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College Preparation Timeline

9th Grade

  • Meet with your guidance counselor and tell him or her that you want to attend college.
  • Together develop a plan that will put you on the college track. Anticipate that you will have to go beyond the minimum requirements to graduate high school.
  • Take the most challenging course-load such as Advanced or Honors courses.
  • Establish a strong GPA.
  • Get involved in school and community organizations.

10th Grade

  • Continue taking challenging classes.
  • Maintain a strong GPA or improve on the one you established in 9th Grade!
  • Continue with school involvement.
  • Try to attend a summer college preparatory program (check with your guidance counselor for other opportunities).

11th Grade

  • Maintain GPA or improve on the one you established in 10th Grade!
  • Take college preparatory classes (Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Dual Enrollment etc.).
  • Take the PSAT in the fall to qualify for National Merit Scholarships and identify strengths and weaknesses before taking the SAT.
  • Begin studying for the SAT/ACT, do practice tests online and take an SAT/ACT prep course.
  • Begin college search process:
    • Think about what type of college you would want to attend.
      • Size: small (<5,000 students), medium (5,000-15,000 students), large (15,000-30,000) and extra large (>30,000).
      • Setting: climate, geographic region, proximity from home, etc.
      • Type of school: liberal arts, technical, private, public, HBCU (historically black college or university)
      • Programs of study offered: Business, Pre-Med, Pre-Law, Engineering, Education, etc.
      • Extracurricular activities: internships, study abroad, clubs and organizations
      • Fit: Do you feel comfortable on the campus? Can you see yourself spending four years there? (These questions can only really be answered by visiting a college campus!)
    • Research schools online, at the library, at your school’s college counseling office and local college fairs.
    • Narrow your choices down to 5-10 colleges.
  • Visit as many college campuses on your list as you can! Try to schedule a visit at a time when school is in session and students are around. Ask the same questions at each college you visit. Take notes and pictures. Visit options include:
    • Information session and campus tour
    • Overnight program
    • Interview
    • Open House or Preview Weekend
    • Visit a friend
  • Take the SAT/ACT in the spring.
  • Step up to leadership positions in your extracurricular activities.
  • Try to attend a summer college preparatory program.
  • Research and begin to apply for scholarships. Look locally first; although local scholarships may not award as much money as national scholarships they are much less competitive. Every little bit helps. Check out the following resources:
    • Guidance counselor
    • Religious or civic organizations
    • Your parents' employer
    • Newspaper
    • Internet 

12th Grade

  • Maintain strong GPA. Colleges will see your midyear and final grades.
  • Continue taking challenging courses i.e. math, science, foreign language, etc, at the college prep level. Your senior year should be your most challenging.
  • Take the SAT/ACT again in the fall to improve your scores.
  • Continue college visits.
  • Narrow your choices to 3-5 schools.
  • Compile applications for each school; check deadlines and application costs. For William & Mary, the Common Application and the Coalition Application go live on August 1 to apply for Early Decision (due November 1), Early Decision II (due January 1) or Regular Decision (due January 1). 
  • Obtain 2-3 letters of recommendation from your counselor, teacher(s), coach, etc. As a courtesy make your requests a month in advance.
  • Write your application essays with care and have them critiqued by others; they are your on-paper interview.
  • Submit your applications by December so that your holiday break can be stress free.
  • Continue applying for scholarships.
  • Have your parents submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in January.
  • Relax and enjoy your senior year!