Timeline for College-bound Students

Ninth Grade

  • Enjoy the journey, it is not just about the destination. Don’t try to build a resume based on your perception of what colleges value. Explore different activities to discover what you enjoy doing, and then pursue that.
  • Course selection does matter. You should always challenge yourself to the best of your ability. When you have the opportunity, try to register for the most challenging classes that you believe you can be successful in. 
  • This is a good time to start thinking about what you currently enjoy doing, and perhaps consider pursuing some new activities and extracurriculars that appeal to you. When you find what you enjoy- get as involved as you can. Colleges are more impressed by depth of commitment than the breadth.
  • Do NOT sit back and do nothing- this is a time for you to build your transcript (get good grades), challenge yourself academically, get involved, and try new things.
  • For students with English as a second language- consider taking the TOEFL in the spring and depending on the score, take again as necessary
  • If you need academic support, this is the time to ask for it. Learning how to be a strong self-advocate is an important skill to develop this year.
  • If a course is too difficult or not challenging enough, visit your guidance counselor and inquire about a change in your schedule.

Summer After Ninth Grade

  • Do what you want to do! There is nothing specific that colleges are looking for during this summer. You should spend time doing things that you feel passionate about and that you enjoy. As long as you are not sitting around doing nothing, there are no specific college expectations to meet.
  • Consider some of these summer activities: getting a job (ex: working as a camp counselor, working in food service, landscaping, etc.), taking courses that interest you, attending sports camps, developing particular skills or interests, or engaging in volunteer work that you find rewarding.
  • ESL students: Depending on your score for TOFEL in the spring, review your results to focus your study efforts and develop a future testing schedule.
  • Visit a college or two – whether this is on vacation or a drive through, you should start to get ideas about size, place, feel and what you might want from a college campus.

Tenth Grade

  • Throughout 10th grade, continue to challenge yourself academically. Take the most rigorous courses you can handle.
  • In October, you should be taking the PSAT or Pre-ACT. This will give you the time to go over your results and find areas of weakness that you can target and work on. 
  • Continue to engage in some or all of the activities that you enjoyed during 9th grade. Or, if you have time, start something new and step outside of your comfort zone. Consider leadership positions in any of those activities.
  • Grades are even more important this year. Stay focused on building your transcript, and continue to work on self-advocating. If you are struggling with something, this is the time to learn when and how to get help.
  • Make connections- set up meetings with coaches, guidance counselors, teachers etc.
  • If you are planning on applying to notably competitive schools, you will need to pursue a rigorous curriculum path – pursue the highest level in every discipline that is offered at your school regardless of what major you may be considering for college.

Summer After 10th Grade

  • The summer after 10th grade, make sure you are staying busy with something you are passionate about. Whether it’s community service, a summer job, athletic camps, or a pre-college academic program, make sure you aren’t sitting back and doing nothing this summer. Consider activities that might make you stand out from the crowd.
  • If you are considering a Pre-College academic program, try to receive college credit for the work you’re doing. These programs can be a tremendous opportunity to develop independence and get an idea of what it will be like to live away from home and on a campus. See if you can get a letter of recommendation from the professor if you have had particular success in the course.
  • Visit a couple of colleges this summer to get a better sense of what might interest you. For example, tour a large urban university and a small, liberal arts college. What did you like? What didn’t you like?
  • Start thinking about the college process and set some goals for junior year, both in terms of academics, standardized testing, and co-curricular activities.

Eleventh Grade

  • Continue to pursue leadership opportunities in any clubs/organizations that you are involved in.
  • During junior year, your college process truly begins. You will need to begin meeting more frequently with your counselor and set up a more detailed timeline for your college admissions process.
  • Take the PSAT or PACT again in October. You will receive results in December, and that will help you identify what areas still need improvement. Additionally, consider taking a baseline exam through PES to receive results more quickly.
  • After taking both the PSAT and PACT (or baseline exams for each through PES), decide which exam is the best fit for you. Continue to prepare for the exam you think you will be most successful in. Decide what test date you will sign up for, and determine if you will be seeking out test prep assistance.
  • Your grades this year are more important than ever! Your transcript, at the end of your junior year, is the grade report most often used in making college admission decisions. Increase your rigor and, if possible, enroll in at least one AP class. APs can boost GPA leading into the application process.
  • Take advantage of extra-help sessions and office hours. This is where teachers will learn even more about you as a learner and get more information to write about you in a recommendation. 
  • Save any papers from this year that you are proud of (with teacher comments and grades). These can be helpful when you begin writing your college essay and supplemental essays in the future. Additionally, some colleges ask for graded writing samples with teacher comments as part of the application process.
  • Continue to tour the colleges you are interested in. If there are admissions programs that allow you to shadow a student or sit in on classes, consider signing up for that while you visit. If a college offers individual interviews, you should always take advantage of that opportunity.
  • Develop a working college list – research the academic requirements for those colleges and explore college websites, search engines and take virtual tours.

Summer After Eleventh Grade

  • Continue to pursue summer activities that you have been involved in and seek out leadership opportunities. Get involved in something important, interesting or work really hard at your summer job. Continue to explore pre-college academic programs.
  • This summer is a great time to get a head start on the college process. Begin filling out the Common Application and school-specific applications. 
    • Fill out specific sections within the Common App (i.e. Student Information, Parent Information, Activities, etc.)
    • Upload your senior year courses
  • Take time this summer to continue visiting the colleges on your list and research the schools you are interested in. Make sure to take notes on the pros and cons of each school and maybe even take a few pictures while you’re visiting the campus.
  • Take advantage of any free time this summer and focus on standardized test preparation if you still have future test dates.
  • Begin to think about your personal statement and what you might like to write about. You should try to have a draft completed by the end of the summer so you can begin to work with your counselor on edits in the fall.
  • If you are planning to apply for financial aid, start to familiarize yourself with the FAFSA/CSS Profile. This is also a good time to start exploring various scholarship opportunities. Take a look at PES financial aid resources in our guidebook.

Twelfth Grade

  • Throughout this year, you should continue to meet frequently with your college counselor until the application process is complete. This will help you stay on top of important deadlines, essay writing expectations, and testing needs.
  • The courses you choose and grades you achieve during 12th grade will be important to your college process. Again, you should be taking the most challenging courses you feel you will be successful in.
  • First quarter grades will be sent to all schools that you apply to. Mid-year grade reports will be sent to all colleges that have not rendered a decision at the time of publication. Your final transcript will be sent to the college or university where you enroll. 
  • Continue the activities that you have enjoyed throughout high school. Senior year is the best and most important time to pursue leadership positions in any activity that you are engaged in. 
  • Be sure to request teacher recommendations when you return to school in the fall, if you have not done so already. Once your teachers have written your recommendations, be sure to write thank-you notes.
  • Finalize your college essay with your counselor, as well as all supplemental and school-specific essays.
  • Fill out your resume template. Transfer any and all activities that you have been involved in to the PES resume template that has been shared with you. Be sure to log the time spent on each activity.
  • Continue to tour the colleges on your list, and schedule interviews for any of the schools that offer them. This can be a great opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants and share more about who you are with the admissions office.
  • If you are applying for financial aid, you will need to submit the FAFSA application (open on October 1st) and CSS Profile.
  • Make sure that you stay on top of application deadlines. You should aim to submit applications with a parent and/or counselor in advance of admission deadlines.
  • If you are deferred, meet with your counselor to determine a strategy for next steps.
  • Enjoy the rest of your senior year!

Resource guide created by Cindy Pendergast