College Counseling » College Planning Guide

College Planning Guide

So What Should I Be Doing Now?

 

Freshman Year

Almost every website and book has their own version of what you should be doing at each grade level. This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully will provide some sense of where you should be.

Most Important Things
  • Don’t stress about college yet, but do create a four-year high school plan.
  • Pick courses wisely. Take the hardest ones you can handle.
  • Apply yourself diligently; do your best.
  • Get involved in things that interest you, both in and out of school.
  • If there are new things you want to try (e.g., a new sport), this is a great time to do it.
  • Begin to pay special attention to discovering what coursework and extracurricular activities excite and interest you most and where you are strongest.
 
Things to understand
  • Colleges will see all the courses you take from this point on. They will also see each semester’s GPA and my cumulative GPA.
  • Just meeting the minimum graduation requirements for The Master’s School is not necessarily enough to satisfy college entrance requirements.
  • The most important thing that colleges will look at is how well you did in your high school academic work, and whether you showed initiative in taking advantage of the academic opportunities offered there.
 
Naviance Milestones to Complete
  • Initial Registration and Sign On
  • Freshman Year Resume
 
Terms to Know
  • GPA: Grade point average. The Master’s School uses a 4.0 system. Each grade (A, A-, B+, etc.) has a corresponding numerical value. Your GPA comes from all your grades divided by the number of credits. A 4.0 GPA means that you received an A in every class.
  • Transcript: Your academic record. It is a list of all courses and grades from 9th grade on. Official copies are signed and embossed by the Registrar and are required to be sent with college applications.
  • Resume: This is a list of activities, awards, and honors for things you have been involved in outside of the classroom. They can be formal activities or significant projects that you have done on your own. A resume is submitted as part of your college application. You do not need a long list of things; in most cases, you should not list everything you have done. An activity done one or two times is not of interest to a college admissions office. Consistent interest and leadership, once you have discovered what you really enjoy, matter most.
 

Sophomore Year

Almost every website and book has their own version of what you should be doing at each grade level. This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully will provide some sense of where you should be.
 
Most Important Things
  • Pick courses wisely. Next year’s courses involve important decisions – continuing with a foreign language, AP courses, etc.
  • Continue to apply yourself diligently; do your best.
  • Stay involved in things and look for opportunities to begin moving into leadership.
  • Find an organizational system that works for you in which to begin to accumulate things related to the college search, such as standardized test scores, scholarship info, and colleges that catch your eye for some reason.
 
Things to Understand
  • Not taking a particular subject, such as foreign language or science, will limit your options later on. The most selective schools are going to want 4 years of everything.
  • Trends in grades matter. If you have had a bad start to your high school grades, an upward trend as you continue will make a big difference. The opposite is also true – a downward trend is hard to overcome on college applications.
 
This Year You Should
  • Take the PSAT in October. This is a “practice” SAT. Colleges do not see these scores, but they are still important for other things.
  • Get much more familiar with Naviance.
  • Update your resume.
  • Take the “Do What You Are” personality profile on Naviance. This will help you understand how you are put together and may give you some sense of direction by identifying areas you might be interested in.
 
Naviance Milestones to Complete
  • Sophomore Year Resume Update
  • Game Plan Survey
  • “Do What You Are” Personality Profile

Junior Year

Almost every website and book has their own version of what you should be doing at each grade level. This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully will provide some sense of where you should be.
 
Most Important Things
  • Continue to be academically diligent. This includes taking advantage of as many academic opportunities as possible.
  • Decide which activities you will highlight on your college application.
  • Begin to develop a portfolio if you are interested in art.
  • Pay attention to the increasing communication and information you will receive regarding college selection and application. Begin to check email regularly.
  • By spring, have a preliminary list of 12-15 colleges.
  • Plan ahead so you know how the application process will work. Next fall is too late to begin the learning process.
  • Decide how and when you are going to visit colleges.
 
Things to Understand
  • The transcript showing courses and GPA from 9th-11th grade is what is sent with the college applications. This year’s grades are very important.
  • College application options – early decision, early action, regular admission (defined in Admissions 101 section).
  • General timeline and application process – you want to know as much as possible about this before you get to the fall of your senior year.
  • If you need scholarship money, you need to start looking this year.
 
This Year You Should
  • Memorize your Social Security Number – you will need it a lot over the next few years.
  • Make sure you have an appropriate email address that you can keep for the next couple of years. In addition to the name itself, think through things like 1 vs. I, 0 vs. O – they can be confusing.
  • Take the PSATs in October.
  • Take an SAT prep course if appropriate.
  • Take SATs in the spring.
  • Update your resume.
  • Compile a list of prospective colleges.
 
Naviance Milestones to Complete
  • Create prospective college list of 12-15 schools
  • Have an initial one on one meeting with the College Placement Office if you have not done so
  • Junior Year Resume Update
  • Career Interest profile

Senior Year

Almost every website and book has their own version of what you should be doing at each grade level. This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully will provide some sense of where you should be. (Also see the College planning calendar for seniors, prepared by the College Board, which follows this page.)
 
Most Important Things
  • Work steadily and faithfully in your classes.
  • Work steadily and faithfully in your college application process. Pay very close attention to deadlines, both those from the colleges and those from the College Placement Office.
  • Narrow list of potential colleges down to the ones to which you will actually apply.
    Apply.
  • Decide.
 
Things to Understand
  • Keep up your grades. Senior year grades are vital. Colleges receive a mid-year report containing your first semester grades and your cumulative GPA. They also receive a final transcript after graduation. Offers of admission can be rescinded. Therefore, do not:

    Drop your hard classes after getting your acceptance letter.

    Switch to Pass/Fail to hide the fact that you’re not doing well in a class.

    Take a core academic class Pass/Fail.

    Decide that you can slack off.
 
  • Making deposits at more than one college because you still haven’t decided where to go and you want to keep your options open violates the code of conduct that colleges expect students to abide by. How colleges respond to that violation if they find out is up to the college, but in some cases they will rescind the offer of admission.
 
This Year You Should
  • Take the SATs again if you need to (early fall).
  • Continue to keep records of important papers – e.g., score reports from College Board.
  • File the FAFSA for financial aid. Get PIN numbers in the fall. Finalize taxes quickly so that you can apply as soon after January 1 as possible. This applies to both the student and the parent.
 
Naviance Milestones to Complete
  • Student Brag Sheet
  • Senior Year Resume Update
  • Senior Year Fall Meeting with College Placement Office