College Planning: The Eleventh Grade Year
This is a key year in the college planning process because you’ll be taking standardized tests, narrowing down your college list, and learning more about financial aid. In addition, you’ll need to stay involved in your high school courses and activities.
College Planning Calendar for Students
Stay on track with your classes and grades.
Meet with your counselor to see what you still need to take. 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.
Take the PSAT.
Taking the test qualifies you for the National Merit Scholarship program, which means you could earn money for college. In addition, it’s a good way to practice for the SAT.
Evaluate your education options.
Now is the time to follow a more specific path. Decide whether you want to pursue full-time employment, further education or training (such as a vocational-technical school, career college, or two-year or four-year college), or a military career. If you’re interested in attending a military academy, talk to your guidance counselor about starting the application process now.
Make a college list.
Include colleges that meet your most important criteria (for example, size, location, cost, academic majors, or special programs). Weigh each of the factors according to their importance to you and develop a preliminary ranking of the schools on your list.
Continue gathering college information.
Go to college fairs, attend college nights, and speak with college representatives who visit your high school’s College and Career Center. You may be able to narrow your choices or add a school to your list.
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. You’ll want to have plenty of time to prepare.
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.
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.
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 by the factors that are most important to you and rank your choices.
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.
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.
Learn more about financial aid.
Examine your family’s financial resources and gather information about financial aid from the schools you’re interested in. High-school sponsored financial aid nights, college financial aid counselors, and our website are also good sources of information.
Prepare a challenging schedule for senior year.
Meet with your counselor to determine 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.
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 College and Career Center for scholarships from local organizations. 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 from a coach, activity leader, or adult who knows you well outside of school are also valuable.
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. The money you earn can also be used to help pay application and testing fees in the fall.
Make College Visits.
You’ll often have to plan ahead when visiting colleges. Call the admissions office to set up a personal interview, tour, and a meeting with a professor or coach if you’re interested. Visit our website for more information about College Visits.
Visit the campuses of your top five college choices. Take a tour and speak with the admissions and financial aid staff. You may also be able to talk to students if some classes are in session. If you have an interview, be sure to send a thank-you letter to the interviewer once you return home.
Get advice from other college students.
If you have friends or relatives in college, talk to them about what college life is like; especially if they attend a school you’re interested in. Although it’s important to hear what the admissions staff has to say about a school, it’s also important to get the students’ perspective.
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. Getting organized will make the process of applying a lot easier because you’ll know where to find important information.
Start working on your application essays.
Compose rough drafts of the essays you’ll need for your college applications. Have a teacher read and discuss them with you so you can see what to work on. Make any revisions to your essays and prepare final drafts. Don’t forget to proofread your final essays a few times.
Make early decision preparations.
If you plan to apply early decision to any school, take the time to visit the school again and make sure you’re willing to commit. If you elect to apply early decision, you should start working on your application as soon as possible because its deadline will be earlier than others.
College Planning Calendar For Parents
This year the college search process begins in earnest. The combined exploration of the past two years along with your child's testing should help with developing a list of target schools by spring. Poor grades will not be as easily forgiven as they were in previous years, and colleges will look for commitment and accomplishment outside of the classroom.
Just as you've been doing all along, help your child stay on top of things and continue to provide support and encouragement - and constructive criticism, if needed.
Kick it up a notch
Make sure your child registers for the October PSAT. This is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship program and great practice for the SAT.
Go to the fair
Check into college fairs and college representative visits to the school. (The College and Career Center should have a schedule.) Encourage your child to attend and to start becoming very familiar with the college resources available at school.
An important note
If you haven't done so yet, get a Social Security number for your child.
Keep driving the bus
If your child is taking the PSAT, make sure the date is in big bold letters on the family calendar. Diplomatically remind your child to read the Student Bulletin and to try some practice questions. Try to refrain from grilling your beloved offspring about how he or she thinks they did as soon as the test is over. Plan a not-test-related treat instead.
Get out of town
Schedule a day trip to visit nearby colleges. Don't worry if these are places where your child won't apply. The goal is to explore different types of schools. Aim for variety. Discuss which characteristics of schools are attractive and which aren't.
Get ready to buckle down
If you have questions about PSAT scores, contact your child's guidance counselor and, if necessary, discuss strategies for improving weak areas for the SAT. This is another year for college admission tests, so look into prep options for the SAT, ACT, and AP.
Look to the future
Start informal brainstorming with your child about possible target colleges, with test results in mind. If you or any of your acquaintances have a college student at home for the winter break, ask them questions and encourage your child to do so as well.
Start thinking dollars and cents
Take an introductory look at financial aid forms just to see what you'll be doing this time next year.
Keep up communication
How's school going this year? Since classes are probably tougher than ever, continue to evaluate your child's academic progress. Does everything seem to be going alright? What does your child need if he or she is struggling?
Dream about summer
Start making initial summer plans for working, studying, volunteering, etc. Try to make sure your child is involved in something that looks good on a college application.
Check the schedule
Look ahead to SAT or ACT registration deadlines. There may be one coming up quickly since some juniors take the SAT in March, which isn't a bad idea. Heed the February registration deadline.
Plan, prepare, and plan some more
Consider and plan spring vacation college visits. Hopefully, your child's spring break WON'T coincide with college breaks, so you can see some students and really get a gander at college life when you visit.
Have your son or daughter start a "College Binder" by making an early list of target colleges in a notebook. Set aside an area where all the marketing materials can be organized and be easily referenced.
Remember those tests?
If you didn't do it last month, check upcoming SAT or ACT registration deadlines for tests your child still needs to take. Is there one on the horizon? Make note of the test and registration dates on your calendar.
If AP tests are coming up, make sure your child discusses plans to take exams with teachers and/or the guidance counselor, as needed.
Discuss the lineup for senior-year classes. Urge your child to include at least one math course or lab science, as well as the most challenging courses possible. Both of you should recognize that colleges weigh senior classes and grades as heavily as the junior record.
Does your child still need to take the SAT or ACT? Check for registration deadlines and upcoming test dates. If it hasn't already been done, have your child update his or her activities record.
Prepping for tests
Does your child still need to get the SAT and/or ACT out of the way? (And yes, we will remind you every month until it's done!) Make sure no deadlines or test dates are being overlooked.
If your child needs to take the TOEFL as well, check the test dates and help your child get registered.
Make sure your child is registered for anything that still needs to be done. As always, if your child has a test coming up, mark the test and registration dates on the family calendar.
Take advantage of the summer slow-down by visiting scholarship search and financial aid Web sites with your child, or by checking out comparable library resources.
Don't slow down
By now, your child should be accustomed to setting summers aside for employment or some other constructive activities. These are the types of activities that sit well with admission officials. This is also a good time to take some summer visits and plan fall college visits.
Work on your child's list
Keep your child on track with test preparation, if needed. They should also begin planning, if not executing, any supplemental submissions that will be needed, such as audition tapes or art slides or portfolios. Review and update the list of target schools your child has been developing, adding the pros and cons of each school.