When it comes to schooling in the U.S. things are just different. Schools are in-person, a hybrid model, fully remote, or taken on an entirely new process/meaning for a family. No matter where your student is with schooling this year, there are some important points and tasks to consider for each grade level when it comes to preparing for college. Here are important points and a checklist for families to follow to help them stay the course when it comes to the college admissions process. 

Grade 12

Important Points

  • Organize yourself by setting up a separate folder for each college you are considering.
  • Keep all information and correspondence relating to that college in the appropriate folder.
  • Read and reread college materials. Check to see which standardized tests (if any), essays, and letters of recommendation are recommended or required.
  • Check on dates of important tests, programs, and deadlines and mark your calendar.
  • Check your TOEFL requirements (if applicable).

August & September

  • August 1 through September 15 most colleges make their college applications available. Start by filling out the basic demographic information early on to avoid spending too much time on this task later.
  • Ask your teachers and/or school counselor for letters of recommendation. 
  • Begin your first drafts of college application essays, if required; participate in essay writing workshops, if offered.
  • Continue to read college materials as you receive them. File them in the appropriate folders. Attend virtual college fairs (https://virtualcollegefairs.org/) and learn more about schools you are interested in or have never heard of before

October & November 

  • Continue working on college essays. Ask a NYCAS college admissions counselor, teacher, or school counselor to proofread your work.
  • Decide on the Early Decision, Early Action, and Single-Choice Early Action options.
  • Ensure letters of recommendation have been requested and follow-up when needed to meet impending deadlines. 
  • FAFSA becomes available October 1. Begin a discussion of financial aid options with your counselor and your parents if you plan to make an aid request.
  • Make sure to know which colleges have November 1 and November 15 deadlines
  • Confirm that all letters of recommendation are on file with your school counselor 
  • Follow your school’s policies and procedures for submitting application materials in a timely manner
  • Discuss score reporting requirements with your NYCAS College Admissions Counselor or your school counselor 
  • Request your school submit first quarter or first trimester grade reports when applicable  



Important Points

  • Many colleges will initially evaluate your application based on your academic record through Grade 11. 
  • Make sure you are pursuing a strong academic program that is challenging and equal to your abilities. Choose the most challenging academic courses you can. Select AP or Honors courses if you can reasonably expect to get grades of A or B.
  • Continue involvement in extracurricular activities and consider taking a leadership position in one or more activity. 
  • Discuss standardized testing requirements with your NYCAS College Admissions Counselor or school counselor during the second half of your first semester  

September – December

  • Attend virtual college fairs (https://virtualcollegefairs.org/) and meet with college representatives who are doing virtual visits to your school (if 11th graders are invited to participate). Be prepared to ask questions.
  • Prepare for the PSAT in October (if being offered) and find out if school offers practice ACT option as well 
  • Read college brochures that are available online and received via email
  • Introduce yourself to your school’s college counselor and/or school counselor 
  • Meet with your college counselor for a preliminary discussion of college possibilities.
  • Plan exploratory visits to colleges that interest you during your spring and  summer vacations.



Important Points

  • With the first year of high school completed, take advantage of challenging yourself in classes/topics of interest
  • Get involved in extracurricular activities that you enjoyed in 9th grade or try new ones in 10th. It is not about the quantity of activities but the quality of them.
  • Take the PSAT in October and any other practice SAT or ACT options your school provides. Become more comfortable with standardized testing. 
  • Meet with your school counselor to become more familiar with one another. 
  • Begin developing positive relationships with teachers who you think could speak well about your abilities – Relationship-building is important in high school since your teachers and counselors help with the college admissions process through letters of recommendation 
  • Have fun! 



Important Points

  • Think about what you want to accomplish each year of high school and create a simple plan – What kind of grades do you hope to achieve? What type of activities do you want to participate in? 
  • Think about things that interest you both academically and personally. What gets you excited when thinking about learning? What activities do you look forward to doing when you are not in a classroom? 
  • Meet with your school counselor to become familiar with their office and what they can do to support you in and out of class
  • If the school offers the PSAT in 9th grade, take it. Do not worry about studying for it but pay attention to the test and what information it is asking 
  • Have fun!