College Planning Checklist for Grades 9 - 12 The intent of this checklist is to provide students and their parents/guardians with a list of tasks and ideas that will help organize the college planning process. The grade levels listed in each section are guidelines. Some students may choose to start earlier. This list is intended as a starting point, but should be customized based on the specific requirements of your college search.
  1. Beginning the Process - Grade 9 (re-visit and adjust in Grades 10 through 12):
    • Review your transcript every summer to verify the accuracy of grades, GPA, and activities.

    • Ensure that your four-year high school academic plan will meet college entrance requirements (number of years suggested for each academic area) for the type of college you are considering. Take the most challenging classes that you can handle.

    • College Admissions Testing - (SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests (SAT II))
      • Decide when you will take all your college admissions tests. Consider whether you will take both the SAT and the ACT. The SAT tests students' critical thinking skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. The ACT® assesses students' general educational knowledge in English, mathematics, reading, and science and includes an optional writing test. Most colleges accept either test. Verify the requirements with the schools on your list. Most students take the SAT and/or ACT two or three times (in total), usually twice in the junior year and once at the beginning of the senior year.

      • SAT Subject Tests - Some very selective schools require SAT Subject tests (usually two or three tests). Generally schools prefer that only one test be taken in a subject area. Some schools require one specific test (such as math) and let the students select the other tests. Check with the schools of interest. Most students take the SAT Subject Tests in May or June as they are completing the class so that the material is fresh in their minds. Students taking AP or Honors courses in their freshman or sophomore year (particularly in science) should consider taking the SAT Subject Test. Speak to your teacher for more information.

      • Make a plan to study for exams. There are a variety of study options offered by the CollegeBoard, Princeton Review, Kaplan, Barron's and other companies which you can select from based on how you learn, the amount of time you are willing to commit to studying and your budget. The most common options are private tutoring, small group tutoring, classroom courses, online courses, or self-study using test preparation books which include testing tips and practice exams.

    • Sign up online for daily:

    • Keep a list of books and authors you read, including required school reading and those you read on your own since some colleges request this information on their applications or essays

    • Naviance - Grades 9 through 12:
      • Counselors will send grade-level emails to students as needed

      • Take the "My Personality Type" self discovery assessment questionnaire

      • Answer "Career Interest Profiler" questionnaire

      • Add information to "My Resume"

    • Extracurricular Activities:
      • Continue to participate in extra-curricular activities that you enjoy both in school and out (clubs, music, arts, sports, community service, jobs)

      • Most colleges prefer to see a long-term commitment to a few activities instead of a long list of activities

      • Consider participating in community service or volunteer activities and keep track of the number of hours you participated

      • Beginning in your freshman year, use "My Resume" on Naviance to keep track of all of your accomplishments including extracurricular activities, community service, employment, awards, honors, achievements or prizes earned

  2. Organization - Grades 9 through 12
    • Use a folder to store all general college-related information collected from SBHS Guidance presentations, college fairs, newspaper articles, books or websites so that when you need to refer to them at a later date the information is readily available

    • Use a separate folder for each college being considered:
      • Staple business cards for Admissions Representatives to the folder so they don't get lost

      • Include all college materials and letters sent by either you or the college o Use a calendar or agenda to keep track of important dates such as information sessions, college visits, and college fairs

    • Use a calendar or agenda to keep track of important dates such as information sessions, college visits, and college fairs

  3. Researching Colleges - Grades 10 and 11
    • Naviance:
      • Complete the "My Game Plan" questionnaire

      • Use the "Advanced College Search" feature

      • Use the "College Lookup" feature by name, state or country

      • Review the "College Matches"

      • Review "College Compare for GPA and Test Score" averages for selected colleges

    • Questions to consider:
      • What are your goals and priorities for your college education? What do you want to accomplish during those years?

      • What is your learning style? Do you prefer lecture classes or small group discussions?

      • Do you prefer a two-year or four-year college?

      • What majors, subjects, or careers are you interested in?

      • Do you prefer a Liberal Arts, Pre-Professional or Technical College?

      • What tests (SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests) do your schools of interest require?

      • Are you interested in an Honors Program or College?

      • What factors are most important in a college for you such as campus size, private/public, urban/suburban/rural location, distance from home, climate, residential/commuter, costs, academic rigor, liberal arts/pre-professional/technical curriculum, majors offered, research/internship/study abroad/cooperative work-study, ROTC, clubs/athletics/music/arts/activities, fraternities/sororities, diversity, single-sex/co-ed, or religious affiliation?

    • College Fairs, local Information Sessions, visits to SBHS by College Admissions Representative - Grades 10 through 12:
      • Attend College Fairs and local College Information Sessions held in the area. Ask questions.

      • Sign up for college mailing lists (online or on paper). Pre-print mailing labels which include your name, address, e-mail address, high school and graduation year, so that you don't have to spend the time at College Fairs writing the information for each college. Just peel off the label and add to the address card. This way you will have more time to speak to the college representatives.

      • Pick up business cards for each college representative you speak to so that you can contact them at a later date with follow-up questions

      • College Admissions Representatives from many colleges visit SBHS in the fall. Students from all grades can stop by the tables outside the Red & Blue cafeterias for brochures or information

      • Some Admissions Offices keep track of your interest in the school noting the number of times you visit or contact them by phone or e-mail

      • Often the same Admissions Representative that visits SBHS or local College Fairs will also read your application. Introduce yourself and ask questions to demonstrate that you are interested in the college they represent.

      • Attend SBHS college evening Information Sessions sponsored by the Guidance Department

    • Review Books and Websites - Grades 9 through 12:
      • Review college and career books and websites for additional research

      • Review the ABC's of College Planning book provided by Guidance to juniors

      • Review individual college websites

    • Prepare a list of schools of interest - Grades 10 and 11:

  4. College Visits - Grades 10 and 11
    • Students (not parents) should initiate all contact with colleges via phone or e-mail

    • Begin visiting colleges in the sophomore or junior year depending on the student's interest

    • Try to visit schools on scheduled open house days. There is usually more going on and the opportunity to get a lot more information. If possible, visit during the week when school is in session and college students are on campus. Otherwise, arrange to attend any information session and campus tour.

    • Spring Break and Teacher Convention weekend are good times to visit schools

    • Prepare a list of questions to ask Admissions Representatives and students on campus

    • If available, consider scheduling any of the following:
      • Overnight visit at a dorm

      • Sit in on a class in your field of interest

      • Meet with a student, academic advisor, or professor in the department of interest

      • Request a tour of the department of interest

    • After visiting several schools it is difficult to remember specific details about each one. In order to review the information at a later date:
      • Take photos of the campus including the buildings, grounds, dorm rooms, eateries, nearby town/stores/restaurants

      • Take notes at the information session

      • Write up notes immediately after the campus tour in order to remember important details about the college

    • Read the school newspaper (online or print) to get an idea of what is happening on campus

    • Talk informally to students in the dining hall about their experiences on campus

    • Talk to friends or family members who attended the school

    • View online virtual campus tours

    • Send a "thank you" e-mail or note to Admissions Representatives or Professors you met with

  5. Narrow down list of colleges to approximately six to eight - Grades 11 and 12
    • Target schools (about 4) with a high probability of accepting you

    • Safety schools (1 or 2) which you are almost guaranteed to be accepted at

    • Reach schools (1 or 2) with a reduced probability of accepting you

    • The school that seems like your favorite at the beginning of the admissions process may not be your favorite at the end. Be open-minded

    • Essays - Look at the current year versions of college applications for essay and short answer questions. While they may change, it gives you an opportunity to think about some possible essay topics you might like to write about in your applications

  6. Teacher Recommendations - Grade 11
    • It is strongly recommended that students decide who they want recommendation letters from in May or June of junior year and speak with those teachers before school ends

    • Ask teachers who know you best, usually those from your junior or sophomore year

    • Many schools require two teacher recommendations

    • Guidance Counselors will automatically write recommendations as needed

  7. Apply to Colleges - Grade 12
    • Seniors should use this checklist which provides a list of tasks and ideas that will help organize the process of applying to college including obtaining and completing applications, requesting teacher recommendations, sending test scores, staying organized, requesting transcripts, applying for financial aid, and completing the process as the acceptance letters arrive.