College Planning Check List

Freshman Year

• Schedule rigorous high school courses. By graduation, you could have taken four years of English, and three years of math, natural science and social science.

• Become familiar with college entrance requirements. Your academic performance (grade point average, class rank, and types of courses you take), ACT/SAT test scores, teacher or counselor recommendations, extracurricular activities, community service hours, essays, and interviews are all important factors at most colleges.

• Research college costs, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid. If you haven’t begun to save for college, do so as soon as possible.

• Start keeping a list of all class office positions and extra-currular activities you’re involved in.


Sophomore Year

• Continue to take challenging college prep courses.

• Take the College Board’s PSAT exam as a practice for when you take it again your junior year. It is a good preparation for the SAT Reasoning Test.

• Learn about the training that different careers require.

• Start collecting information about colleges through the school guidance office or on the web. You may begin getting brochures from colleges in the mail if you give permission on your exams.

• Build a list of colleges in which you are interested or that you may want to visit.

• Continue researching sources of financial aid. Keep saving!

• Attend local college fairs.


Junior Year

• Continue to take challenging college prep courses.

• Take the College Board’s PSAT test and be entered into the National Merit Scholarship Program.

• Consider putting together a portfolio that highlights your special skills and talents.

• Schedule college visits. If possible, your visit should include: a campus tour, a chance to sit in on a class, a meal in the campus dining hall, meetings with faculty and students, and an interview with an admissions counselor.

• Investigate scholarship opportunities.

• Request admissions and scholarship applications from your top colleges.

• Get an estimate of how much financial aid your family may qualify for by completing ACT’s Financial Aid Need Estimator at 

• Begin comparing the cost of colleges that you are considering.

• Register for the ACT Assessment.  Materials are available in the school library.


Senior Year


• Register for the ACT Assessment and/or the SAT Reasoning Test (if you didn’t take them as a junior or if you are not satisfied with your score).

• Review your ACT Assessment and/or your SAT Reasoning Test results and retest, if necessary.


August – December

• Visit with your school counselor to make sure you are on track to graduate and fulfill college admission requirements.

• Consider taking courses at a local university or community college.

• Keep working hard all year; 2nd semester grades can affect scholarship eligibility.

• Ask for personal references from teachers, school counselors, or employers early in the year.

• Visit with admissions counselors who come to your high school, and from colleges and universities you are interested in.

• Attend college fairs.

• If you are applying to a UC or Cal State school, remember the deadline for applications is November 30

• Begin your college essay(s) and personal statements.

• Apply for admission at the colleges you’ve chosen.

• Look for scholarship opportunities.


January – May

• Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon after January 1 as possible. 

• Apply for the Cal Grant before March 2.

• Ask your guidance office in January to send first semester transcripts to schools where you have applied. When the school year is done, they will need to send final transcripts to the college you will attend. Make sure you request those as well.

• Visit colleges that have invited you to enroll.

• Continue to look for scholarship opportunities.

• Watch the mail for your Student Aid Report (SAR) – it should arrive three to six weeks after the FAFSA is filed.

• Compare financial aid packages from different schools.

• Decide which college to attend; most colleges require a decision by May 1.

• Notify schools you will not attend of your decision.

• Notify your college about any outside scholarships you received.