College Scholarship Search College Search Career Exploration College Admissions Articles Financial Aid and Student Loan Calculators Compare Student Loans

High School Timeline

By College Toolkit

Each Year | Freshman | Sophomore | Junior | Senior

Things to Do Each Year

  • Meet with Your School Counselor

    Each year, you should discuss the classes you plan on taking with your school counselor. Also, let them know what your goals are for college. They can help you stay on track and uncover scholarship and college opportunities along the way.
  • Summer Job/Internship/Volunteer Work

    Take advantage of the time available each summer to find rewarding job, internship, or volunteer experience. Start looking for these opportunities early in the spring semester because the earlier you start your search, the more likely you are to find a better opportunity.
  • Get to Know Teachers / School Counselors / Coaches / Advisors

    Don’t forget you are going to need recommendations for all those scholarship and college applications you send out. The best way to get good recommendations is to build strong relationships with a few teachers, school counselors, coaches, or advisors.

Freshman Year

  • Plan High School Schedule

    Make a plan of the courses you would like to take during high school. Many states and colleges require 3-4 years of math and English and 2 or more years of history, science and a foreign language.
  • Get Involved in Clubs and Activities

    Research the clubs and activities available in your school and community. Participate in the ones which interest you the most and not just the ones you think will look good on a college or scholarship application.

Sophomore Year

  • Start Gathering College and Scholarship Information

    It is never too early to find out about colleges that interest you. Take advantage of college fairs and presentations at your school. Also, this is a good time to begin your search for scholarship information. Start a file and save college and scholarship brochures that you receive. This can really help reduce your stress level when you are applying for colleges and scholarships during your junior and senior years.
  • Prepare for and Take for the PLAN Test (Fall Semester)

    Many students who will be taking the ACT Assessment Test choose to take the PLAN "pre-ACT" test in the fall of their sophomore year. This can be a great opportunity to get acclimated with the format of the ACT and to practice your test-taking skills.

Junior Year

  • Prepare for and Take the PSAT/NMSQT (Fall Semester)

    Many students who will be taking the SAT choose to take the PSAT/NMSQT in the fall of their junior year. PSAT scores are used to qualify students as National Merit semifinalists and finalists, which may make them eligible to receive merit-based scholarships from private foundations or their university or college.
  • Prepare for and Take the SAT or ACT (Spring Semester)

    If you are planning to apply Early Decision or Early Action to colleges, you should consider taking the SAT or ACT in the spring semester of your junior year. It is also advisable to take the test during your junior year if you plan on applying for scholarships during your junior year or early in your senior year. You should check with the admissions offices of the colleges you are considering for more information regarding test scores for Early Action and Early Decision candidates.
  • Start College Application Process (Spring Semester)

    The spring semester of your junior year and the following summer are a great time to get started on the college application process. Request applications and information from colleges you are interested in online or by writing to their admissions offices. You may also want to start working on your college essays.

Senior Year

  • Prepare for and Take the SAT or ACT (Fall Semester)

    If you didn’t take the SAT or ACT in your junior year or would like to take it again to improve your score, the fall semester of your senior year is the time to do so.
  • Request Recommendations for Applications (Fall Semester)

    Remember, you are not the only one who has work to do for your applications. You need to give school counselors, teachers, coaches, and others enough time to complete recommendations and to send transcripts to your desired schools.
  • Complete College Applications (Fall Semester)

    Give yourself sufficient time to complete your college applications. It is a good idea to factor in some time to have parents and teachers read over your essays. They can offer valuable suggestions on content as well as help you check for typos and grammatical errors.

    Keep in mind that deadlines for Early Action and Early Decision programs typically fall in November, while deadlines for regular admissions usually fall some time in mid-to-late December or early January.

  • Complete Scholarship Applications (Fall Semester)

    As with college applications, give yourself plenty of time to do your best work. Scholarships and grants can be a great way to help you finance your education. Don’t put them off to the last second.
  • Fill Out the FAFSA (Spring Semester)

    Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible. This form is used to determine your eligibility not only for federal aid programs but also for many state, private, and school-sponsored financial aid and scholarship programs.

    Applications become available January 1 for the following school year. Although the federal deadline is June 30, it is important to check the deadlines of other programs that require the FAFSA. They often fall well before this federal deadline.

Related Resources

Find out ways to make the most of your high school experience and position yourself for scholarship success, helping you make a major dent in your tuition costs and college expenses: