Timeline for the College Search
The college search process is a unique and rewarding one but can present some challenges. Fortunately, there are steps you can take as early as your first year of high school to ensure being well-prepared and ready to succeed.
For many high school students, first year is the first time you’re able to choose your own courses — and it is important that you choose these courses wisely. We want to see that students are studying in courses which are challenging for them, but are also not going to overwhelm them. If you are able, talk to a school counselor about the courses you should be taking to make sure that you start off strong and maintain that energy throughout high school.
Students should also begin the process of investigating activities. Are you interested in sports? Are you interested in music or art? Maybe you are interested in getting involved with a community organization, a church or getting a part-time job? Quality over quantity is important here. We want to see dedication to your activities. It’s better to be dedicated and great at two activities than be average at six activities.
Meet with your school counselor again to express your interest in going to college. School counselors will be able to point you in the right direction going forward.
Are you still being challenged in your courses? Maybe it’s time to step it up a notch. Ask your teachers or counselors if you might have an opportunity to take a more challenging course load.
Start picturing yourself on a college campus. Where is it? Is it urban or rural? Is it a very large school, or is it smaller than your high school? Do they have majors that you might be interested in?
Determine what is important to you about a college. What is a deal-breaker for you? More than a few hours from home? No ice cream machine on campus? Sometimes, students just know what they want and they aren’t willing to budge — that’s okay! You’re the only one who truly knows what you want. Follow that!
Check out a local college fair! Albright College is the site of the largest fair in Berks County! At college fairs, there will be representatives from many colleges and universities to answer all of the questions you may have and tell you all about their respective schools. College fairs are a great way to get information from a lot of schools at one time so you can begin to narrow down the list of schools you’re interested in visiting. Your school counselor can provide a list of different college fairs in your area.
This is a great time to get on college campuses! Schedule some visits to the colleges you think you might like to attend. Schedule a visit to Albright College!
Take the SAT or ACT and see how you do. Take some practice tests — there are free SAT/ACT prep resources out there, like Khan Academy. If you are worried about the cost associated with taking any of these tests, make sure you talk to your counselor to learn how to get a fee waiver.
Make sure you are narrowing down the colleges you think you would like to apply to. If you are able to, and still need to visit a few colleges, schedule some visits to college campuses in the fall of your senior year.
Start brainstorming ideas for essays and who you might like to ask to write your recommendations.
Take the SAT/ACT again! Maybe you will do better! Follow the same path again — take some practice tests and do some test prep if you can. Maybe you did better on the math section this time than last time. Check with the colleges you decide to apply to and see if they will “superscore” which means they will pull the best score from each section of the test after reviewing all your test results. Also, make sure to look at whether or not the schools you are considering are test optional. You may not have to submit test scores at all!
Begin all of the fun! Start those applications. Hopefully by now you have determined a few schools to apply to. Are the schools that you’re interested in on the Common Application? Do you need to talk to your counselor about fee waivers for application fees? Make sure you know if schools have Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Decision, or Rolling Admission deadlines.
Try to attend some weekday or weekend events at the different colleges you are interested in.
Be aware of all of the deadlines for the schools you are applying to (including Financial Aid deadlines), and make sure you relay those deadlines to your counselors and recommenders.
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) will go live on October 1 of each year. Without the FAFSA, you will not be eligible for need-based financial aid. Be advised, some colleges will also require the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA.
At this point, you should be done with your applications and if you haven’t already completed the FAFSA, you should be close.
Narrow down your search to a few schools and try to attend their Accepted Student programs. These programs will be held exclusively for students who have been accepted to the institution.
May 1 is the National Decision Deadline! You must notify colleges that you intend to enroll at the institution by this date. Typically, colleges will require a monetary deposit to secure your spot.