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College Admissions Timeline

Freshman Year

-Make a plan for your high school academics and extracurricular activities. Meet with your high school counselor in the fall to discuss these plans, making sure they put you on track for success in the college admissions process.

-Discuss Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes with your teachers and counselors. These classes score major points with college admissions officers, but you will only be accepted into them if your performance in regular classes is outstanding. Make it your goal to be recognized for excellence.

-Research college costs and financial aid options. The College Board offers a great tool for college financial planning, The College Savings Calculator, available at

-Read as much as you can on your own. Summer is a great time to expand your knowledge of the world through literature. An internet search for “great books” will yield numerous resources for finding some exciting and worthwhile reading. Teachers, too, are good people to ask for outside reading recommendations.

Sophomore Year

-Meet with high school counselor to discuss academic progress and extracurricular activities experience and plans. Make a strategy for addressing areas of academic weakness that includes individual tutoring and outside reading.

-Consider moving up to Honors or Advanced Placement (AP) courses in the areas in which you excelled Freshman Year.

-Begin a resume that details your academic performance, extracurricular activities, community service, and job/volunteer experience. Research strategies and programs available to you that will strengthen your resume.

-Begin a list of colleges you might want to attend. Begin discussing college plans with your parents—what area of the country will you go to college, how much financial assistance can your parents provide, what size college or university is best suited to you?

-Take part in the STEP PSAT/NMSQT preparation classes, including the diagnostic tests administered on Saturday afternoons.

-Make arrangements for a summer job, internship, or enrichment class.

Junior Year


-Schedule a meeting with your parents and school counselor to discuss college course requirements and to make a schedule for taking the PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, and SAT Subject Tests.

-Sign up early for and take the PSAT/NMSQT. Ask your teachers or counselor if your school offers any preparation classes or tutoring for the PSAT/NMSQT.

-Research colleges and universities on your list. Good resources are and, as well as college fairs held at your school or other schools in your area.


-Report your PSAT/NMSQT scores to STEP as soon as you receive them!

-Spend time researching Financial Aid. You and your parents can calculate how much they can expect to spend for college with the College Board’s Expected Family Contribution Calculator, available at

-Use your PSAT/NMSQT score report to determine where extra work and skills improvement is needed. For an extra fee, you can receive the PSAT/NMSQT Score Report Plus for a more in-depth look at your strengths and weaknesses.

-Register online for the May SAT date at Discuss with your teachers and counselor which SAT Subject Tests you should take, as well as a schedule for taking them.

-Sign up for the STEP SAT preparation program, which will begin in February.


-Make arrangements to visit several colleges on your list. You will get the most accurate sense of a college if you visit when classes are in session.

-Prepare for AP exams in May, and plan which AP classes you will take during your Senior Year.

-Participate in the STEP SAT preparation program, including the diagnostic tests administered on Saturday afternoons. Make sure you register in time to take the May SAT—keep in mind that the deadline is usually over a month in advance of the test date.

-Draft, revise, and polish at least one college admissions essay in the STEP Junior Seminar and on your own. This will take a lot of pressure off next fall!

-Make arrangements for a summer job, internship, or enrichment class.


-Report your SAT scores to STEP as soon as your receive them! This will allow STEP to get you more SAT tutoring if you need to take the test again in September.

-Visit the remaining colleges on your list, and try to meet with admissions officers. You have a better chance of being admitted to a college if an admissions officer can put a face to a name!

-Edit, update, and polish your resume to reflect accomplishments including awards, activities, leadership roles, and work experience.

-Make a calendar of important dates and deadlines for your Senior Year.

Senior Year


-Discuss with your counselor, teachers, or STEP staff whether your May SAT score is good enough to get into the colleges on your list. If not, make sure to register online for the September SAT date.

-Register for the SAT Subject Tests most suited to your areas of excellence.

-Approach teacher, coaches, and supervisors in August or September for recommendation letters. If you wait until the last minute, some people will be too busy to write letters for you.

-Make a final list of the colleges to which you will apply, and visit the ones you have not yet seen. Ask your counselor early to send your transcripts to the colleges on your final list.

-Finalize your college admissions essay by the end of September. Have all essays and mini-essays completed by the end of Thanksgiving break. Be aware the early admissions applications essays may have to be done even sooner.

-Assemble your application materials, choosing at least one college to which to apply early decision.

-Begin online research of scholarships and grants offered by state, regional, national, and private institutions.


-Finish and mail out college and scholarship applications. Many colleges now accept online applications, but remember to keep photocopies of all paper applications.

-Remember to meet financial aid deadlines. Fill out an online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1st (

-Your Student Aid Report (SAR) will arrive about 1 month after you submit your FAFSA; make sure all the information on it is correct. If you have questions, ask a counselor, teacher, or STEP staff member.


-Admissions letters will begin to arrive in March. Make sure you note the reply deadlines of the schools that admit you.

-Review and compare financial aid packages with your parents and counselor.

-If you have not visited any of the colleges that admit you, try to do so before making a final decision.

-Return the enrollment form and deposit to the college or university you have chosen, and be sure to notify the schools you will not be attending.

-If you are waitlisted at a college, be sure to contact the Admissions Director telling him/her of your desire to attend the school.

-If you are not admitted anywhere, contact your high school counselor immediately. All hope is not lost! Many good schools have late or rolling admissions policies.

-Make a final plan for financing your college education. If your parents cannot meet the Expected Family Contribution, you should start pursuing parent or private loans.


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