College Ready

College Planning Calendar

There is a lot to do before you start college. This calendar shows you, month by month, how to stay on track.

Our planning-for-college calendar starts with your junior year. If you are a senior, scroll down to next September but read the junior year lists to make sure you’ve done the groundwork.

Freshman and sophomore years both consist of mainly required courses.  The best advice is to do the best you can in school these two years.  Take challenging courses that you can handle, keeping in mind that your GPA begins Freshman year!

September (junior year)

  • Discuss college with your family: Talk about schools, finances, majors, your future.
  • Review your courses with your school guidance counselor.
  • List questions to ask school reps at college fairs.
  • Register for the PSAT.
  • Get and stay organized: Create files for applications and correspondence. Set up a calendar to track dates and deadlines.
  • Get a professional-sounding email address: Use something based on your name or hobby; nothing cutesy or eyebrow-raising.

October–November (junior year)

  • Attend college fairs  and financial aid nights.
  • Take the PSAT.
  • Start searching for scholarships and ways to pay for your education.  Click on the scholarships page on this site.
  • Review different kinds of schools and think about what’s important to you.
  • Learn the basics about federal student loans and private student loans..
  • Plan and make college visits.

December (junior year)

  • Review your PSAT results with your counselor.
  • Talk with your college friends about their schools.
  • Take the SAT and ACT (at least once).

January (junior year)

  • Identify what you want in a college.
  • Attend college fairs and financial aid nights.

March (junior year)

  • Plan campus visits.
  • Generate a list of at least 10 institutions you could attend.
  • Contact the financial aid office those schools to discuss payment options.
  • Keep up college discussions with your family and counselors.
  • Estimate how much various colleges will cost.

April–May (junior year)

  • Select senior year classes. Check with your counselor to ensure your courses meet college requirements.
  • Start visiting colleges
  • Take the SAT and/or ACT  if necessary.
  • Take Advanced Placement (AP) tests, if necessary.
  • Line up a summer job to earn extra money.
  • Meet with your high school counselor if you are considering a military academy or an ROTC scholarship.

Summer

  • Improve your reading and vocabulary skills.
  • Continue searching for scholarships and ways to pay.
  • Combine vacation plans with campus visits.
  • Start working on your college application essays.
  • Talk to people in interesting careers. See how they got there and what they do every day. Ask yourself if you would like to follow the same path.
  • Decide who you’ll ask to write letters of recommendation.
  • Talk with college friends home on break about their schools.

September (senior year)

  • Discuss your classes, college plans, and test scores with your high school counselor.
  • Request college applications from the admissions office.
  • Arrange campus visits.
  • Register for the October SAT/ACT, if necessary.
  • Continue to search for free money  (scholarships and grants) and other ways to pay.
  • File copies of your applications and correspondence. Keep your calendar up-to-date; track important dates and deadlines.

October (senior year)

  • Take the SAT and/or ACT tests if you haven’t already
  • Review your  transcripts to verify that the information is correct.
  • Send transcripts to your selected schools. Ask your counselor if you need help.
  • Find out the application-of-choice used by each college (customized, Common App, online, etc.).
  • Ask for letters of recommendation. Some admissions and most scholarship applications require these letters.
  • Get some pointers on writing admissions essays and scholarship essays.
  • Attend college fairs and financial aid nights.
  • Candidates for early admissions (early decision, early action, early admission, etc.) should complete and submit their applications. Early decision deadlines are often November 1 or 15. Investigate the pros and cons of this decision and get familiar with the early admission timeline on our early admission  page.

November (senior year)

  • Continue completing your college applications.
  • Determine which financial aid forms the colleges on your list require. When in doubt, contact the financial aid office.
  • Investigate state college information and programs.
  • Search for other ways to pay.
  • Get a jump on things by estimating your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

December (senior year)

  • Submit  school applications ideally by December 1.
  • Review the steps to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). (Don’t submit your FAFSA before January 1. It will be returned unprocessed.)
  • Take SAT  or Achievement tests.
  • Stay Organized. Continue to keep copies of everything and track important dates and deadlines on your calendar.

January (senior year)

  • Submit your FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible. Some student aid programs award funds on a first-come, first-served basis. Waiting too long to submit your FAFSA can be costly.
  • Fill out and submit required financial aid forms. Follow the instructions carefully and make copies.
  • If you have financial aid questions, contact your financial aid office.
  • Familiarize yourself with state financial deadlines. . They can differ from federal and school deadlines.
  • Take advantage of education tax deductions and credits.

February–March (senior year)

  • College acceptance and financial aid award letters start coming in.
  • Watch for your  Student Aid Report (SAR). Carefully review it because a mistake could cause you to miss out on college funding.
  • If there are special circumstances affecting your family’s financial situation, discuss them with the financial aid office.
  • Don’t panic if you’re selected for verification. Just provide the documents they request.
  • Stay on top of financial aid deadlines.
  • Respond quickly to requests for additional documentation.

April (senior year)

  • NOTE:  This process can be much sooner for many colleges.
  • Carefully analyze your award letters: Use College Answer’s Online Award Analyzer.
  • Decide on a school and send your tuition deposit (most colleges require a response by May 1).
  • Notify the other colleges that you won’t be attending. (Other students will be happy to take your spot.)
  • Register for Advanced Placement (AP) tests, if necessary.
  • Carefully follow the instructions in your acceptance letter. Along with important deadlines, these letters provide specific instructions on housing, financial aid, orientation, and more.
  • Continue to mark your calendar with important deadlines.

May (senior year)

  • Respond quickly to requests and return necessary forms. When in doubt, contact the financial aid office.
  • Notify your financial aid office of additional funding you’ll get for college (scholarships and loans, etc.).
  • Consider a cosigner  to help you get your student loan.
  • If you take out a student loan, borrow only what you absolutely need to cover the cost of your education. When it’s time to repay, you’ll have other financial obligations, too.
  • Save some of your graduation money for school.

June (senior year)

  • Respond to requests from the college you will be attending. Keep copies of everything you send.
  • Send final transcripts.
  • Read and be familiar with your college catalog, website, and class schedules.
  • Ask friends who are home from college for advice.
  • Make travel arrangements, if necessary.
  • Send thank you notes or emails to those who helped you get into college.

July–August

  • Confirm housing arrangements and meal plans.
  • Finalize your college budget.
  • Apply for private student loans  if more funding is needed.
  • Follow up and finalize private loan applications.
  • Notify the financial aid office of all scholarships and loans you will receive.
  • Consider taking out a renter’s insurance policy.
  • Keep tracking numbers of any boxes you are shipping to school.
  • Open a bank account near campus.
  • Review your cell phone plan to limit roaming charges.
  • Contact your roommate and coordinate what to bring.
  • Attend orientation.
  • Pack and get ready for college!