The College Timeline

College readiness doesn't happen overnight. The college search & application process is a journey that should ideally take place over several years, to allow students time for personal, professional, and academic growth. While every student is unique and requires a personalized approach, we do follow a general timeline to help best prepare students to make the most of their high school experience and position themselves to find their best college fit. While each year has its own goals, we emphasize six major Growth Goals.

  1. Foster Independence & Cultivate a Sense of Agency

  2. Align Personal Values With Academic & Professional Goals

  3. Promote Critical Thinking & Creativity 

  4. Encourage Self-Reflection

  5. Improve Communication Skills 

  6. Embrace Uncertainty  

9th Grade

9th Grade is all about laying the foundation for a productive high school experience. The transition to high school can be difficult for some students, both academically and personally, and we want to make sure things go smoothly. 


Evaluate Student Profile

Asses Student Needs

Build Rapport

Understand Our Process

Envision A Fulfilling & Successful High School Experience

  • High School Transition: Supporting students as they transition to high school. Varies from student to student, but can include academic, social, and/or emotional transitions.

  • Academic Advising: Working with the student to understand and plan which high school courses will be most beneficial for their education goals.

  • Networking & Relationship Building: Encouraging and strategizing with students about how to find faculty and staff who can act as mentors, advocates, and eventually recommenders.

  • Extracurricular Involvement: Exploring a students passions/interests and finding meaningful ways for them to get involved in extracurricular opportunities early in the high school process.

  • Summer Planning: Strategizing with students about possible summer opportunities that might involve camp, internships, shadowing, jobs, or independent projects.

  • Expected Meeting Frequency: With a Premium Package, students should be prepared for two meetings per semester.

10th Grade

For 10th grade we continue to develop many of the seeds that were planted in the previous year.


Discover Academic Interests

Emphasize & Encourage Student's Passions

Begin to Envision A Fulfilling & Successful College Experience

  • Academic Advising: Depending on the curriculum of the school, we will begin to see students diverge into more academic options, such as Advanced/Honors, AP, IB, and Dual Enrollment courses.

  • Networking & Relationship Building: Students will continue to build relationships with faculty and staff, and look for ways to leverage those connections for personal, professional, and academic growth.

  • Extracurricular Involvement: Extracurricular involvement should continue, but we will be looking to start engaging in more meaningful participation or leadership positions.

  • College List Building: Toward the end of 10th grade, we also work with students to start shaping their criteria/filters for the college search.

  • Summer Planning: Lastly, we look to continue the trend of finding meaningful summer opportunities. These opportunities can build on the previous one or create a new avenue for exploration.

  • Expected Meeting Frequency: With a Premium Package, students should be prepared for two meetings per semester.

11th Grade

11th grade is when the traditional college search begins. While students are still expected to perform in their schools and communities, as with previous years, we also begin to develop the college list.


Explore Professional Interests

Strategize College Search

Create Deadline Calendar & Timeline for Applications

Craft a Student-Centered Vision of College Fit

Begin College Application Work

  • Academic Advising: Junior year is the most important year for academics, as it is the last set of grades that admission representatives will see prior to making an admission decision. Students should make an effort to engage in the most rigorous courses offered, as long as they can be successful in the courses. 

  • Networking & Relationship Building: Students will request letters of recommendation by the end of junior year, ideally from a teacher from junior year. It is also important for students to be networking and building relationships with college counselors and admissions officers.

  • Extracurricular Involvement: Students can explore paid work or internships to acquire more professional or career-oriented experience. Junior year is the last chance to make a meaningful extracurricular pivot. It is also an appropriate time to begin assuming more leadership positions. 

  • College List Building: Using preliminary filters/criteria established in 10th grade, we dive deeper into examining which colleges might be a good fit for the student (academically, personally, professionally, culturally, and financially). As 11th grade nears its conclusion, we expect that students have a formed college list with due dates/timelines for each application.

  • Campus Visits (Virtual & In-Person): Traditionally, this is the year when students will begin physical visits to campuses.

  • Testing: Students can also expect to begin standardized test preparation, and we recommend taking initial exams in the Spring.

  • College Applications: During the summer between 11th and 12th grade, students will work on college essays and assembling application information, including their activities list and resume.

  • Summer Planning: Continued summer involvement that pushes students outside of their comfort zone. More opportunity for college visits/research. Our students complete the bulk of the college essay writing and application components during the summer prior to senior year. 

  • Expected Meeting Frequency: With a Premium Package, students should be prepared for two meetings during the Fall Semester and monthly meetings during the Spring Semester. 

12th Grade

Fortunately, our previous work has created the foundation and scaffolding for making the senior year significantly less stressful. Most students have completed their applications, personal statements, supplemental essays, letters of recommendation requests, and activities list by the end of October. We encourage all of our seniors to be finished with applications by the Early Action (EA) deadline of their selected college (if EA is an option). We do consider Early Decision (ED), but will often caution against it unless there is a strong case. With applications finished early, students can spend their senior year focusing on academics, extracurriculars, friends, and family. Scholarship applications are most commonly due throughout the winter and spring of senior year. Once spring arrives, all that remains is to organize and evaluate the admission decisions and financial aid offers. We will provide our input, but ultimately allow students and families to discuss which path would be the best going forward.


Complete Application Essays & Activity Lists

Explore Scholarship Opportunities

Reflect on Personal, Academic, and Professional Growth

Interview Preparation

Embrace The Future & Embark on a New Adventure

  • First Semester

    • August

      • Finalize college list.

      • Institutional scholarship research.

      • Continue outreach and engagement with colleges to build demonstrated interest. 

      • Most applications become available to students. 

      • Standardized testing opportunities. 

    • September

      • Request letters of recommendation.

      • Standardized tests (if still needed).

      • Complete applications due in October. 

    • October

      • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens (October 1st).

        • Complete the FAFSA as early as possible to maximize federal financial aid detailed in award letters from colleges. ​

      • Pay attention to Early Action & Early Decision deadlines for colleges. 

      • Complete applications due in November. 

    • November

      • Majority of Early Action & Early Decision deadlines for colleges.

      • Complete applications due in December.​

    • December

      • Express gratitude to all of the people who helped you.

      • Complete applications due in January before Winter Break.

      • Enjoy your break!

  • Second Semester

    • January-March

      • Regularly check your admission portals for updates & new requirements. 

      • Complete housing forms (if available).

      • Research the deposit/enrollment policies for schools of interest.

      • Continue applying to outside, independent, and 3rd-party scholarships. 

      • Expect admission decisions in the March-April time frame (if not sooner).

    • April

      • Weigh Your Options​​​.

        • Compare Financial Aid Awards.

        • Revisit your vision of success & your college fit criteria.

        • Create a final pros & cons list. 

      • Participate in college opportunities for admitted students.

        • Visit Campus (virtually if necessary). ​

        • Find opportunities to engage with current students: overnight visits, interviews, digital outreach. 

        • Participate in larger event programs: local send-offs, admitted student days, scholar days, etc. ​​​

      • Make a Decision

        • Formally deposit/enroll. 

      • Notify other schools of your choice to withdraw from their system.

    • May

      • Let your support network know about your decision & thank them for their support.​​

      • Complete senior year and maintain strong academic/extracurricular involvement. 

      • Send all AP/IB test scores.

    • June-July

      • Complete the new student tasks/checklist assigned by your chosen college. 

      • Introduce yourself to your new classmates via social media. 

      • Participate in a meaningful summer activity: internship, job, research, travel, service, etc.

    • August

      • Double check your college move-in list & coordinate with your roommate. 

      • Travel to campus for move-in day.

      • Be adventurous, embrace the unknown, make new friends, challenge yourself, and enjoy college. 

Roles in the Process


  • Provide best practices according to the IECA, HECA, and NACAC professional organizations, including acting ethically, serving with integrity, and respecting confidentiality.

  • Respect the college pursuit process as a learning opportunity for everyone.

  • Request information for academic advising, college list development, and the application process. 

  • Analyze information as it becomes available from families, institutions, and professional organizations.

  • Modify plans throughout the journey in response to new information and changing circumstances.

  • Make no promises of acceptance or financial aid beyond printed material provided by individual institutions.

  • Communicate in a timely manner (reply to correspondence within one business day).


  • Provide requested information in a timely manner to ensure best possible service.

  • Meet all agreed-upon deadlines established by advisors, colleges, and your high school (including but not limited to essays, application components, and test registration).

  • Complete the application process with recommendations, test scores, transcripts, and written material at least two weeks prior to the institutional deadline.

  • Complete all applications prior to December 15th of senior year.

  • Maintain contact with high school counselors to ensure academic progress toward graduation.

  • Update college search/application progress and all information in GuidedPath software, including assignments, results, scholarship information, and admission decisions.

  • Adhere to creating and submitting original content for all parts of the application and advising process. 

  • Request advisor permission for other individuals to view/critique essay work, to ensure all writing maintains a single voice (the student's voice!).

  • Seriously consider and actively apply to at least three mutually agreed-upon schools of which the advisor feels confident. 

  • Take initiative and communicate in a timely manner (replying to correspondence within one business day).

  • Be respectful of late-night hours, and all meetings will culminate by 8 pm in the student’s time zone. 

  • Wear appropriate (but comfortable) attire during live sessions with their advisor.

  • Allow advisors to maintain de-identified copies of session content and essay drafts for the development of future educational resources and curricula.

  • Provide consent for advisors to communicate with school counselors.


  • Support their student’s autonomy, with the goal of encouraging their student to develop agency and independence throughout the college application process, in order to promote college-readiness.

  • Refrain from creating or submitting content on behalf of their student throughout the application and advising process, including essay brainstorming and critique.

  • Avoid impersonating the student in all situations involving college advisors, high school counselors, and college professionals.

  • Nurture the passion and excitement about student’s schools of interest and fields of study.

  • Involve students in meaningful financial aid discussions regarding their college journey. This is a great teachable moment for students to learn and appreciate the investment in their education.

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