College Planning: Year By Year

  • Freshman Year

    - Make sure you know your school counselor.  There will be several opportunities at the beginning of the year as well as classroom guidance lessons in English classes.

    - Focus on your grades.  Now is when your high school transcript begins.  Make the most of each and every credit you are offered.

    - Challenge yourself academically.  Now is the time to try a more challenging course to set the path for your high school future. (Selective colleges look for honors and AP Courses).

    - Choose your electives wisely.  Freshman year is a great year to explore what your interests may be.  Use this INTEREST INVENTORY to get started.

    - Improve your study habits.  More challenging courses will require studying.  This is also great preparation for college.

    - Get involved!  Find an extracurricular activity that you are passionate about and stick with it.  Colleges look for involvement and commitment.  They go hand in hand. 

    - Start a file to keep track of your extra-curricular involvement dates (offices held) as well as any awards or internships you may have.  This will serve you well when you are filling out college and scholarship applications in just a few short years.

    - Start thinking about what types of colleges you may be interested in or that suit your potential career path.  CFNC is a great website for career and interest inventories.

    - If you go on a summer vacation, make sure to visit a college or two in the area.

    - Start saving for college if you have not already started. 

    Sophomore Year

    - Sign up for the PSAT.  It is offered mid-October. All Sophomores take the Pre-ACT.

    - Keep up your grades and continue to challenge yourself with courses and extra-curricular activities.  Remember, try to focus on one or two extra-curriculars and stick with it for the duration of high school.  (Selective schools look for honors and AP Courses).

    - Continue to file away all of your awards and dates of participation for your future applications.

    - Think about summer enrichment programs (NC Governor's School and NC Summer Ventures are two great examples).

    - Go to college fairs and talk to any friends you know who may currently be in college about their experiences.

    - Student athlete?  You may want to register for the NCAA website.

    Junior Year

    - The college search begins!  Make sure to keep up your grades and take challenging courses.  Here's a handy COLLEGE COMPARISON WORKSHEET from the NACAC.  You can take 2 college days during your junior year and not get counted against your absences.  Don't forget to fill out the college day request form before you go.

    - Continue with extra-curriculars.

    - Update or create your resume and continue filing away your important dates and awards.

    - If you haven't already, take the SAT in the spring (you should take it again fall of Senior year).  Each junior will take the ACT for free at school in March that can be sent to colleges.  It is important to take this opportunity seriously.

    - If you plan to play sports in college make sure to sign up for the NCAA website and submit any needed forms.

    - Meet with your counselor to make sure you are on track.

    - Consider an internship or job shadowing experience in a career field of interest.

    - Review colleges on the internet.

    Senior Year August-January

    - Sign up for the ACT and SAT again (fall semester).

    - Review your transcript to make sure you are on track for graduation and double check things.

    - Complete the FAFSA. This opens in October. 

    - Meet with your school counselor.

    - Keep working hard!  You are in the home stretch, but second semester grades can affect many things (scholarships, etc).

    - Don't slack off in your course load.  Colleges will be looking at your senior schedule.

    - Continue with extra-curriculars.  Remember that it is important to choose something and stick with it.

    - Ask for Letters of Recommendations early in the year from teachers, school counselors and employers.  Do not wait until a few weeks before your application deadline. 

    - Attend a college fair and meet with college admissions as they visit the high school.

    - Begin college essays.

    - Apply for admission.  Use this COLLEGE APPLICATION WORKSHEET to keep track of it all.

    - Start the financial aid application process and check colleges to see if you qualify for scholarships offered.

    - Most local scholarships are available starting in January with rolling deadlines through April.  Be sure you are on your class Remind and this is how we will communicate when new scholarships become available!  The hardest scholarship to get is the one you don't apply for!

    Take your college day visits.  You get 4 during your senior year.  Use them to check out college campuses before you apply or once you are accepted.  You can also use these college days to go to orientation if it falls before school is out.

    Senior Year January-June

    - Ask your counseling office in January to send first semester transcripts to schools where you applied. In June, they will need to send final transcripts to the college you will attend.

    - Visit colleges that have invited you to enroll.  You can use a College day here.

    - Decide which college to attend, and notify the school of your decision

    - Keep track of and observe deadlines for sending in all required fees and paperwork

    - Notify schools you will not attend of your decision

    - Continue to look for scholarship opportunities. 

    - Keep track of important financial aid and scholarship deadlines

    - Compare financial aid packages from different schools

    - Sign and send in a promissory note if you are borrowing money

    - Notify your college about any outside scholarships you received

    Forgivable Education Loans for Service

    The Forgivable Education Loans for Service program provides funding for NC students pursuing programs leading to careers in areas with critical need, such as nursing, teaching, allied health fields and medicine.  The FELS application and program information for the 2016-17 academic year will be available at  The priority for submitting the FELS application is March 1, 2017.

    Students who receive funds through this program must sign a promissory note agreeing to work in NC after graduation in an approved position, one year for each academic year of funding received.  Students who do not perform the required service must repay the loans in cash, with interest.

    Helpful College Planning Links 

    College Foundation of NC: Helping you plan, apply and pay for college.

    College Navigator: Find specific colleges that have the program or degree you have in mind. Why go? What to do? How to pay?

    Know How 2 Go: Learn the steps you need to get into college and learn to succeed while you are there.

    Financial Aid: Learn how you can apply for financial aid.