Your 14-Step College Planning Guide

Your 14-Step College Planning Guide
  • Opening Intro -

    You are a high school sophomore and college seems remotely in the future.

    But, that will soon change when you enter your junior year, as achieving your best grades and taking your first college entrance examinations will take place early on your college preparation agenda.


You will also begin to consider colleges, a decision that you may finalize early in your senior year. The college planning process will begin once you finish your sophomore year and will end sometime before you graduate from high school.

Step 1 — Why go to college? You may assume that you will attend college, but that assumption may be based on someone else’s expectations, not your needs. Ask yourself what kind of work you would like to do. You may discover that you don’t need a degree, rather you need on-the-job training supplemented by some classes. Or, you may decide you want to serve in the military. Use the summer months between your sophomore and junior year to answer this question.

Step 2 — If college isn’t for you, then the remaining steps are not necessary. For everyone else, you will want to review your skills, your high school class load and determine what classes, if any, you still need to have to prepare for college. For instance, if you know that you will major in science while in college, you may need to adjust your schedule to take in a Biology or an Earth Science class, or a lab. Do this assessment at the start of your junior year.

Step 3 — Meet with your guidance counselor. You’re feeling more confident about college, but you want to ensure that you’re on the right path. Make an appointment with your guidance counselor to discuss your educational aspirations. He can advise you on any course correction you may to take now and what you can do to prepare for college. Discuss your anticipated college major and schools that interest you. Make this appointment in the fall of your junior year.

Step 4 — Prepare for your college admissions testing. During the middle of your junior year, begin studying for your college entrance examination. If a preliminary test is available, sign up and take one. Use study guides to help you prepare.

Step 5 — Search for colleges. By spring of your junior year, you should be actively looking at colleges. Visit college websites, read up on each school and the programs that interest you, and find five or six schools that interest you. If you need more information, contact the school directly.

Step 6 — Make your college campus visits. The summer between your junior and senior year is when you want to visit the schools that interest you. Try to visit when classes are in session and meet with an admissions representative. Before you start your senior year, eliminate those schools that no longer interest you.

Step 7 — Take your admissions tests. Early in your senior year of high school you will take your college entrance tests. Register for same and take the tests again in the spring if you want to try for a higher grade.

Step 8 — Prepare to apply. Once you start your senior year, you will need to write your college applications, obtain recommendations and write your college essays. Set aside September and October to get this done.

Step 9 — Apply to college. With your essays and applications done, and your recommendations received, you’re ready to apply to college. For early acceptance, apply by early November, otherwise apply later, but well before the application deadline.

Step 10 — Review your college costs. Know what each college will cost and apply for scholarships. Review your financial aid options and submit your Free Application For Student Aid early in the new year. Review your Student Aid Report when it has been received.

Step 11 — Review each application decision. If accepted at two or more colleges, choose the one you want to attend. Notify the college of your decision to attend as soon as possible, but before the May 1 deadline.

Step 12 — Finish high school. Your last several months of high school should be enjoyed! Spend time with your friends and make memories. Keep your grades up and complete your senior year with a flourish.

Step 13 — Prepare for college. Make good use of the summer between high school and college. Begin to assemble everything that you will need for your dorm room and handle loose ends such as your financial aid. Balance a summer job with spending time with your friends.

Step 14 — Leave for college. You’re now ready to head off to college. Use a checklist to ensure that you bring everything with you. Open a student checking account, obtain a credit card, update your cell phone account and make sure that you have health insurance coverage. Go to college!

College Considerations

Your college planning spanned nearly two years, but the crunch time was between the last few months of your junior year and the first few months of your senior year. Use a planner, develop a checklist and diligently keep tabs on deadlines and due dates to ensure that you are on track and ready to go to college.

Author Information

Paul Stephen writes from Nipissing University, which provides psychology degree programs that are both rewarding and flexible. Students can choose from social science-oriented or scientific and research-focused courses.

College Financing reference:

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