Checklist by School Year

pencilThe application process can sometimes seem long—start early and stay focused. You’ll find that getting into the schools of your choice is easier than you think. A lot of fuss is made about how competitive admissions are at top-tier universities, but remember that most colleges accept sizeable percentages of those who apply. Even the elite institutions consider a broad range of qualifications when choosing who will get be admitted.

Preparation is key. Here’s a general timeline for what high school students should be doing to apply for college, and when:

Freshman Year:

  • Review typical course requirements for admission at colleges that interest you, or ask your school counselor for best options. Consider Career and College Promise options to earn college credit during high school.

Early Junior Year:

  • Start researching colleges and their admissions requirements and deadlines.
  • If you are considering a selective program at a North Carolina community college (e.g. nursing), check on course and test requirements.
  • Take steps to prepare for the SAT/ACT.
  • Look into summer enrichment programs.

Late Junior Year:

  • Take the SAT and/or ACT. Retake them if you think you can do better.
  • Narrow down the list of colleges you’ll apply to. Most counselors recommend applying to 5–8 schools.
  • Visit colleges you’re really interested in attending, if you can.
  • Start gathering letters of recommendation.
  • Prepare folders with checklists of admissions materials and deadlines for all your chosen schools.

Senior Year:

  • Gather all the materials you’ll need to apply to your colleges.
  • Decide whether you want to apply for Early Decision at your top choice schools. The deadline for these is usually around the beginning of senior year.
  • Start applying to colleges soon after they start accepting applications.
  • If you are attending a North Carolina community college, see if you need to take a placement test. You may qualify for entrance using “Multiple Measures” so that your GPA, high school courses, or SAT/ACT scores can take the place of typical placement tests in reading, English and math.

Visit our Downloads Page for a grade-by-grade timeline to help you get ready for high school and plan for college.