11th Grade Is Go Time for College Planning!
Junior year is THE year for college planning. While there are plenty of things to do, there is no need to stress. We have a printable, easy-to-follow timeline for students and their families. We also have a timeline specifically for college athletes.
These calendar charts make planning so much easier. They have all of the necessary college search and application tasks listed in a grid format, with an area for you to check off each task after it is complete. The shaded-blue cells show when each task should be done. You’ll also see that this chart has a column for “Responsible Party/Parties.” The college search is a team effort. When you work with SCC, we are there for you to help make the planning flow smoothly. But, if you’re doing this without a college counselor, note that there is a lot to do – and that all must be done in a specific order and on a very particular time schedule. Work together as a family, assigning different tasks to the student and each parent, whenever possible – and keep the calendar charts up to date so you don’t miss any important deadlines!
First and Foremost: Consider College Affordability
Be sure to understand what you and your parents are willing to/can afford to put towards your college education. Determine what your financial aid picture is by calculating your Expected Family Contribution and compare that to the college’s generosity.
Tasks to Include on Your Junior Year College Planning Calendar
BEFORE Junior Year (If Needed, Play Catch-Up on these Items During Junior Year)
Research colleges as early as fall of your sophomore year, kicking it into full gear spring of your sophomore year and the summer before your junior year. You will continue this through your junior year but you want the ground work to be done before then.
Hire and SAT/ACT Tutor
Hire a Private SAT/ACT Tutor if that fits into your budget. They focus on you and can help you maximize your scores. Begin researching private tutors in the spring of your sophomore year and look into hiring someone to start August prior to your junior year to prep you for the tests in the late fall (November/December), or, if your budget doesn’t allow, start with the tutor January of your junior year having taken the tests late fall of your junior year.
Start Student Resume
Ideally, you should start documenting all of your activities (community service, athletics, extracurricular, internships, work experience and anything else that you spend your time on outside of your academics) early as your freshman year of high school and continue documenting all of your activities throughout high school. If you have not done so, get a jump on this as soon as possible.
Start Making Your College List
Working from your online research and your college visits (in-person and virtual), make an initial list of colleges in which you are interested. These can include a balance of safety schools, schools where you have a 50-50 chance of getting in, and reach schools, colleges that will be harder for you to get into. Be aspirational, but be realistic! Most importantly, the goal is to have at least one school on your list that you know you will get into and be happy to attend and can afford. Revise this list later in your Junior year, based on visits and research, to come up with your final college list. Ask yourself this question for every college that is on your list: “If this is the only school I get into, will I be happy to attend?” If not, take it off of your list. Why even bother spending the time and money applying if you can’t picture yourself happy at that school! This list will be whittled down to the colleges to which you will actually apply. Start this list fall of your sophomore year, continuing it into the summer before your junior year and, you will continue tweaking this list throughout your junior year.
Start Visiting Colleges
You should start visiting colleges – virtually and in-person – in your sophomore year. Use the Signature College Counseling Campus Visit Checklist to help you with this process.
Fall of Junior Year
Tour schools virtually and in person, when possible, and continue your visits throughout Junior year, the summer before Senior Year and into your Senior year as needed.
Take the SAT or ACT in the fall of Junior year. This way you can decide which test is best for you, focus on that test and take it again in the spring. Based on these tests, figure out your strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan for how to improve, such as hiring a tutor or signing up for an in-person or online study course.
Winter of Junior Year
Apply for Scholarships
Scholarships can help you pay for college. Start researching the list of scholarships you are interested in mid junior year and into the summer before senior year and then begin applying now, because deadlines are early in senior year or even junior year. Make a list of deadlines for the scholarships that seem appropriate. Do keep in mind that private scholarships are quite a bit of work with not an enormous return. I don’t deter families from applying, but 95% of the money you will receive will be from the federal government and the institution, not private scholarships.
Spring of Junior Year
Letters of Recommendation
Ask for letters of recommendation in April/May.
Decide Which Colleges You Are Applying
Choose the colleges to which you would like to apply by late spring of your Junior year.
Complete your resume prior to the summer before your senior year so you are prepared to complete your applications
Enter Letters of Recommendation Requests into Naviance
Once your teachers say yes to writing a letter of recommendation for you you will want to enter the recommendation requests into Naviance, or whatever platform your high school uses. If they don’t use a platform for this, you will need to wait until the Common APP opens on August 1st and add them there. This step should be completed as soon as your teachers say yes to your request, which can be done the spring of your junior year and the summer before your senior year, to be ahead of the game. For those that are lagging you can do this in early senior year.
Summer After Junior Year
Complete Primary Essay
You should finish writing your essay during the summer before your Senior year.
Hire Essay Coach
If it fits into your budget, retain an essay coach, or make sure you have someone who understands college essays to at least review your essay(s). Work on this the first half of your summer before senior year with the goal of having it completed by the end of July.
Complete Supplemental Essays
These become available after August 1st prior to your senior year.
Complete College Applications
You can begin this process the summer before your senior year. I suggest you do so as soon as your academic activities have been completed and you can devote your time to doing so.
Complete Student Profile
Some high schools ask you to complete a form that is about you, possibly called an autobiography or profile. This is not sent to your colleges, but is used by your teachers and guidance counselor to write your letters of recommendation that are sent to your schools. Work on this and have this completed the summer before your senior year.
The goal with our students is to do this prior to the start of school, but many times this goes into the September and October timeframe.
Identify Colleges that Require Interview
You can do so by finding this information on the school’s web site. Many colleges don’t interview, but some do, and this can change from year to year. Know this early in the summer before your Senior year so know which ones will require an interview and when. Some will allow interviews in July and August, but some you will need to wait until you submit your application and they reach out to you.
This can typically be done on the college’s website but you may need to call the school to schedule. Begin to schedule interviews the summer before your Senior year for those schools that will allow you to. You may need to go into the fall as well.
Prepare for Interviews
I cannot stress this enough! See our blog post on interview preparation. Do this at least a couple of weeks prior to your interview date, but work on the general questions and your thoughts the summer before your senior year.
Submit Test Scores
This can be done once you know the scores you want to submit. This may be summer before senior year or, more likely, into the early fall of your senior year.
Continue Going on Campus Tours
You’ll probably go on many tours, so getting a head start can give you time to fit everything in. You can also visit them virtually through YouVisit, Campusreel, CampusTours, and YouTube.
Fall of Senior Year
Complete Transcript Request Forms
These can be electronic, paper, or can be done through Naviance, depending on what your high school dictates. Ask your guidance counselor which method they use. Complete these after you have submitted your applications or by the deadline your high school dictates as it relates to the application deadline for each of your schools.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone and by email.