High School and College Planning Timeline

By Collegewise

Sophomore Year

  • Take the PSAT or Aspire exams if available at your high school.
  • Fall: Maintaining grades is important, as performance in the first semester can have an impact on whether you will be allowed to pursue IB, AP, or Honors options when you sign up for courses in the spring. Consider broadening the scope of your extracurricular activities or diving deeper into the things you already enjoy.
  • Spring: Plan out junior and senior year courses in a way that challenges you but also feels manageable. A good rule of thumb is that students should be taking the hardest classes they can while still maintaining A’s and B’s, participating in the extracurricular activities they love, and getting enough sleep. This is also a good time of year to begin the college search process and visit some campuses to get a sense of the options that are available to you.
  • Summer: All colleges in the US accept either the SAT or the ACT.  Take a practice test to determine which exam suits you best.  Develop a testing calendar and prep schedule.

Junior Year

  • Grades and performance in coursework is crucial. In many cases, your junior year grades will be the most recent marks that colleges will see when making their admissions decisions.
  • Finish any test prep and take the SAT or the ACT. There is no reason to prep for both. 
  • Fall: Visit some college campuses if possible and continue to expand your college searchConsider possible majors that might be of interest, but remember that you don’t necessarily have to choose a major before you go to college.
  • Spring: 
    • Complete second and third (if necessary) testing sessions before calling it quits. Taking the test more than three times is rarely helpful, and your time is probably better spent on other things that you find more enjoyable.
    • Schedule official visits to campuses during winter and/or spring breaks. Make sure you don’t just visit ultra-selective colleges!
    • Start to narrow down your college list. Most Collegewise students finalize their college list by the end of June, giving them time in the summer before senior year to work on applications and essays. Make sure that you have a reasonable mix in terms of selectivity.  We recommend that our students have at least two safety schools, two to five target schools, and one to three reach schools.
    • Determine if you need to take any SAT Subject Tests. The June test date is great for this, since the subjects will frequently align with the classroom finals you are already taking.
  • Summer: Get as much college application writing out of the way as possible. Most of the time, our Collegewise students will complete their personal statements during the summer, and most have written several supplements as before they head back to school.

Senior Year

  • Fall: Finalize supplements and submit applications EARLY! There’s never a benefit to waiting until deadlines are looming, and many colleges with Rolling Admissions will read applications in the order that they arrive on campus, so those who apply early get an advantage.  It also allows time for you to verify that colleges have received all of your materials (test scores, transcripts, etc.) well before the deadline. Schedule interviews for colleges that offer or request them.
  • Spring: Let the good news roll in and make your final decision about where to spend the next four years.  Deposits are almost always due May 1st.

Click Here to read “How to Make the Most of a College Visit”.

Related posts

YES, Your College-Aged Child Still Needs You. Here’s How to Stay Connected.


Countdown to College: Tips to Help Students Find Their Fit


It’s College Essay Time 


Subscribe now and join the family!

Subscribe to the Good Life Family e-newsletters and automatically receive updates on new Good Life Family issues, articles, events, deals and coupons.

  • Stay up to date on the latest issues and articles
  • Get access to special deals and coupons
  • Automatically be entered in contests and giveaways
Close this popup