Keep an eye out for scholarships.
Scholarships are a great way to fund your child’s education. Your teen should start looking for these early and often – some have deadlines as early as junior year of high school.
Register for the SAT and/or ACT.
Make sure that your teen looks up the dates to register for the SAT and ACT. Your student should take this test as early as possible, so that they can account for taking it another time if they aren’t satisfied with their score.
Make an initial college list.
Your teen (and you!) should start getting serious about learning more about schools that might be a good fit. Start big and research a range of schools, with the goal of making a list of 15-20 schools. Think about which schools your student is likely to get in to (safety), reach, match. And keep updating and refining this list up until your student applies.
Meet with a school counselor.
Your school counselor will be your best friend in navigating the college application process. If you need help paying for the SAT and/or ACT, be sure to ask the school counselors for fee waivers.
Plan for summer.
Whether it’s a college prep program, volunteering, or interning, your teen should be thinking about their summer before senior year now.
Take the ACT and/or SAT for first time.
Your student should take this test as early as possible, so that they can account for taking it another time if they aren’t satisfied with their score.
Go to college fairs.
College fairs are a great way to talk to reps and learn more about schools. Here’s how you can make the most out of college fairs.
Start visiting colleges.
If you’re able to, visit a few colleges starting your teen’s junior year. This is the best way to get a sense of what the school is like, and an opportunity for you and your student to ask questions. If you can’t visit a school, look into virtual tours, as many schools offer these as well.
Register for AP classes for senior year.
Advanced placement (AP) courses are not only helpful in preparing students for the rigorous academics of college, but they are also a good financial investment. Your student can earn credits in college and test out of intro-level courses, saving money and allowing them to advance more quickly. If your student is able to, they should take as many AP courses as makes sense for them.
Prepare for AP exams.
AP exams take place in May every year, so be sure your student registers and prepares.
Take ACT/SAT exams.
If your student feels like they need to take the ACT and/or SAT exam again to better their score, they should do this now.
If you’re able to, visit a few colleges starting your teen’s junior year and continue through the summer before their senior year. This is the best way to get a sense of what the school is like, and an opportunity for you and your student to ask questions. If you can’t visit a school, look into virtual tours, as many schools offer these as well.
Make a master list/calendar of schools and deadlines.
Narrow your initial college list down to 5-10 schools. Determine application deadlines for each school. Regular decision applications are typically due between January 1 and March 1. Keep in mind that early action and early decision applications are usually due in November. If your student is applying to some school with the Common App, this will become available in the beginning of August, and helps to consolidate deadlines. In addition to important dates, your student should be sure to track information about tests (fees, dates, and registration deadlines), required financial aid application forms and deadlines (aid application may be due before college applications), other materials like recommendations and transcripts, and your high school’s application processing deadlines.
Begin drafting college application essays.
Senior year is very busy, so the summer after junior year is a great time to begin college application essays. Remember, your student will likely need a unique essay for each school they apply for, so this can take a lot of time.
Identify potential teachers to provide recommendation letters.
During the summer after junior year, your student should think about the teachers who know them best and could provide a recommendation letter. It’s helpful for these teachers if your student provides a few bullet points for them, explaining why they chose them as recommenders and how they believe they’ve excelled academically in their classes.
Outline your financial aid plan.
Explore net price calculators to determine how much your family will need to contribute for your college education. These can be found on individual college websites. Create a list of all the financial aid options you plan to pursue and their deadlines.
Apply for scholarships.
Scholarships are a great way to fund your student’s education. Your teen should start looking for these early and often – some have deadlines as early as junior year of high school. Don't avoid the more intensive scholarships that require essays, as they often can give the biggest reward. Also check into local scholarship options. Since fewer students apply for these, you often have a better chance. Here are some tips to help your student find scholarship.