Friday, October 21, 2011

When/How to Start the College Application Search

The following timeline is a general overview of key college application deadlines.  It is also a suggested list of "things to do" during each academic year of high school.  This timeline is not an exhaustive list of deadlines but a framework for a student to follow in preparing for post secondary education.

9th Grade
*Create a college application folder:  data to be included includes general personal information, family military background, professional associations of parents, job experiences, volunteer experiences, and such.
*Take challenging academic classes and study!  Meet with a guidance counselor and establish a four year academic plan, at least, and beyond if possible.  It should be very directive so to keep you on a post secondary track but flexible so to allow for changes in situations for which you have no control (i.e. a family move)
*If you are not involved in your community, start now.  Take leadership roles in school and community activities. 

10th Grade
*Start to request college brochures and making comparisons.  Research the colleges in which you have a strong interest.
*Take the PSAT and the PLAN.  These tests can give you a gauge on how you will perform on the ACT or SAT in your junior year.

11th Grade
*Take Advanced Placement courses if at all possible.  If your school district does not offer AP courses, check into the possibility of taking such a course with a neighboring district.
*Visit schools and attend college fairs.
*Begin to conduct free scholarship searches and collect scholarship applications.
*Start looking for and speaking with people you plan to use as references.
*Register for and take ACT/SAT in the first semester of this year; this allows for a retake if necessary
*Get a social security card if you don't have one.

12th Grade
*Retake the ACT/SAT if necessary
*Take advanced coursework when possible.
*Secure letters of recommendation for scholarship applications.
*Apply to colleges; be aware of application fee guidelines as some applications cost a nice chunk of change.
*Apply for scholarships.
*Send in your FAFSA (parents responsibility).
*Mail thank you notes to references.
*Commit to a college as early as possible so as to focus on financial support for that school; review that school's scholarships

Source:  Rosen, David & Mladen, Caryn.  Free $ For College For Dummies. Wiley Publishing. 2003.

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