A Timeline That Will Take You Places

Preparing for college can be overwhelming for high school students and their parents because of the many steps it takes to get an acceptance letter. But breaking the college to-do list into manageable steps for each year of high school makes the process less stressful and teaches students responsibility, the very thing they will need for what they want to achieve — a college education. Follow this step-by-step guide for a smoother countdown to college.


• Talk to your parents and guidance counselor at the beginning of the year to set goals.

• Take the most challenging courses available to you.Make good grades.

• Try a variety of activities.

• Take advantage of opportunities to visit college campuses when you travel.


• Visit college and career fairs.

• Build your resume. Make a list of awards, accomplishments, and activities.

• Take the PSAT for practice (you can take it your sophomore and junior year, but it won’t count until you are a junior).

• Start studying for the ACT and SAT. There are many test prep guides available online and in book form.

• Assess your strengths and weaknesses and take a personality inventory.

• Research possible careers.

• During the summer begin researching colleges that might be a good fit.


• Take the PSAT.

• Accept leadership roles in the activities that suit you best.

• Narrow your list of possible careers.

• Narrow your list of possible colleges.

• Take the ACT and SAT.

• During the summer volunteer or find an internship or job related to your future career.

• Write a college entrance essay draft. Have it critiqued by a guidance counselor or teacher.


• Narrow your college search to six to eight schools.

• Post all important deadline dates on a wall calendar.

• Retake the ACT or SAT if needed.

• Polish your resume.

• Ask for teacher recommendations.

• Visit the colleges you are applying to.

• Send out all your college applications.

• After you receive your acceptance letters, compare scholarship and financial aid packages and make your final decision.

• Notify all the schools you were accepted to of your decision.

• Celebrate the beginning of a new timeline at college!


Janeen Lewis is a writer, teacher and mom to Andrew and Gracie. She has been published in several parenting publications across the country.

For more – What to do in high school to set you up for the college that’s the best fit.