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Timeline for college admission

Occasionally, I receive a call from a parent of an elementary school student, asking me what the child should do at that point to strategize for the college process. That is just crazy! No matter how old or young you are, you should always do your best in school and be involved in activities that interest and inspire you. You really do not need to begin strategizing for college in a concrete way until you are in high school. Small decisions that you make early on in your high school career can set you on a good track and help you to optimize your chances of admission to the colleges of your choice.

Below is a rough timeline for the college application process. It is by no means applicable to everyone at every school, but it can provide some helpful ideas. Susanna can make more specific suggestions for you in any one of the categories, if you have questions or concerns. Contact me as soon as possible to be sure that I can work with you in the overall process.

Freshman year

  • Take the most challenging classes that you can in the highest course levels (advanced, honors, AP), unless you are pretty sure that you will not do well.  Taking tough classes at this stage of the game qualifies you for more advanced classes later.
  • Do whatever you need to do to get good grades.  Seek out teachers for extra help, form study groups, work with tutors if necessary, and complete all assignments thoroughly.  The grades you receive throughout high school will be part of the GPA that colleges will evaluate when you apply for admission.
  • Get involved in a variety of activities that interest you, both in and out of school. Get a feel for the ones you may want to focus on as you move forward and the ones you may be able to hold a leadership position in later on.  Keep a resume list to record your involvement in activities and events, large and small.
  • Plan ahead for the summer. There are so many opportunities for community service experiences, jobs, sports camps, and academic programs. Some programs and opportunities are more reputable than others, and Susanna can help you to wade through the options.
  • If you were in honors biology, you may want to take the SAT Subject Test in biology, after some independent preparation. Susanna can recommend preparation books for this endeavor.

Sophomore year

  • Continue involvement in the activities that were most interesting to you last year. It is okay to discontinue involvement in clubs or activities that did not engage you and to increase your participation and leadership role in the ones that you select. Continually update your resume list.
  • Keep those grades up, up, up!
  • Stay in challenging, high-level classes.
  • Take the PSAT in October to get a baseline score for your performance. Contact Susanna to line up SAT tutoring over the summer or for the fall of junior year. Her schedule books very quickly!
  • Plan ahead for the summer, just as you did last year.  You do not need to commit to a program that lasts all summer, but you can be very creative about how you use your “free” time.

Junior year

  • Take the PSAT in October. This time it will count for the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, so it may be worth preparing for if your sophomore scores were high enough.
  • Put an SAT prep plan in place and follow through to take the test in the late winter and spring. You may also need to take SAT Subject Tests at the end of the year (US History, Math, Literature, Chemistry, Languages, etc.)
  • Good grades. Hard classes. Leadership role in key activities. Summer planning.
  • Meet with Susanna to develop a list of colleges that may interest you. Plan visits to certain geographical areas and get out there!
  • Select teachers who can write recommendations for you.  Work with Susanna to prepare a resume, brag sheet, and teacher “blurbs” so that your teachers can begin the recommendations over the summer.

Senior year

  • Work with Susanna the summer before senior year to narrow down your college list and complete significant portions of the applications.
  • Get those applications in early, especially if a school offers rolling admission, or early action / decision programs. Stay on top of deadlines.
  • If necessary, retake the SAT and / or Subject Tests. Be sure to have official scores sent to the colleges.
  • Be sure that teachers and counselors have all of the forms and envelopes they need to submit recommendations and transcripts.
  • Schedule interviews and second visits to certain schools. Work with Susanna to prepare for interviews.
  • Keep those grades up, up, up! Many schools will evaluate first semester grades and some will give an acceptance contingent upon grades at graduation.
  • Some key senior year dates:
    • November 1, November 15, December 1 (deadlines for various colleges’ early action and early decision programs)
    • February 15 (deadline for applying for financial aid at most colleges)
    • February 1, February 15, March 1 (typically the latest dates for submitting regular decision applications)
    • April 1 (deadline for colleges to release their admission decisions)
    • May 1 (deadline for choosing the one school where you will enroll)
susanna short

Mendham, NJ

Sea Girt, NJ




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