It's nearly the end of the school year, and with finals, AP exams and summer planning going on, it may be easy to push college planning to the side. However, students at each grade level may want to consult the following list to ensure nothing falls through the cracks this May in terms of creating an admissions preparation plan.
- Start creating your college resume. Add the extracurriculars you pursued in ninth grade, as well as any jobs or activities you participated in outside of school.
- Plan which classes you'll take in tenth grade, including the most challenging courses that you can handle that meet your interests. If you've already identified goal colleges, know what those schools expect to see on your transcripts, says Christine M. Hall, EdD, of CMH College Consulting in Cary, N.C. “If you start out freshman year and are taking Spanish then, know that many colleges want to see Spanish all four years," she advises.
- Select a summer activity such as a job, volunteer position or program at a local school.
- Review your course selections for eleventh grade to ensure you're showing a progression of classes in the same disciplines, growing steadily more difficult, Hall says. “Remember that in many cases, eleventh grade is the last year colleges will see your grades, so take classes you know you'll do well in this year."
- Begin researching college academic and social offerings so you can determine where you might want to apply.
- Review your extracurriculars to make sure you're clearly showing a gradual progression in each activity. “You should ideally be working your way up to leadership roles in your activities," Hall advises.
- Register for ACT/SAT fall test dates if you're going to take those tests.
- Sign up for test prep classes or work with an individual tutor if you are planning to pursue testing in the fall.
- Secure a summer job if you don't have one already. “Even when the summer ends, it's a good idea to keep that job year-round as much as your academic schedule allows," Hall says. “Colleges love that. Jobs demonstrate responsibility, trustworthiness, leadership and commitment."
- Study for your upcoming AP exams if you have them.
- Consider whether to take the SAT or ACT again, and if you plan to do so, register for the upcoming test dates as soon as possible. “The ACT recently added a July test and the SAT added an August session," Hall says. “Plus, there are fall tests, so make sure you're covered if you need to try again."
- If you haven't already toured colleges, schedule tours for the summer months.
- Make sure you've met your plan of four English, math, history, science and foreign language courses, if you're planning to take one every year. “Foreign language is the possible exception," Hall says. “Many colleges want to see one of these each year rather than seeing students taking two at a time and then halting the progression."
- Check your fall schedule to make sure it still meets college prep guidelines. Don't be tempted to take your required classes in the mornings and then leave at lunch, Hall says. “Colleges want to see that you stay throughout the day."
- Review your class registrations for twelfth grade and make sure you can handle your schedule. “If you struggled in honors, consider not going on to AP," Hall says. “If you struggled in AP, you may not want to add more APs."
- Schedule activities or jobs for the summer, and if you find a program that is of particular interest, consider registering for enrichment activities if they're available in your area. “The last thing you should do in summer is nothing," Hall advises. “A lot of kids fall down when they sit home and do nothing all summer."
- Study for AP exams if you have any coming up.
- Before the school year ends, ask teachers if they'll be willing to write you recommendation letters. “Some teachers will only write a certain number of recommendations, so you want to ask early," Hall says. “You don't have to ask them to fill out the letter, but just find out if specific teachers have the willingness to do the letters before you leave school for the year."
- Secure your college housing if you haven't already for the school where you've committed.
- Study for your AP exams – even if you are concerned that your college won't accept APs for credit, remember that some schools use AP exams for college placement, so try to do well on them, Hall advises.
- Register for your college's summer orientation sessions — these often fill up quickly.
- Select a college roommate using the online system or register to be matched to a roommate.
- If your college requires health forms or immunization records, gather those.
- Get ready to send your college of choice a final transcript.
By staying on track with your college preparation checklist, you won't miss out on any important milestones. Stay tuned for our June checklist, coming up next month.
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