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 City 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
- 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 building strong study habits. Get to know your teachers and ask lots of questions. Be in the present with an eye to the future.
- Throughout the year you will have the opportunity to begin exploring aspects of the college admission process in advising and joint programs we host with other Brooklyn independent schools, while your parents and guardians may choose to attend one of the 9th and 10th grade morning coffees.
- 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.
- April · Attend 9th Grade Curriculum Night. Select courses for sophomore year after consulting with your dean and teachers.
- 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.
- 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!
- You will have the opportunity to spend more time with the College Office Team through Sophomore College Seminars which will take place three times over the course of the second semester. During these seminars you will begin the process of, and be introduced to, the wide landscape of colleges and universities in the United States and abroad.
- 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. Many programs even offer summer financial aid and scholarships!
- February · Attend 10th Grade Curriculum Night.
- March · Take a full-length practice SAT administered by Compass Prep. Remember, this is a practice exam, one of two you will take to help determine which standardized test will best suit your learning style.
- April · Select courses for next year after consulting with your adviser and teachers. Take a full-length practice ACT administered by Compass Prep. Remember, this is a practice exam, one of two you will take to help determine which standardized test will best suit your learning style.
- May · Attend the evening Compass Prep session scheduled for parents and students to learn how to interpret the results of the diagnostic tests students took in March and April. This session will describe the various tests in depth and should help determine whether to move forward with the ACT or SAT.
- Summer · Participate in summer programs, volunteer experiences, or a summer job.
- 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. In the fall semester, you will continue to build on the experiences you had in sophomore year in the Junior College Seminars which will take place throughout the semester.
- 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/NMSQT. During junior year, this exam is still a practice exam for the SAT. 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 · Begin to plan your strategy for taking the standardized tests required for college. Are you an ACT or an SAT tester? Do you prefer one-on-one tutoring or would you prefer small classes. Berkeley Carroll offers small group ACT and SAT classes in the winter and spring through Bespoke Education.
- December · Counselor assignments are made and SCOIR 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 (College Speaker) with your parents/guardians and complete your Junior Questionnaire.
- January · Students will be scheduled for their first college counseling appointment. Sign up for the February ACT or March SAT, 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 and 12th Grade Curriculum Night. Teke the February ACT, if appropriate.
- 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 dean, college counselor, 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. Take the ACT, if appropriate. Continue to evaluate colleges and Meet with your College Counselor. Research, research, research!
- April/May · 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 May SAT, if appropriate. Learn more about financial aid by attending the evening workshop hosted by select Brooklyn independent schools. Use the Net Price Calculator to examine affordability. Research, research, research!
- June · Attend an 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 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. Attend one of the College Essay Writing Workshops hosted by the college office. 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.
- 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 SCOIR 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.
- August/September · Take the August SAT. Complete your Common Application, work on initial drafts of your college essay. Organize supplement questions and information about demonstrated interest and interviews. 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 SCOIR. Continue to work on your essays and work on application forms. Essays for November deadlines are due for editing feedback this month. Attend Senior College Night with your parents. Register for October and November SAT. Register for October or December 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: though some colleges will allow you to “self report” test scores on your application, scores may 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. Be ready to send all regular decision applications by mid-December to ensure you have a winter break that does not include editing essays. Take the December SAT or ACT.
- 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 and offers to remain on the waiting list. Reply to those schools where you do not choose to attend.
- June · GRADUATION! Congratulations!