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Start planning your future now by taking action and following Gateway's recommended timeline and course suggestions:



  • Continue participating in community service opportunities.

  • Meet with your counselor to review the courses you have taken, and see what you still need.

  • Check your class rank. Even if your grades have not been that good so far, it is never too late to improve. Colleges like to see improvement.

  • Sign up for and take the PSAT/NMSQT. In addition to National Merit Scholarships, this is the qualifying test for the National Scholarship Service and Fund for Negro Students and National Hispanic Scholar Recognition Program.

  • Take a long, hard look at why you want to continue your education after high school so you will be able to choose the best college or university for your needs.

  • Make a list of colleges that meet your most important criteria (size, location, distance from home, majors, academic rigor, housing, and cost). Weigh each of the factors according to their importance to you.

  • Continue visiting college fairs. This will help you to narrow your choices or add a college to your list.

  • Speak to college representatives who visit your high school.

  • If you want to participate in Division I or Division II sports in college, start the certification process. Check with your counselor to make sure you are taking a core curriculum that meets NCAA requirements.

  • If you are interested in one of the military academies, talk to your counselor about starting the application process now.



  • Collect information about college application procedures, entrance requirements, tuition and fees, room and board costs, student activities, course offerings, faculty composition, accreditation and financial aid. The Internet is a good way to visit colleges and obtain this information. Begin comparing the schools by the factors that you consider to be most important.

  • Talk to your counselor about your PSAT score.

  • Begin narrowing down your college choices. Find out if the colleges you are interested in require the SAT I, ACT Assessment, or SAT II Subject Tests for admission.

  • Register for the ACT Assessment, which is usually taken in April or June. You can take it again later in your junior year or in the fall of your senior year, if necessary.

  • Begin preparing for the tests you have decided to take.

  • Have discussion with your parents about the colleges in which you are interested. Examine financial resources, and gather information about financial aid.

  • Set up a filing system with individual folders for each college's materials.



  • Meet with your academic advisor to review senior year course selections and graduation requirements.

  • Discuss ACT Assessment/SAT I scores with your counselor. Register to take the ACT Assessment and or SAT I again if you'd like to try to improve your score.

  • Discuss the college essay with your English teacher.

  • Stay involved with your extracurricular activities. Colleges look for consistency and leadership in activities.

  • Consider whom you will ask to write your recommendations. Think about asking teachers who know you well and who will write positive letters about you. Letters from coaches, activity leaders, or adults who know you well outside of school are also important. (Volunteer/Community Service and your bosses from recent employment.)

  • Inquire about personal interviews at your favorite colleges. Call or write for early summer appointments. Make necessary travel arrangements.

  • See your counselor to apply for on-campus summer programs for high school students. Apply for a summer job or internship.

  • Prepare to pay fees for college applications and testing fees in the fall.

  • Request applications from the schools you are interested in attending. 


  • Visit the campuses of your top five colleges.

  • After each college interview, send a thank you letter to the person who gave you the interview.

  • Talk to people you know who have attended the colleges in which you are interested.

  • Read, read, read.

  • Practice completing college applications and then complete the final application forms or apply online.

  • Volunteer.

  • Start writing rough drafts of your college essays. Have a teacher read and discuss them with you.

  • Develop a financial aid application plan, including a list of the aid sources, requirements for each application and a timetable for meeting deadlines.

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