The Complete College Planning Calendar

Going to college is one of the biggest decisions that people make. Not only is it a choice that influences everything from social circles to careers, it’s also often the largest financial investment a person will make following the purchase of a home. College requires extensive preparation: money needs to be saved, good grades earned, and schools evaluated. It’s a lot to do, but spread out over four-years of high school, it’s undoubtedly doable. The important thing is to anticipate and meet the major milestones. To that end, here are the key dates to circle on your college planning calendar.

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The Complete College Planning Calendar

9th Grade (1)

Fall College Planning Calendar

Meet your guidance counselor.

Get involved in extracurricular activities.

Involvement in extracurricular activities can improve SAT math scores by 45 points and verbal scores by 53 points (2)

Winter College Planning Calendar

Discuss your skills and interests with your counselor.

Talk to your parents about paying for college.

Consider starting a 529 plan, which is tax-free for college savings.

College costs are typically paid with: (3)

Parent income and savings: 32%

Scholarships and grants: 30%

Student borrowing: 16%

Student income and savings: 11%

Parent borrowing: 6%

Relatives and friends: 5%

Spring College Planning Calendar

Track your academic and extracurricular awards for college applications.

List colleges that might interest you after speaking with your counselor and researching them online.

Summer College Planning Calendar

Volunteer, get a job or sign up for an enrichment program.

Visit relatives or friends at college to get a sense of college life.

10th Grade (1)

Fall College Planning Calendar

Take a practice PSAT.

Learn about college entrance requirements from your counselor and online.

Ask your counselor about AP courses.

Taking up to 5 AP courses throughout high school can improve freshmen college GPA by .19 points! (4)

Winter College Planning Calendar

Work toward leadership positions in your favorite extracurricular activities.

Become involved in community service and other volunteer activities.

Research possible careers.

Spring College Planning Calendar

Attend college fairs.

Consider taking SAT subject tests in May or June.

Summer College Planning Calendar

Get a summer job to save money for college.

11th Grade (2)

Fall College Planning Calendar

List what you may want to study and do in college.

List the college features that interest you after researching them online and discussing them with friends, family members, teachers and recent graduates of your high school.

Ask your counselor when college representatives will be visiting your school and collect catalogs and guides to peruse.

Ask your counselor about taking the PSAT, which is administered in October.

Create a file to collect your college search, testing and application information.

Gather material for a portfolio if necessary (e.g. if you’re interested in drama, music, art or sports).

Research financial aid with your family, starting with

Ensure that your testing accommodations have been approved if necessary (i.e. if you have a disability).

Meet your counselor with your family to discuss ways to improve your college preparation and selection process.

1 out of 20 students taking the ACT receives some testing accommodation. (5)

Winter College Planning Calendar

Research state financial aid and scholarships, starting with and, respectively.

Register for AP exams, which are administered in May.

Consider taking CLEP exams to earn college credit for courses not included in the AP program.

Prepare for the SAT, ACT or both by completing practice tests.

Register for the SAT, ACT or both, which are administered in the spring.

2012 saw more students take the ACT (1,666,017) than the SAT (1,664,479) for the first time. (6)

Spring College Planning Calendar

Contact your counselor about military academies or ROTC scholarships if necessary.

Begin the four-year ROTC scholarship application process if necessary.

List 15 to 20 colleges you are interested in, including public, private, in-state and out-of-state schools for a variety of options.

Summer College Planning Calendar

Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center if you are an athlete planning to continue playing a sport in college.

Find a full-time or part-time job, or participate in a summer camp or summer college program.

Visit colleges.

Create a resume of all of your high school academic accomplishments, extracurricular activities and work experiences.

Download or request college applications, noting early or rolling admission dates.

12th Grade (2)

September College Planning Calendar

Narrow your list of colleges down to 5 to 10 schools.

Have your SAT and ACT scores sent to the colleges to which you’re applying.

Ask your counselor to help you request a fee waiver if you can’t afford application or test fees.

1 out of 5 students qualify to take the SAT or ACT twice for free.(7)

OctoberCollege Planning Calendar

Finalize your college choices.

Prepare early or rolling admissions applications.

Ask your teachers for college recommendations.

Write the first drafts of college application essays and ask teachers and others to read them.

Finish essays you need for early or rolling applications.

November College Planning Calendar

Nov. 1-15: Have your admission test scores and applications submitted for early admissions.

Two weeks before the deadline for transcripts: Ask your counselor to send your transcripts to colleges.

Complete at least one college application by Thanksgiving.

77% of college freshmen apply to at least 3 schools while 25% apply to more than 7.(8)

December College Planning Calendar

Photocopy your applications and essays as you complete them.

Complete any necessary paperwork your counselor needs to send your second semester grades to colleges.


Ensure your high school has sent your transcript to colleges.

Keep active in school, especially if you are waitlisted, as colleges will want to know what you’ve accomplished since applying.

15% of waitlisted students are accepted at the most selective schools. (9)

April College Planning Calendar

Mid-April: Visit the colleges to which you have been accepted.

Talk to your counselor or call the college if you have any questions about housing.

Notify your counselor of your choice of college as soon as possible.

May College Planning Calendar

May 1: Inform every college of your acceptance or rejection of their offer of admission by this date.

82.5% of large colleges accept more than 50% of their applicants. (10)

Send your deposit to your chosen college.

Contact the admissions director if you’ve been waitlisted; explain your intent, ask how you could strengthen your application and inquire about financial aid.

Work with your counselor to resolve any admission or financial aid problems.

June College Planning Calendar

Ask your high school to send a final transcript to your college.

68.4% of high school students enroll in college following graduation.(11)

College Planning Calendar


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