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Timeline

You are reading this page because you want to have a successful college application process. What is the secret? Embrace your high school experience. Challenge yourself academically and immerse yourself in the extracurricular life of your school. You won’t submit applications to college until the fall of your twelfth grade year but you can begin preparing for the college process as early as ninth grade. As you move through your high school career, consider these tips and strategies for making the most of your experience.

9th Grade
  • You just arrived, so focus your energy on getting acclimated to your school community. Approaching your first year with thoughtfulness and genuine inquiry will lead to a successful outcome down the line. Take advantage of the resources available to you.
  • Get involved in life at your school. Build strong mathematical and critical thinking skills. Start developing your interests and passions by exploring the extracurricular opportunities that are available outside the classroom.
  • Familiarize yourself with course offerings and choose classes that are appropriate for you. Consider curricular recommendations made by colleges. Example: your high school may only require two years of a foreign language, but many colleges prefer three years or more.
  • If you are taking a 300-level course or higher, and doing well, consider registering for the SAT Subject Tests.
  • Be productive during the summer. That could mean working, volunteering in your community, taking a class, or interning. And, don't forget to read!
10th Grade
  • Continue to stay engaged in the community. Work towards honing your skills as a student and start assuming a more active role in your areas of interest.
  • Take the PSAT and/or the ACT Aspire. When you receive your scores, carefully read through the material that accompanies your score report, note areas that need improvement and put together a study plan.
  • If you are an athlete or artist, talk with coaches and art teachers to gauge your abilities in these areas. If you are talented enough this may potentially play an important role in your college process.
  • Remember, if you are in a 300-level course or higher, and doing well, register for SAT Subject Tests.
  • Make the most of your summer. Find opportunities that complement your academic and/or extracurricular interests.
11th Grade
  • Begin the college application process with your assigned college counselor. Your counselor will be your advocate and your best cheerleader.
  • Take the PSAT and/or ACT Aspire. For 11th graders, the PSAT is the National Merit and National Achievement Scholarship Qualifying test. After receiving your score report, read it thoroughly to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Develop a preparation strategy to address areas that need improvement.
  • Schedule individual meetings with your counselor and meet frequently enough to get to know each other well. Your counselor will help you develop a testing plan, gain a better understanding of how to effectively research colleges and build a well-balanced list of schools that are the right fit.
  • Start talking to your parents about college costs and whether or not need-based or merit financial aid will be a part of your process. Fill out the FAFSA4caster to get a ballpark estimate of your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
  • Register for the January SAT Reasoning Test or February ACT. Students should take the SAT Reasoning Test or ACT at least once during their 11th grade year, as well as appropriate SAT Subject Tests. After receiving your results, revisit your testing plan with your counselor.
  • If possible, spend part of your spring break visiting a range of colleges: liberal arts colleges, research universities, public universities, single-sex colleges, etc. Take notes!
  • Map out your senior year courses. Take the most challenging classes that you will be able to handle, particularly in your areas of greatest interest. Don't forget to consider any remaining graduation requirements.
  • Take advantage of college fairs to explore schools on your preliminary list.
  • Most colleges require one or two teacher recommendations. Start thinking about which teachers know you well and could write on your behalf.
  • Use your summer wisely. Research and tour colleges on your list. If you're unable to physically get to the campus, visit virtually. Take thoughtful notes and interview whenever possible. Research scholarships and fill out Net Price Calculators for the schools on your list.
  • Senior fall is a very busy time so get an early start on your application over the summer. The Common Application is available August 1st. Start filling it out and drafting your personal statement and supplemental essays. Be sure to review them with your counselor. Artists should put the finishing touches on their portfolios and athletes should register with the NCAA Eligibility Center.
12th Grade
  • There's a lot to be done in the fall. Continue to stay engaged in the classroom and your extracurricular activities.
  • Meet with your counselor to discuss your summer research, finalize your list and review your Common Application and essays.
  • Register and take the SAT Reasoning Test, ACT or SAT Subject Tests if necessary.
  • Decide whether you will apply via an early action, early decision or rolling admission plan. Most of these plans will require that you submit your application prior to November 1st. If applying for financial aid, you may need to complete financial aid forms prior to the early deadline.
  • Use days off in the fall and during the Thanksgiving break to finalize your research and complete any remaining applications.
  • If you are applying for financial aid, check the deadlines for submission of your FAFSA, CSS Profile and any other financial aid forms.
  • Decisions for early applications will be received in mid-December. Most remaining college applications are due by January 1st.
  • Bucket List! Think about what your mark will be on your high school community and brainstorm all of the things you'd like to do before graduating. Gradually work through the items on your list, making the most of your remaining time.
  • Decisions, decisions, decisions! Most admission decisions will be released in late-March/early-April. Take time to consider your various options. Talk through your college choices and financial aid packages with your counselor.
  • May 1st is the universal reply date. You must make your final decision by this deadline and submit the necessary paperwork and/or deposit for your future college!


John G. Palfrey Jr. became Andover’s 15th head of school in 2012.

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