• 11th Grade: College Planning Timeline

  • Junior year is a key year in the college planning process because you will be taking standardized tests, narrowing down your college interest list, and learning more about financial aid, scholarships and staying involved in your high school courses and extracurricular activities. Please use this guide as a reference throughout junior year. 



    • Stay on track with all your classes and grades
      • Meet with your counselor to see what you still need to take. Check your class rank and GPA. Even if your grades have not been great, it is NEVER too late to improve! Colleges like to see an upward trend.
    • Take the PSAT
      • Taking the PSAT qualifies you for the National Merit Scholarship Program, which means you could earn money for college. In addition, it is an effective 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 training (vocational-technical school, 2-year or 4-year college), or a military service career. If you are interested in attending a military academy, talk with your counselor about starting the application process now. 
    • Make a college list
      • Your list of colleges should include schools that meet your most important criteria (e.g., 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. You can also “favorite” schools in your Naviance account. This compiles a list under the "Colleges I'm Thinking About" tab in Naviance. 
    • Continue gathering college information
      • Go to college fairs, attend college visits, participate in college nights, and reach out to college representatives who visit Chaparral or host an online event. Use an online college finder/match program to help narrow your choices (e.g., SuperMatch in Naviance is a terrific tool).
    • Create a testing plan
      • Figure out when you will be taking important tests like SAT, ACT, and AP Exams. Mark these important dates on your calendar and manage your schedule to allow plenty of time to prepare.
    • Make sure you are meeting any special requirements
      • If you plan to play Division I or Division II sports in college, start the certification process and ensure you are taking the core curriculum classes that meet the 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.
    • Organize your college information
      • Set up a filing system or folders on your computer for each college’s correspondence and materials. This will make it easier to locate the specific information when needed.
    • Begin narrowing down your college choices
      • Make sure you have all the information you need about the colleges you are interested in (i.e., entrance requirements, tuition, room/board costs, course offerings, student activities, and financial aid). Then begin by comparing the schools with the most crucial factors for you and rank your choices.
    • Prepare for standardized tests
      • Find out if the colleges you are interested in are requiring the SAT or ACT. 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 are unhappy with your scores.
    • Talk with your family
      • Discuss the colleges in which you are interested. Your family can learn about what you want to pursue, and you can hear any concerns or suggestions they may have.
    • Learn more about financial aid
      • Examine your family’s financial resources and gather information about financial aid from the schools you are interested in. High school sponsored financial aid nights, financial aid counselors at the university which you are interested in, and advice articles are good sources of information for assistance.  


    • Prepare a challenging schedule for senior year
      • Meet with your counselor to determine what classes you will take next year and make sure you are on track for graduation. Review your transcript and make sure it is accurate. When picking your classes, do not load up on too many easy electives. Colleges DO consider your senior year courses and grades, so stick with a schedule that challenges you, but one you can also complete successfully. Balance is important.
    • Consider taking the ASVAB
      • The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is a multiple-choice aptitude battery that measures developed abilities and helps predict future academic and occupational success. Interest in a military career is not required.
    •  Start a scholarship search
      • There are a lot of scholarships out there, you just need to spend some time and effort in finding them. Check with the College and Career Center and/or counseling office for scholarship opportunities from local organizations and use online scholarship search tools to find a wider range of options (e.g. Naviance, Chaparral College & Career Center website). The sooner you start looking for scholarships, the easier it will be to select some to apply to during senior year.
    • Contact your recommendation letter writers
      • Teachers and counselors are often asked to write letters of recommendation for students. Consider whom you want to ask now and let them know so they will have time to prepare before getting tons of requests in the fall. Ask a teacher who knows 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.
    • Apply for a summer job, internship, or volunteer opportunity
      • Summer employment, internships, leadership opportunities, volunteering, and study abroad programs are ways to gain experience and exposure to a field you are interested in. This 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.
    • Schedule appointments at your top college choices
      • You will often have to plan ahead when visiting college campuses. Call the admissions office to set up a personal interview (virtual or in person), arrange a tour, and try to meet with a professor or coach, if possible. 
    • Always speak with your counselor prior to taking or re-taking any classes in summer school, if needed


    • Visit colleges
      • Try to see your top five college choices. Take a tour. Speak with admissions and financial aid personnel. Ask if you can talk with current students or visit a class in session. If you have an interview, be sure to send a thank you note 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 of high interest to you. It is important to get different perspectives on life and academics on campus.
    • Organize your financial aid information
      • Develop a plan that includes a list of aid sources, requirements for each application, and a timeline for meeting deadlines. Getting organized will make the process much easier.
    • Start working on your application essays
      • Compose rough drafts of the essays you will need for your college applications. Look at resources and sites that offer essay writing advice/tips. Ask a teacher to read and discuss any improvements you might make. Do not forget to proofread, proofread, proofread!
    • Make “Early Decision (ED)” preparations
      • If you plan to apply Early Decision (ED) to any school, take the time to visit the school again and make sure you are willing to commit. ED deadlines are sooner in the fall, so you should start working on your application as soon as possible. 
    • Follow through on your internship, work, or other summer opportunities


    Parents, Click Here to learn more about how you can help your 11th grader prepare. 

    Source: Peterson's College Planning Timelines