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How-To Guide: Start the College Planning Process



We are always asked when parents and students should start the college planning process. And whether you have baby pictures with your favorite school’s mascot or haven’t given it a thought, the answer is generally: now!



Use the following guidelines to make consistent progress. This will ensure that you remain in control and will allow you to avoid a stress pile-up.


Rising 9th grader:

Determine schedule: Pre-AP, Pre-AP GT, or on-level?

  • You can level-down at any point, so it is more prudent for those on-the-fence to give pre-AP a try!

Discover Interests

  • Freshman year is a great time to try new things and plug-in. Debate? Yearbook?

  • If you don’t find a club that piques your interest, start your own!

Develop good study and time management habits

  • Starting this now will make the next 4 years more successful and enjoyable


Rising sophomore:

Determine schedule

  • Evaluate your freshman year. Did you feel successful? Do you need more of a challenge? Do you need to balance your workload?

Make your summer count

  • Seek opportunities for community service, mission trip, etc.

Focus interests

  • Zero in on one or two interests where you can show sustained commitment

Practice good study and time management habits


Rising junior:

Determine schedule

  • Junior year has the most intense workload, regardless of what level of classes you choose. Consider challenging yourself in your areas of interest and scheduling an off-block if able.

Make your summer count

  • Acquire a job or internship, volunteer opportunities

Deepen Interests

  • Consider leadership opportunities

Make an ACT/SAT plan

  • Will you take a prep course? Take it cold the first time? Which will you take?

Research colleges based on your preferences and interests

  • Field of study? Size? Location? Campus life?

Develop healthy sleep habits Practice good study and time management skills


Rising senior: Determine schedule

  • Dual vs. AP vs. On-level? Off blocks?

  • Consider the level of rigor your preferred schools require and want to see

Make your summer count

Maintain interests

  • Continue commitment and leadership role(s)

Keep up your academic record

  • Senioritis happens, but keep in mind that colleges take note of ‘Senior Slide’

Practice healthy sleep habits Maintain good study and time management skills

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