College Countdown Checklist


Christianity Today's "College Countdown List" itemizes everything you need to know from the beginning of high school through your senior year.

No matter what year of high school you're in, it's never too early to start planning for college. This handy timeline will help you keep up with significant dates and deadlines.

Grade 9: Fall

  • Chat with your guidance counselor about what you can do to get the most out of high school.

  • Get involved with some extracurricular activities. Colleges love well-rounded students.

Grade 9: Spring

  • Meet with your guidance counselor to sketch out your schedule for the rest of high school.

Grade 10: Fall

  • Get used to standardized tests by taking the PLAN (a preliminary version of the ACT), the PSAT (preliminary SAT), or, if you think you're ready, the "real thing"—the ACT or SAT.

  • Check out some options by going to a college fair. (For a Christian college fair near you, check out

Grade 10: Spring

  • If you haven't done it already, discuss your college plans with your guidance counselor.

  • Take another look at your long-term class schedule. Make sure you're meeting college entrance requirements for math, science, foreign language, etc.

  • Look into Advanced Placement courses that could earn you college credit.

Grade 11: Summer

  • Add to your resumÉ and your savings account with a part-time job.

Grade 11: Fall

  • Take the PSAT, even if you took it last year. High scores can qualify you for a National Merit Scholarship.

  • Start a file for mail from colleges that interest you.

  • Collect more information on specific schools by consulting the Christian College Directory (page 102).

Grade 11: Winter

  • Register for the spring ACT and/or SAT. Decide which schools you want to send your scores to.

Grade 11: Spring

  • Take the ACT and/or SAT.

  • When you receive your ACT or SAT scores, meet with your guidance counselor to see which schools and scholarships you may qualify for.

  • Double-check your senior year course schedule to make sure you're not leaving anything out.

  • Visit the colleges you're most interested in.

  • Look into pre-college programs for the summer, where you can earn college credit and get an inside look at life on campus.

Grade 12: Summer

  • Get up-to-date catalogs from your top 10 schools.

  • Look for specific information on financial aid that will help you make your decision.

  • Put together a list of courses taken, awards received, and activities both in and out of school. This list will help when you fill out applications.

  • Write down answers to questions like "What are my strengths and weaknesses as a student" and "What do I hope to get out of college?" These answers will help you fill out application questions and prepare you for admissions interviews.

Grade 12: Fall

  • Narrow your list of college choices to no more than five, and apply to each of these schools.

  • Ask selected adults to fill out any recommendation forms required by your chosen schools.

  • Write drafts of your application essays. Ask your parents and a teacher to edit them.

  • Send in early admission applications (Many are due as early as November).

  • If you're unhappy with your earlier scores, retake the ACT and/or SAT.

  • Keep asking your guidance counselor about scholarships, and apply for the ones you're eligible for.

  • If possible, schedule longer visits at your top two or three schools.

Grade 12: Winter

  • Complete and send in your remaining college applications.

  • Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon after January 1 as possible.

  • Continue to apply for scholarships.

Grade 12: Spring

  • The acceptance letters have arrived and you've chosen your school. As a courtesy, contact those schools you've decided not to attend. This allows them to cross you off their list and pursue other candidates.

Final Step:

Wear a T-shirt with your new college's name on it. Now everybody knows your college plans!

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