The Berkeley Carroll School

Planning For College: A Four Year Timeline

You may be wondering if there is anything you should be doing to prepare in 9th and 10th grades for the college admission process. Given the fever pitch of the college admission process in New York and in the national media in general, it’s easy to feel like you’re already behind.

You are not. The reality is this: for this process to go well, it has to correspond to adolescent development and certain fixed benchmarks along the high school trajectory. Experience clearly shows that starting too early results in a process focused on the wrong ideas: “how do I get in?” becomes more important than “what am I looking for?” because this last question cannot yet be adequately tackled, regardless of how smart, mature, or high-achieving a student might be.

At Berkeley Carroll, we feel strongly that students are best prepared for the college process if they concentrate on learning and their high school education first, honing interests and developing passions.

Having said this, we agree that it is important for students and families to have a sense of what awaits on the college horizon in order to be ready for the next steps. We have created the following Four Year College Planning Guide to assist families in navigating the years ahead.

Timeline by Grade

Freshman Year

  • Build strong reading, mathematics, and critical thinking skills by taking challenging courses. Take your academics seriously. Pursue activities that interest and inspire you.
  • Focus on time and stress management, note taking, and strong study habits. Get to know your teachers and ask lots of questions. Be in the present with an eye to the future.
  • January/February · Think about summer plans: athletic camps, summer jobs, pre-college programs, community action or academic programs abroad. These will help to broaden and define your interests. Resources are available in the College Office.
  • April · Attend 9th Grade Curriculum Night. Select courses for sophomore year after consulting with your adviser and teachers. Register for June SAT Subject Test in Biology if you attended the Bespoke review sessions starting in February and/or are exceptional in the subject.
  • Summer · Read: This is the best long-term practice you could hope to get for standardized testing. Participate in summer programs, volunteer experiences, or summer jobs.

Sophomore Year

  • Continue to develop study skills and concentrate on academic preparation. Remember to use your teachers, advisor, and peers as resources. Inquire about study groups and ask for extra help from teachers when needed. Also continue involvement with activities and volunteer work.
  • Select activities of interest to you. Remember Dedication, Perseverance, and Mastery are key! Do what you like and what interests you and your natural talents will dictate what is worth your time and energy. Don’t feel as if you need to have a laundry list of activities; it is your depth of involvement and commitment that will most impress colleges!
  • January/February · Arrange your summer plans to help refine your interests, increase your skills, and perhaps experience college life first hand: athletic camps, summer jobs, pre-college programs, community action or academic programs abroad. Resources are available in the College Office. Many programs even offer summer financial aid and scholarships!
  • February · Attend 10th Grade Curriculum Night.
  • March · Take the PSAT for 10th graders. Remember, this is a practice exam. These scores will not be used by colleges for admissions, though colleges may add you to their mailing lists if you agree to participating in the Student Search Service program noted on your answer sheet.
  • April · Attend the Bespoke Education sessions held over 5 days to learn more about the SAT and ACT. Sessions will include a diagnostic test that will help determine which test is right for you.
  • April · Select courses for next year after consulting with your adviser and teachers. Register for June SAT Subject Test in Chemistry ONLY if you are exceptional in the subject.
  • May · Attend the evening Bespoke Education session scheduled for parents to learn how to interpret the results of the diagnostic test your student took in April. This session will describe the various tests in depth and should help determine whether to move forward with the ACT or SAT.
  • June · Take SAT Subject Test(s), if appropriate. Consider Math if you are at an advanced level.
  • Summer · Participate in summer programs, volunteer experiences, or summer jobs.

Junior Year

  • The months ahead will be full of tests, planning, research, self-analysis and hard work! Stay focused on your classes, volunteer work, sports and activities.
  • September · Prepare for the PSAT given in October using the practice materials distributed at a class meeting this month. Begin thinking about the learning environment and campus culture where you will be able to be your best and grow the most.
  • October · Take the PSAT. During junior year, this exam is still a practice exam for the SAT. These scores are not shared with colleges, though very high scorers (a small percentage of test takers) may be eligible for National Merit Scholarships. Attend Junior College Night.
  • November · Attend the Bespoke Education session to learn more about how to interpret the results of the diagnostic test you took last spring and begin to plan your strategy for taking the standardized tests required for college. Are you an ACT or an SAT tester?
  • December · Counselor assignments are made and Naviance will be introduced to the Junior class. Receive results of your PSAT/NMSQT. Consider additional preparation for the SAT Reasoning Test and the ACT Assessment Test. Begin to plan when you will take your first SAT or ACT. (Though we recommend you begin to think about these items in December, we will also discuss them in full during our meeting next month.)
  • January · Begin to determine your college criteria; consider location, setting, academic interests, and size. Make use of your break to touch base with freshmen returning from college. Begin an SAT or ACT review course, if appropriate. Attend Junior College Night with your parents and complete your Junior Questionnaire on Naviance.
  • January · Students will be scheduled for their first college counseling appointment. Sign up for the March SAT Reasoning Test, if appropriate. Think about summer plans: athletic camps, summer jobs, pre-college programs, service or academic programs abroad. A follow up family meeting will be scheduled with your parent(s) or guardian.
  • February · Attend 11th Grade Curriculum Night.
  • March · Visit colleges during spring break. Research, research, research! Continue to broaden and narrow your college criteria. Meet with your College Counselor. Take the March SAT, if appropriate. Register for the April ACT, if appropriate.
  • April · Select courses for next year after consulting with your adviser and teachers. Use this year and next to prove that you are a solid, hard working student. An upward trend in the junior and senior year can matter significantly. Sign up for the May/June SAT Reasoning Test/SAT Subject Test, if appropriate. Take the ACT, if appropriate. Continue to evaluate colleges and Meet with your College Counselor. Research, research, research!
  • April · Attend the Brooklyn/Staten Island Independent Schools College Fair. Meet with your College Counselor. Plan to visit colleges during the summer. Register for the June ACT, if appropriate. Take the SAT Reasoning Test, if appropriate. Learn more about financial aid. Use the Net Price Calculator to examine affordability. Research, research, research!
  • June · Attend the Essay Writing Workshop held after classes end so that you are ready to go for your summer writing assignment: THE COLLEGE ESSAY! After school ends, get on the road to visit some colleges (locally, too!) Take the SAT Subject Tests, if appropriate. Take the ACT, if appropriate. Continue to Meet with your College Counselor. Research, research, research!
  • Summer · Visit colleges, take tours, have interviews, and refine your college list. Contact colleges to get on their mailing lists. Research Scholarship opportunities on www.fastweb.org. Continue to review for the SAT and ACT exams. Begin writing your college essays. Research, research, research! Continue to Meet with your College Counselor in June and July.
  • End of Summer · Narrow your college list. Work on ideas for your college essays. Research, research, research! Meet with your College Counselor.

Senior Year

  • Get focused. Be serious about senior year (it counts!). Remember, Early Action/Early Decision schools will still see the results of your first quarter. Regular Decision schools will see the results of your first semester. And, all offers of admission are contingent on your end of year performance. Don’t lose momentum; you’re in the final stretch!
  • Create a plan for organization. Enter your list of the schools in Naviance and create a very large, very visible checklist of admission and financial aid deadline dates, application supplements, testing requirements. Continue to research scholarships and talk with family about financial aid. Have you tried the net price calculator for your schools? Meet with your College Counselor.
  • September/October · Meet with College Representatives visiting the BC campus after requesting permission at least a day in advance from your teacher; sign up using Naviance. Continue to work on your essays and work on application forms. Essays for November deadlines are due for editing feedback. Attend Senior College Night with your parents. Register for October and November SAT. Register for October ACT. Meet with your College Counselor.
  • October · Early October, confirm if you are applying to a school with an early deadline. File that application well before the deadline. Late October, confirm your final college list. Be selective about taking days to visit college and don’t miss too much school. Financial aid applicants can file the CSS Profile and FAFSA forms beginning this month. Essays for November deadlines are due for editing feedback. Meet with your College Counselor.
  • November · Many early action or early decision applications are due November 1 or November 15. Take the November SAT. Register for the December ACT. Send appropriate test scores. Remember: these scores will need to be sent directly from the College Board or ACT in order for schools to consider them as “official.” Essays for December/January deadlines are due for editing feedback. All applications with a January deadline should be filed by mid-December. Meet with your College Counselor.
  • December · January 1 and 15 are application deadlines for many schools. All applications with a January deadline should be filed by mid-December. Send appropriate test scores. Meet with your College Counselor, as necessary. Take the December SAT.
  • January · All January applications should have been sent by mid-December. If you have not submitted yours, please remember, these deadlines are normally postmark or submission dates (verify time zones!). Continue to note scholarship deadlines and requirements.
  • February · A few schools have application deadlines this month. These applications should have been submitted in December! Some decisions are received this month. Send written updates to schools that are high on your list.
  • March · More campuses begin to send notification of admission decisions. Stay focused on school. Don’t give in to “Senioritis.” Remember, colleges will expect to see final grades that are commensurate with previous work evaluated. They can and have revoked offers of admission from students who have had poor senior year performance.
  • April · All notifications should be received by April 15th. Respond to schools that you choose not to attend in deference to Wait List candidates. Begin your decision making process in earnest by visiting schools and continuing with your research.
  • May · National Reply Date is May 1st. All decisions must be made by this date. Send in final Financial Aid replies and reply to offers of admission. Reply to those schools where you do not choose to attend.
  • June · GRADUATION! Congratulations!
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