Year-by-Year College Application Checklist

The start of a new fall semester takes on a different meaning for parents with college-bound students. Juniors and seniors in particular have a great deal to think about—from doing college research to scheduling the SAT or ACT, from staying focused on keeping grades up to filling out college applications. As your teen makes his or her college plans, this four-year checklist will help you both stay on track.

FRESHMAN YEAR

September

  • To get off on the right foot, your teen should meet with the guidance counselor, who can help him or her register for an appropriate college-preparatory course schedule.
  • Consider registering for ACT Aspire, the ACT’s new student readiness assessment system. Learn more at www.discoveractaspire.org.

October

  • Attend college fairs in the area (many are held in October and November). The National Association for College Admission Counseling website has a robust fall lineup of college fairs around the country—visit www.nacacnet.org for dates and locations. Your teen can also check with the guidance counseling office for local or regional college fairs.

November

  • Research pre-college programs or classes. Many colleges, such as Northwestern University, Villanova University, Babson College and the University of Dallas, to name a few, offer enrichment programs for high school students. Some community colleges, too, offer high school students opportunities to take college classes as early as freshman year.

December/January

  • Stay on the right track by seeking help if your teen’s first semester report card is not up to expectations. If needed, talk with a guidance counselor or Huntington Learning Center about supplemental education services that would help your teen correct learning gaps and build skills and knowledge.

February/March

  • Start discussing possible college majors with your teen. With summer coming up, encourage your teen to think about opportunities to explore different careers, such as unpaid or paid internships, classes or even informal job shadowing with an adult family member or friend.

April

  • Start exploring financial aid options for college—it’s never too early!

SOPHOMORE YEAR

September/October

  • Register for the ACT’s new student readiness assessment system, ACT Aspire. Learn more at www.discoveractaspire.org.
  • Register for the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), a practice SAT for sophomores and juniors that also gives your teen a chance to be considered for National Merit Scholar programs. Talk with the guidance counselor to get PSAT dates and visit www.collegeboard.com/psat to learn more.
  • Attend any college fairs in the area.
  • Encourage your teen to meet any college representatives that come to school.
  • Start researching scholarships, both online and through the guidance counseling office.

November

  • Research pre-college programs in areas of interest to your teen.
  • Explore dual-enrollment programs at colleges or community colleges in your area. These programs offer high school students the opportunity to earn high school and college credit at the same time 

December/January

  • Continue to explore financial aid options.
  • Evaluate academic progress and encourage your teen to stay in touch with the guidance counselor.

February/March/April

  • Investigate summer tutoring programs to help your teen overcome school problems, raise grades or even enrich his or her studies.
  • Consider visiting colleges over spring break.

May

  • Begin exploring summer SAT/ACT preparatory programs.

JUNIOR YEAR

September

  • Have your teen start the year with a meeting with the guidance counselor to ensure he or she is taking the right courses and aware of all college-related deadlines in the next two years.
  • Have your teen sign up for the PSAT/NMSQT scheduled for October 16 & 19, 2014. Talk with a guidance counselor to register (online registration is not available). Learn more at www.collegeboard.com.

October

  • Attend fall college fairs at school or in the area.
  • Have your teen begin to narrow down the list of target colleges. Your teen should develop an “A” list of his or her first choices and a “B” list of backup schools.
  • Consider visiting colleges over fall or holiday break. Call the admissions office to ask about tours.

November

  • Contact the financial aid offices at colleges of interest to begin to explore your family’s financial aid options: loans, grants, scholarships and work-study.

February

  • Talk with the high school Advanced Placement (AP) coordinator if your teen plans to take AP exams in early May. Learn more at www.collegeboard.com/ap.
  • Have your teen explore scholarships with the help of the guidance counselor to ensure he or she meets all application deadlines. 

March/April

  • Consider visiting colleges over spring break. Call the admissions office to ask about tours.
  • Your teen should take the SAT (www.collegeboard.com) or ACT (www.act.org) in the spring. The anticipated SAT is March 14-15, May 2-3 and June 6-7, 2015. The anticipated ACT is April 18 and June 13, 2015

May

  • Talk with the guidance counselor to learn more about SAT Subject Tests and whether the colleges in which your teen is interested require or recommend them. Learn more at www.collegeboard.com.
  • Schedule visits to colleges this summer.
  • Consider registering your teen for a summer SAT or ACT exam preparation program to help your teen raise his or her SAT or ACT score.
  • Have your teen request letters of recommendation from teachers, coaches and others, especially if applying to early decision/early action programs.

SENIOR YEAR

September

  • If applying to early decision or early action programs with October or November deadlines, have your teen begin the college application process.
  • Encourage your teen to begin working on application essays.

October

  • If needed, your senior should retake the ACT or SAT to improve his or her score. 

November

  • Pay attention to application deadlines. Many colleges require freshman applicants to complete and turn in all paperwork as early as January 1.

January

Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1. This application will be used to determine your teen’s eligibility for federal aid. It will also be used by states and colleges to calculate your teen’s financial aid packages. Learn more at www.fafsa.ed.gov

February

  • Seniors enrolled in Advanced Placement classes should register for AP exams in May.

March/April

  • Keep an eye out for your teen’s Student Aid Report (SAR), which will arrive between four and six weeks after you submitted the FAFSA. Schools listed on the FAFSA will also receive a copy and will use that to develop your teen’s financial aid package of scholarships, grants, loans and work-study.
  • Keep an eye out for college acceptance letters. Colleges should notify accepted students by April 1.

May

  • Make a decision and have your teen submit his or her acceptance of admission to the school that he or she will attend! Many colleges require students to confirm their enrollment by May 1.

 

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