever you do, don’t wait until the last minute. This is your responsibility and no one else’s!
Winter and Spring of Your Senior Year
Submit FAFSA form for aid
If you will need to take out a federally subsidized student loan, this application is due as soon as possible after January 1st and before any college deadlines. You will need your parents to complete most of this. Don’t show it to them on December 28th!
Complete any last-minute applications
Don’t wait until the deadline to send in your applications! If you haven’t submitted them yet, you are running out of time…
Compare your options
This is decision time! Read the article on finding the right college for you and make sure that whichever college you choose is 1) one that you can afford and 2) one that will help you become the person you want to be.
Copyright © 2020 The Cardinal Newman Society. Permission to reprint without modification to text, with attribution to author and to The Cardinal Newman Society, and (if published online) hyperlinked to the article on the Newman Society’s website. The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Cardinal Newman Society.