College Planning Checklist

Scholarships available for seniors at Collier High School -- a NJ alternative High school

College Planning Checklist for Grades 9 through 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.

Jump to Grade 9

Jump to Grade 10
Jump to Grade 11

Jump to Grade 12

Beginning the Process (Grade 9, revisit and adjust in grades 10-12)

 Review your transcript every summer to verify the accuracy of grades, GPA, and activities

 Ensure that your 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

 College Admissions Testing  -- SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Tests
Decide when you will take your college admissions tests. Consider whether you will take the SAT or the ACT and remember that most colleges will accept either test. The SAT has a sharp focus on critical thinking, problem solving, understanding context, and an emphasis on real world problems. The ACT remains an achievement test, requiring a broad knowledge of many concepts, as well as considerable speed and endurance. The SAT Subject Test is usually required for very selective schools.

 Make a plan to study for the 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. You can also consider private tutoring or utilizing the test prep books which include testing tips and practice exams

 Extracurricular Activities -- Continue to participate in extracurricular activities that you enjoy in school and out (clubs, sports, community service, jobs, music, arts). 
Keep track of the number of hours you participated in each activity. Most colleges prefer to see a long-term commitment to a few activities instead of a long list of activities.

 Keep a folder to store all general college-related information collected from presentations, college fairs, websites, or books so that when you need to refer to the information, it is readily available. 

Researching Colleges (Grades 10 and 11)

 Questions to consider:

  • What are your goals and priorities for your college education? What do you want to accomplish during your college years?
  • What is your learning style? Do you prefer small group discussions or lecture classes?
  • Do you prefer a two year or a four year college?
  • What majors, subjects, or careers are you interested in?
  • 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, ROTC, costs, academic rigor, majors offered, single sex/co-ed, fraternities/sororities, diversity, liberal arts/pre-professional/technical curriculum, research/internship/study abroad and cooperative work/study, club/athletics/music/arts/activities or religious affiliation?

Attend College Fairs and local college info sessions held in your area...ASK QUESTIONS.

 Pick up business cards for each college representative so that you can contact them at a later date. 
Some admissions offices keep track of your interest in the school noting the number of times you visit or contact them by phone or email. Review individual college websites.

 ​Begin preparing a list of schools of interest.
Compare pros and cons of each school on your list and begin narrowing it down.

College Visits (Grades 10 and 11)

□ Students should initiate contacts with colleges via phone or email. See your CHS Post-Grad Counselor to discuss how to begin this process.

Try to visit schools on scheduled open house days or arrange an information session and a campus tour with the admissions office. Try to arrange the tours when school is in session and students are on campus. Spring break and teacher's convention in November are good times to visit schools. PREPARE A LIST OF QUESTIONS TO ASK COLLEGE REPS AND STUDENTS ON CAMPUS!

□ If available, consider scheduling any of the following:

  • Sit in on a class in your field of interest
  • Request a tour of the department of interest and meet with a student and/or professor
  • Overnight visit at a dorm

□ 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, buildings, and dorms (View online virtual tours)
  • Take notes at the information session
  • Keep a folder with the information received from the campus tours
  • Talk to friends and family who attended the school 

Narrow Down The List of Colleges To Approximately 6 to 8 (Grades 11 and 12)

□ Target schools with high probability of accepting you

□ Safety schools which you are guaranteed acceptance

Reach schools with a reduced probability of accepting you

Teacher recommendations
Try to decide at the end of your junior year or September/October of your senior year, who you want to write your recommendation letters. It should be at least two people, preferably a teacher in your major and one you've had a positive relationship with in the classroom. Other non-family recommenders in the community should be considered also.