Action Plan Calendar: What you should be doing right now

No matter your grade level, there are things you can be doing now to start preparing for college. Find your current grade level and see what you can be doing.

8th Grade | Freshman | Sophomore | Junior | Senior


8th grade Action Plan Calendar

When? What?
Year-long If it's offered, take Algebra I so that it's easier to make it to Calculus in High School. Also, take any other advanced classes that may be available to you to prepare you for other advanced or college-prep classes in High School.

Freshman Action Plan Calendar

When? What?
Fall Meet your counselor and arrange a meeting to start figuring out the classes you will take for the next four years. Doing this early helps to ensure that you are taking the right classes throughout High School. Also, your counselor is a great source for a letter of recommendation, but only if you start getting to know him or her early!
Fall Start getting involved. Colleges love to see four years of involvement in activities because it shows your ability to stick to something. Learn about opportunities in student government, sports, clubs, community service activities, or whatever you're interested in. Also, start keeping a list of things you do and awards you get. If you keep adding to this list all through High School, it will make the application season a lot easier.
Winter Start thinking about the expense of college. You will want to start saving money as soon as possible. Also, talk to your parents about the expense of college and see how much they think they can contribute. You will probably have to take out student loans eventually, but making sure that you and your parents have a plan and are saving now will help out a lot in the long run

Sophomore Action Plan Calendar

When? What?
October/ November Take the two standardized practice tests (the PLAN for the ACT and the PSAT/NMSQT for the SAT). These will help you practice for the ACT and SAT, one or both of which you will eventually have to take, and also may provide you with scholarship opportunities. While only junior-year PSAT scores will qualify for scholarships, practicing the test now will give you a much better chance to earn one next year.
December Receive your PLAN or PSAT scores.
June Many schools will require three SAT II Subject Tests. Two that you have to take, Math and Writing, should be taken in your junior year (though you can take them now for some practice if you'd like). If the third subject area is a class you took this year, however, you may want to register for the test while you still remember the subject.
Summer Consider summer school if your counselor thinks it might help you to get ahead. Participating in some personal growth activities during summer is helpful too since you'll have plenty of free time. This summer is also a good time to try to get a job. Not only will a job be a great thing to put on your application, but will also start earning you some money to save for college.
Year-long Keep adding to the list of activities you started as a Freshman. Also, check in periodically with your counselor to make sure you're still on track and to continue building a relationship with a very helpful source for a letter of recommendation.

Junior Action Plan Calendar

When? What?
October Take the PSAT even if you already did as a Sophomore. Not only is it valuable practice for the real SAT, but it is also a great opportunity to potentially earn some scholarships.
November Even though college may seem far off, now is a great time to start looking into some private and public scholarship opportunities. Some of the applications take a long time, and starting early allows you to maximize the amount of scholarships you can get and also lets you take a bit more time with each.
December Get the results of the PSAT.
January Start thinking about colleges you might like to attend. A list of about 15-20 is good to start. Talk to your parents and your counselor about ideas and preferences about college selection. Ideally, you will want to be able to narrow your selection down to about 5-10 that you can visit this summer.
March Take the SAT for the first time. Even if you don't do that well, the practice is helpful, especially if you take it this early. Also, visit the websites of the colleges you are most interested in and ask for information. They should send you a packet full of info, including financial aid documentation.
March Visit local colleges during Spring Break. Or, if possible, travel to some more distant colleges that you are interested in. Call the admissions office ahead of time to see if you can schedule a campus tour, interview, or meeting with financial aid counselors. Let the admissions officer know that you are a junior so that they can tailor your visit to your needs.
May Your High School will probably have a college fair around this time. This is one of the best opportunities you have to talk with representatives from a number of colleges that you might not be able to visit.
June Plan for your summertime. Taking a course at a local community college is a good idea as it will familiarize you with college-style classes and help you to seem dedicated and driven on your application. Taking advantage of extracurricular opportunities such as volunteer work is helpful as well. A summer job is also a great way to help build your resume and continue saving for college.
Summer Work, take community college classes, and/or volunteer. Now is also a great time to start working on your college applications. Work on your resume and incorporate some items from your list of activities and awards you have been compiling since your Freshman year. It is also a good idea to set some time aside to visit colleges during summer. Try to plan a family vacation around campus tours at some of the more distant colleges you may be interested in.
Year-long Make sure to keep your grades up. Junior-year grades are the most important when it comes to evaluating your college application. Your Senior grades probably won't be available when your application is reviewed, so getting the best grades you can this year is important for making yourself look as attractive as possible to the admissions officers

Senior Action Plan Calendar

When? What?
October You should be able to narrow down your initial list of colleges to the final few that you will be applying to. If you don't already have application materials and financial aid information from each of them, contact the school and request everything. Then, construct a master calendar with all deadlines so that you keep on track.
October Start getting your recommendation letters in order. Ask teachers, bosses, counselors, coaches, and mentors for a recommendation. To help them, give each one a resume, an envelope addressed to the appropriate place (usually the college's admissions office), and any forms that they will need to fill out. Make sure they know the deadline, as well (though it is a good idea to tell them that the letter is due a few weeks before it actually is).
October Start writing your first few drafts of your application essays and personal statement. Try to get as many people as you can to read them. Your English teacher is a very valuable resource.
November Colleges with early admissions programs typically require that your file be complete in early November. Even if you're not looking for an early decision, some colleges may also be able to give out more detailed financial aid eligibility information at this time.
January Most due dates for applications fall in January and early February. Make sure your High School and any community colleges you may have taken a class at have sent your transcripts. It is also a good idea to contact each college and make sure they have received all of your materials.
January Fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible. The application itself takes a while and requires a lot of information. The earlier you start, the more time you have to find anything that may be missing. Priority financial aid deadlines are often in February, so make sure you are before this time to get the most attractive offerings. Men 18 and older should also register for the selective service so that they can receive federal aid.
April Most colleges notify applicants in mid-April. If you are waitlisted, start preparing the materials necessary to keep yourself on the waitlist. If you were accepted, check out your financial aid package. Sometimes a phone call to the college requesting more aid pays off. You typically have to notify the school if you are attending by May 1.
Spring Many colleges offer an 'Admit Day' for admitted students to see the school again. This is a great time to meet with deans, staff, and faculty. Each college typically does all it can to entice students to attend, so these days are great times to make final comparisons.
Summer Your high school will have to send a final transcript to the college you have decided to attend. Feel free to take some college preparatory classes, or see if your chosen school offers an early Summer Start program. Continuing your summer job to get some more money in the bank is also a good idea.
Year-long Your grades still matter in your senior year, so try not to let your academics slip. Some colleges will revoke your acceptance if your grades fall too much. Most of all, enjoy your final year of high school and get yourself ready for your college career ahead.
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