- Register for and take the PSAT or the PLAN. This test is given in October. Check with your counselor. (Check and see if any PSAT or SAT review classes are at your school.)
- Stay on track with your classes and grades. Meet with your counselor to see what you still need to take. Check on your GPA. Even if your grades haven’t been that good so far, it’s never too late to improve. Colleges like to see an upward trend. Make sure you're challenging yourself academically. Colleges will consider how difficult your courses are.
- Make a college list. Your list should include schools that best fit you (for example, size, location, cost, academic majors, or special programs). Weigh each of the factors according to their importance to you and rank the schools on your list. See “Find The College That Fits You.”
- Go to college fairs, attend college nights, and speak with college representatives who visit your high school; use an online college finder and search top college lists.
- Organize a testing plan. Figure out when you’ll be taking important tests like the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, and AP exams, and mark the dates on your calendar.
- Make sure you’re meeting any special requirements. If you want to play Division I or II sports in college, start the certification process and check with your counselor to make sure you’re taking a core curriculum that meets NCAA requirements.
- Prepare for standardized tests. Find out if the colleges you are interested in require the SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Tests. Register to take the tests you need; most juniors take them in the winter or spring. You can take them again in the fall of your senior year if you’re unhappy with your scores.
- Get extra help if you need it from your teachers, counselor or other students.
- Organize your college information. Set up a filing system with individual folders for each college’s correspondence and printed materials. This will make it easier to locate the specific information you’re looking for.
- Begin narrowing down your college choices. Make sure you have all the information you need about the colleges you’re interested in (entrance requirements, tuition, room and board costs, course offerings, student activities, financial aid, etc.). Then begin comparing the schools and narrow your list of colleges to include a few colleges with requirements at your current GPA, a few with requirements above your current GPA, and at least one with requirements below your GPA.
- Learn more about financial aid by attending a financial aid workshop or seminar and doing online research on federal and state student grants at www.hesc.ny.gov (click on Pay); on (SUNY) Opportunity Programs (EOP at https://www.suny.edu/attend/academics/eop; on private NY colleges Opportunity Programs (HEOP) at www.highered.nysed.gov/kiap/colldev/HEOP; and on CUNY’s SEEK program for 4 year colleges and College Discovery for 2 year colleges at www2.cuny.edu/.../federal-and-state-grants/opportunity-programs. To learn how much you might get in Financial Aid google FAFSA4Caster.
- Research summer enrichment programs on a college campus (check with your NYGEAR UP coordinator), internships and jobs.
- Stay involved with extracurricular activities. Colleges look for consistency and depth in the non-academic activities you pursue. Taking on leadership roles and making a commitment to the same groups are more important than trying out tons of new activities each year.
- Talk to your family. Have a discussion about the colleges you’re interested in. Your family can learn about what you want to pursue and you can hear any concerns or suggestions they might have.
- Take the SAT and SAT Subject Tests or the ACT.
- Prepare for NYS Regents exams by checking Regents review classes at your school.
- Register and study for AP exams
- Prepare a challenging schedule for senior year. Meet with your counselor to see what classes you’ll take next year and to make sure you’re on track for graduation. When you pick your classes, don’t load up on easy electives. Colleges do consider your senior year courses and grades, so stick with a schedule that challenges you.
- Sign up for NYGEAR UP college trips and attend college fairs near you.
- Find out about college-prep summer programs or apply for a summer job or internship. Summer employment and internships in fields you’re interested in will look appealing on a college application or resume.
- Start a scholarship search. There are lots of scholarships out there; you just need to spend a little bit of time and effort to find them. Check with your guidance office for scholarships from local organizations and use online scholarship search tools to find a wider range of options. The sooner you start looking for scholarships, the easier it will be to select some to apply to during your senior year.
- Contact your recommendation writers. Teachers and guidance counselors are often asked to write recommendations for lots of students. Consider whom you want to ask now and let them know so they’ll have time to prepare before getting tons of requests in the fall. Ask teachers who know you well and who will have positive things to say. Letters of recommendation from a coach, activity leader, or adult who knows you well outside of school are also valuable.
- Check with your NYGEAR UP coordinator to see if they are scheduling summer college visits and sign up!
- Get a Social Security number, if you don’t have one.
- Register for your FSA ID so you are ready to complete the FAFSA in the fall.
- Narrow down your college list.
- Visit colleges. Visit the campuses of your top college choices. Take a tour and speak with the admissions and financial aid staff. If you have an interview, be sure to send a thank-you letter to the interviewer once you return home.
- College applications are often available mid-summer – review them and Start working on your application essays. Compose rough drafts of the essays you’ll need for your college applications. Make any revisions to your application essays and prepare final drafts. In September, have a teacher read and discuss them with you so you can see what to work on.
- If you haven't already, start putting together a resume of awards, volunteer activities and other accomplishments to help you with your applications.
- Organize your financial aid information. Develop a plan that includes a list of the aid sources, requirements for each application, and a timetable for meeting the filing deadlines.
- Make early decision preparations. If you plan to apply early decision to any school, you should start working on your application as soon as possible because its deadline will be earlier than others.