Getting Ready for College

When it comes to college planning, it may seem like there are a million things to think about. Whether you're a student or parent, the following college planning timelines will keep you on track and in the know throughout high school. Helpful, step-by-step tips cover everything from taking the right classes, making a list of colleges, to filling out college forms and applications on time!

8th Grade Year
  • Talk to family and friends about careers and possible school choices.
  • Find out what courses you need to take to best prepare you for college.
  • Work to eslish a savings plan.
  • Look for volunteer and community service opportunities.
Freshman Year
  • Build a flexible schedule allowing for study time, extracurricular activities, and other interests. Use a day planner or electronic organizer to help get you organized.
  • Get involved in extracurricular activities that you have a genuine interest in and those which you are willing to make the necessary time and practice commitment.
  • Make a four-year schedule of classes that increases your eligibility to attend the college of your choice.
  • Develop a log of your accomplishments and achievements similar to a resume.
  • Talk to your parents about your interests, post-secondary possibilities, and career information.
  • Look for a summer job, volunteer or service opportunities.
  • Research colleges and universities you may be interested in attending.
Sophomore Year
  • Request college catalogs and other materials including financial aid information.
  • Re-visit your high school course selections to make sure it meets college requirements.
  • Try to complete most of the academic requirements by your junior year. Depending on which method of college admission process you use, initial consideration may be based on your junior year grades.
  • Take the PLAN (Preliminary ACT) in October to prepare you for college entrance exams.
  • If pursuing athletics, check out those specific requirements.

Junior Year

FALL – August through December

  • Take the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) in October to practice taking college entrance exams. The PSAT exam may qualify you for certain scholarships.
  • Meet with college representatives that visit Schaumburg Christian and attend local college fairs.
  • Create a list of possible colleges, universities or military schools.
  • Send off for admissions literature and applications from schools on the top of your list or visit them online and request to be added to their mailing list.
  • Talk with admissions representatives or visit school web sites to determine if there are any institutional scholarships in which you may qualify.
  • Research private sources of financial aid such as scholarships and send for information. Request financial aid information from all prospective schools.
  • Estimate the cost for each school and begin identifying ways to meet the costs. Visit web sites that utilize an estimated cost calculator.
  • Take the SAT/SAT Subject Tests/ACT.

SPRING – January through May

  • Take the SAT/SAT Subject Tests/ACT if you haven’t already done so.
  • Begin narrowing your choices for colleges and universities. Schedule campus visits. Consider an overnight trip that would allow you to get a feel of campus life and sit in on collegiate classes.
  • Check out libraries, community organizations, and Schaumburg Christian for names and addresses of possible scholarship sources. Request applications and remember to keep record of whom you spoke to concerning grants or scholarships.
  • Develop a portfolio. Include writing samples, audition tapes, or other example of your talents that may be required for college admissions and/or scholarships.
  • If you plan to play sports, contact coaches at target school and find out what eligibility requirements are needed.
  • Identify at least two teachers, guidance counselor, extracurricular coach, pastor or employer to write solid letters of recommendations.


  • Practice completing online applications, filling out rough drafts, without submitting them.
  • Review applications, especially essays. Ask other to proof the essay for any grammar, content or punctuation errors. Have someone who doesn’t know you too well read your essay and see if your essay paints a true picture of you.
  • Read all college mail and send reply messages back to schools of interest.
  • Apply for scholarships with fall deadlines.
  • Visit college campuses.
Senior Year

FALL – August through December

  • Watch for Early Decision/Early Action deadlines.
  • Make sure you continue to meet graduation and college admission requirements.
  • Organize and record relevant dates on a calendar so you can plan your year more efficiently.
  • Apply for financial aid by completing and submitting your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon after October 1 as possible. The FAFSA form is available at many libraries or by visiting
  • Make copies of your admissions and financial aid forms. Practice filling them out before completing and submitting the final one.
  • Visit schools you are considering and arrange admissions interviews if required.
  • Update your portfolio.
  • Submit your college admissions applications. Watch for deadlines.
  • Talk with your parents about what kind of budget you will be on freshman year.
  • Take or retake SAT/ACT.
  • Keep records of everything you submit.
  • Select whom you’ll ask to write your letter or recommendations. Provide forms or web links one month before they are due. Follow up on the progress. Send hand written thank you notes to those you’ve asked.
  • The information received after FAFSA is processed, is the Student Aid Report (SAR). If any portion of the information is incorrect, correct it and resubmit to the processing center.
  • REMEMBER the financial aid process begins again in October for the next school year.

SPRING –January through May
Suffering through Senioritis

  • Follow up with schools to confirm receipt of you admissions application.
  • Request transcripts, SAT, ACT, CSS profile if applicable, be sent to schools where you have applied. Make sure first semester senior year grades are included on the transcripts.
  • Submit any additional financial forms and documentation that is required by the school(s).
  • Notify schools(s) as to whether you are accepting or declining admissions by their deadline.
  • Review your financial aid award letter with your parents and be sure you understand the terms and conditions. Acknowledge acceptance of your financial aid award.
  • Notify the financial office of any outside scholarships or grants.
  • Be aware of payment due dates for tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses. Find how your financial aid will be distributed.
  • Respond immediately to all correspondences regarding school, scholarships, and financial aid.
  • Participate in summer orientation programs for incoming freshman.
  • Meet all registration deadlines.