Preparing for College

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Preparing for College: Junior Checklist 


  • Talk to the school counselor about the year ahead. Confirm that your courses will put you on track for your graduation pathway. Ask about ASVAB, ASPIRE, PSAT, ACT, and/or SAT test dates. You’ll need to register up to six weeks ahead of time.  

  • Start developing a resume of your accomplishments, activities, and work experiences. It will be an essential part of your college application. 

  • If you haven’t participated in many activities outside of class, now is the time to start. Consider school clubs, team sports, leadership roles, or involvement in religious or civic community groups. † 

  • Take the PSAT. Taking it as a junior will qualify you for some scholarship consideration and identify you as a potential college applicant. Review the results to learn more about your strengths and weaknesses. Discuss the results with your family and school counselor. † 

  • Begin to prepare for the ACT or SAT if applicable. Free test preparation may be available at schools, local community colleges, or community-based programs. There are free online resources. Plan to take at least one of these tests in the spring and again in the fall of senior year. There are test fees, but fee waivers are available. Ask your counselor if you qualify. 


  • Meet with your school counselor to develop your schedule for senior year. Consider enrolling in the most challenging courses, like dual credit courses, for which you qualify. † 

  • Register for a spring offering of the SAT and/or ACT if applicable. Ask your counselor about taking an SAT subject test. † 

  • Ask your counselor about summer opportunities on college campuses. It is a great way to discover college life and make you a stronger candidate for college admissions. Some programs have scholarships or can assist with costs. 


  • Begin taking a more serious look at colleges and universities. Go to college fairs and open houses and research options online. † 

  • Begin planning college visits. Spring break is an excellent time to visit. Try visiting colleges near you, including large, medium-sized, and small campuses. † 

  • Develop a preliminary list of colleges that interest you. Write or email to request a viewbook and additional information. Make a file for each college you’re interested in and gather information about academics, financial aid, and campus life. † 

  • Think about lining up a summer job or internship.

May † 

  • Make a list of teachers, counselors, employers, and other adults you might ask to write letters of recommendation. † 

  • Make a profile on TheWashBoard and begin searching for and applying for scholarships.

  • Create an FSA ID or WASFA account. An FSA ID gives you access to Federal Student Aid’s online systems and can serve as your legal signature. You must have an FSA ID to apply for the FAFSA. You can use the FSA ID worksheet located in this workbook. Your parents could also create an FSA ID if you are considered dependent for financial aid purposes. 

Summer † 

  • Continue investigating colleges. †

  • Begin thinking about your applications. 

  • Generally, colleges will have their applications online by the beginning of August. Work on the essay(s) before you return to school. 

For more resources and information click the link

Preparing for College: Senior Checklist 

August/September † 

  • Register for the SAT and/or ACT if applicable. Your counselor can help you with fee waivers if needed. † 

  • Take a look at some college applications and consider all the different pieces of information you will need to compile to complete them. † 

  • Visit your school counselor to ensure you are on track to graduate and fulfill college admission requirements. † 

  • Take every opportunity to get to know colleges. Meet with college representatives who visit your high school in the fall, attend local college fairs, and visit campuses if possible.  

  • Narrow down your list of potential colleges and begin to consider “reach,” “target,” and “safety” schools. Make sure you have the application and financial aid information for each school. † 

  • Create a checklist and calendar to chart: 

    • Standardized test dates, registration deadlines, and fees.

    • College application due dates. 

    • Financial aid application forms and deadlines. 

    • Other materials needed for college applications (recommendations, transcripts, essays, etc.). † 

  • Some colleges and universities require the CSS/Financial Aid Profile. Ask the colleges to which you are applying for their CSS Profile deadlines. Register as early as September. See your school counselor about CSS Profile fee waivers. 

October † 

  • File the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) or WASFA (Washington Application for State Financial Aid). The sooner you complete your financial aid application, the more aid you could receive from colleges. Students ineligible for federal aid due to immigration status can get more information and apply for the WASFA. † 

  • Some colleges will have application deadlines as early as this month. Look up the deadlines for the schools to which you want to apply. † 

  • Ask your counselor to help you request a fee waiver if you cannot afford the application fees that many colleges charge. If you had a waiver for SAT/ ACT, you would qualify for a college application fee waiver. † 

  • Finalize your college essay. Many schools require that you submit at least one essay with your application. † 

  • Request personal recommendations from non-family members such as teachers, school counselors, or employers. Provide a stamped, addressed envelope, the appropriate college forms, and an outline of your academic record and extracurricular activities to each person writing you a recommendation. † 

  • Research scholarships. Ask your counselor, colleges, and religious and civic groups about scholarship opportunities. Keep your WashBoard profile updated, and keep applying for scholarships. Remember, you should never pay for scholarship searches or information. 

November † 

  • Finalize and send applications due this month. Have a parent, teacher, counselor, or another adult review the application before submitting it. † 

  • Every college will require a copy of your transcripts from your high school. Follow your high school’s procedure for sending transcripts. † 

  • If applicable, ensure testing companies (ACT/SAT) send your scores directly to the colleges you apply to. 

December † 

  • Many popular or selective colleges have application deadlines as early as January 1. Others have deadlines later in January and February. Keep track of and observe deadlines for sending in all required fees and paperwork. †

  • Register for the January SAT (if needed). It is the last one most colleges will consider for a senior. 

January † 

  • If necessary, register for the February ACT. † 

  • Ask your high school in January to send first-semester transcripts to the colleges where you applied. At the end of the school year, they will need to send your final transcripts to the college you will attend. † 

  • Apply for scholarships. Ask your counselor, colleges, and religious and civic groups about scholarship opportunities. Keep your WashBoard profile updated, and keep applying for scholarships. Remember, you should never pay for scholarship searches or information. 

February/March/April † 

  • No Senioritis! Don’t slack in the classroom even if you’ve already submitted most of your applications. The college you choose to attend will want to see your second semester transcript. 

  • Acceptance letters and financial aid offers will start to arrive. Be sure to check your email. Colleges will communicate with you via email. Review your acceptances, compare financial aid packages, and visit your final choices, especially if you haven’t already. 

May † 

  • In most cases, the college you plan to attend requires a commitment and deposit by May 1. 

  • When you’ve decided, notify your counselor and the college. Accept your chosen financial aid package, and follow their instructions. Notify any colleges you decline of your decision. † 

  • Make sure that you request your high school send your final transcript to your college. † 

  • If a college waitlists you, you want to attend, visit, call, and write. Ask how to strengthen your application and clarify your interest to the admissions office.

Summer † 

  • Summer jobs can help pay some of your college expenses and give you great career preparation. 

  • If you are going to live on campus, make a list of what you will need for your dorm room. Check your college’s “Housing” or “Residence Life” web page for further information. You will most likely get a roommate assignment from your college. Call, write, or email to get acquainted. † 

  • Some colleges offer a summer orientation/registration. Attend to meet fellow students and other people on campus and familiarize yourself with your new school. Orientation is usually when you will sign up for your fall courses. †

  • If commuting, find out how to get a parking permit if needed. After registering, you can map out your courses to find the nearest parking lot.

Application Personal Statement & Essay Tips Choose 

Choose A Topic That Will Highlight You. 

Don’t focus on the great aspects of a particular college, the dedication it takes to be a doctor, or the number of extracurricular activities you participated in during school. 

Do share your personal story and thoughts, take a creative approach and highlight areas you do not cover in other parts of the application. 

Keep Your Focus Narrow and Personal. 

Don’t try to cover too many topics. It will make the essay sound like a résumé and not provide any additional details about you. 

Do focus on one aspect of yourself so the readers can learn more about who you are. Remember that the readers must be able to find your main idea and follow it from beginning to end. Ask a parent or teacher to read just your introduction and tell you what they think your essay is about. 

Show. Don’t Tell. 

Don’t simply state a fact to get an idea across, such as “I like to surround myself with people with various backgrounds and interests.” 

Do include specific details, examples, and reasons to develop your ideas. For the example above, describe a situation when you were surrounded by various types of people. What were you doing? Whom did you talk with? What did you take away from the experience? 

Use Your Own Voice. 

Don’t rely on phrases or ideas people have used often. These could include statements like, “There is so much suffering in the world that I feel I have to help people.” Avoid overly formal or business-like language, and don’t use unnecessary words. 

Do write in your own voice. For the above example, you could write about an authentic experience and how it made you feel you had to act. 

Ask A Teacher Or Parent To Proofread. 

Don’t turn your essay in without proofreading; don’t rely only on your computer’s spell check to catch mistakes. A spell-check program will miss typos like these:: “After I graduate from high school, I plan to get a summer job.” “From that day on, Daniel was my best friend.” 

Do ask a teacher or parent to proofread your essay to catch mistakes. You should also ask the person who proofreads your essay if the writing sounds like you.