The College Planner provides a month-by-month list of action steps to get students ready for college. Look for your year in high school or the current month, and note the actions you need to take. Review any months that have passed and begin doing as many steps as possible. If you have any questions, contact your school counselor, or a College Access Center.
Each year in high school is important if you want to keep your options open for life after graduation. Whether you are planning to go to work, a training program or a college directly after school, the courses you plan to take in high school will matter. To keep your options open and to plan for college you should take the following courses in high school:
English: 4 years of college preparatory English
Mathematics: 4 years of college preparatory mathematics, including at least Algebra I & II and Geometry
Science: 3 years of college preparatory science (with laboratory) such as Chemistry or Physics
Foreign Language: at least 2 years of a single foreign language, such as Spanish or French
Social Studies: 3 years
Electives: Students generally may select additional courses from the categories listed above, as well as computer science, visual and performing arts and humanities.
√ Begin to use websites to help you learn about careers, colleges, and financial assistance options. Check with your teachers or College Access Center to get internet addresses.
√ Request from your school the opportunity to take the (PSAT/NMSQT) Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It’s a standardized test that provides practice for the SAT. It also gives you a chance to enter NMSC scholarship programs and gain access to college and career planning tools.
√ Begin exploring different career opportunities and the postsecondary education required for these careers. Use websites including The Internet Career Connection (www.iccweb.com) and Education Planner (www.educationplanner.org) to take a career assessment or an interest inventory to help you learn more about your interests, talents, and skills. Talk with the College Access Program, your teachers and your guidance counselor for more help with career exploration.
√ Research and register for summer enrichment programs and internships to have new experiences and develop new skills.
√ Become a part of student government, a school newspaper, an athletic team, a school club, a community agency, a band or orchestra or dance team, a youth group at church or anything that interests you and will either enhance skills you already have or give you new ones. Look for a job to give you experience and money. All these things will help you become the well-rounded student whom college admissions officers value.
√ Increase the amount of reading you do outside of schoolwork. Read newspapers every day and novels with subjects you enjoy.
√ Cost: Do not let the cost of a college education scare you away. There are many kinds of financial aid programs available and the College Access Program staff is available to help you understand and apply for aid. Visit your College Access Center to discuss how to finance your college education.
√ Family: Discuss college with your family. Take your parents or guardians to a College Access Center.
√ Register for the Preliminary SAT Test (PSAT) held in October.
√ Find out about and attend any college fairs in your school or in the community.
√ Sign up for extracurricular activities.
√ Continue career exploration throughout junior year.
√ Take the PSAT.
√ Have a family discussion about tentative college plans.
√ Start exploring information about colleges you might attend. Talk with your high school guidance counselor and teachers.
√ Collect information from college fairs and websites, attend college presentations at your high school, read college guides and visit the nearest College Access Center.
√ Attend the Philadelphia National College Fair.
√ Find out the following about colleges: application procedures, admission requirements (standardized test scores, grade point averages and class rank), size, location, fees, room and board costs, student activities, courses or major offerings and financial aid procedures.
√ Review senior year course selection, graduation requirements and college plans with guidance counselor.
√ Sign up for an SAT/ACT preparation course. Look online for courses, assistance or helpful preparation tools like “Question of the Day” on test preparation websites.
√ Register for the Spring SAT/ ACT.
√ Begin narrowing down your list of colleges to which you will apply.
√ Check with the College Access Program or your guidance office for scheduled trips to college campuses.
√ Register for SAT Subject tests (optional). Some colleges require the SAT Subject tests. Research the admission requirements of colleges in which you are interested.
√ May/June: Take the SAT and/or ACT.
√ If you are interested in visual or performing arts, ask about developing your portfolio or audition.
√ Gather applications, forms, catalogs and information about financial aid for chosen colleges. Check with the high school guidance counselor and the nearest College Access Center. Email, call or write to college admission office.
√ Investigate the process of applying online using college websites. Computers with internet connections are available at all College Access Centers and at your school or local library.
√ Research private sources of scholarships and other forms of financial aid including colleges, businesses, private foundations, labor unions, government agencies, and ethnic, veteran, religious, fraternal, high school and civic organizations. Request scholarship applications from these sources. The internet is a great place to start your research.
√ Start developing essays for college applications.
√ Ask teachers for recommendations.
√ Check with your counselor or academic advisor to verify graduation credits and requirements.
√ Discuss higher education plans with your family and guidance counselor. Consider college choices and financial planning.
√ Continue gathering college information and application forms. Ask teachers for letters of recommendation.
√ Continue to work on college applications, and ask guidance counselors if you qualify for waivers to help pay for the application fees.
√ Register for the SAT and/or ACT tests (or any other required admission test).
√ Choose 3 to 6 colleges to which you will send applications, in a range from likely-to-be admitted to competitive.
√ Begin completing applications for admission and financial aid. Pay close attention to deadlines. Keep records of all correspondence.
√ If applying for early decision, begin preparing the application no later than September.
√ Attend the Philadelphia National College Fair.
√ Register for or re-take the SAT or ACT test offered in these months (or any other required test for admission).
√ Continue to send (usually through the guidance office) applications for admission and financial aid. Make sure first period report card grades are included. Include the appropriate fees and make copies of everything before sending. Keep records of all correspondence.
√ Make arrangements for college interviews, often recommended and sometimes required.
√ Visit colleges you are seriously considering and to which you have been accepted. Talk with current students, sit in on classes, and check retention rates for first year students.
√ Register for or re-take the SAT/ACT test offered this month (or any other required admission test).
√ Continue to apply for private scholarships or other forms of financial aid.
√ Research scholarships online.
√ Investigate applying for financial aid online; in most cases the online FAFSA is used.
√ Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for grants from the Federal Government and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA).
√ Check with each college to see which financial aid forms are necessary and ask about deadlines (some colleges may require the FAFSA, CSS Profile and/or the college’s own financial aid forms). Keep copies of all correspondence.
√ Ask counselors to send second report period grades to colleges if this hasn’t already been done.
√ Develop a direct contact at the financial aid offices of those schools at which you have been accepted. Use this contact periodically to check on the status of your financial aid applications.
√ Complete any additional forms from institutions or state aid agencies (PHEAA in PA).
√ Keep track of acceptances, wait list and denial letters as well as financial aid award letters.
√ Reply promptly to colleges that offer admission. Reply dates are usually up to May 1.
√ After applying for federal grants you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). Check these forms for corrections and follow all other instructions.
√ Promptly submit deposits required for admission and housing to the college you will attend.
√ Pay attention to deadlines.
√ Off you go to college! Congratulations!
√ Don’t miss your orientation and registration days.
Source: This is an abridged version of the College Planner, produced by the staff of the Philadelphia Education Fund’s College Access Program. The College Access Program makes a college education accessible to all by providing direct services to students from partner schools and by offering individualized support at community-based College Access Centers. For further information, visit www.philaedfund.org, call 215- 665-1400, ext 3316, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.