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National Application Center :: planner timeline

Plan, explore, and apply to college using these great tools.


Are you thinking about going to college? Whether the decision has already been made or is still years away, please browse through our planner timeline, which we have designed to help you prepare for college. Please note that although you can complete most of the necessary tasks in your junior or senior years of high school, you should start planning as early as the eighth grade. Not only will this improve your chances of getting into the college of your choice, but it will also make applying much easier.

Below is a general guideline of steps you should follow while preparing for college. Each step contains links to sections of that contain tools and information to not only help you plan for college, but help you select colleges, apply to them online, and fund your college education. To go directly to the planner timeline, click on your grade level above.

  1. Prepare for college early.

    Vague advice, perhaps, but invaluable. Preparing early for your college education will help you position yourself to get into the college you want. We recommend that you start as early as the eighth grade, and start using the Student Planner in your freshman year of high school, but even if you are in your junior or senior year, you can still choose, apply, and get accepted to the college best for you if you plan carefully.

    Regardless of the grade you are in now, there are some general notes to remember and rules to follow:

    • Pay attention to deadlines and dates.
    • Keep in mind that even though they may not be required for high school graduation, most colleges require at least three, and often prefer four, years of studies in math, English, science, and social studies.
    • In addition to this, most colleges require at least two years of the same foreign language.
    • Your grades are important but the difficulty of your coursework can also be a significant factor in a college's decision to admit you. In general, most colleges prefer students with average grades in tougher courses than students who opt for an easy A.
      You should also note that most high schools grade AP courses on a 5 point scale rather than the 4 point scale used for other classes, essentially giving students a bonus point for tackling the extra difficulty (e.g., a B in an AP course is worth as much as an A in a non-AP course).
    • College admission officers will pay the closest attention to your GPA, class rank, college credit, AP courses, and scores on standardized tests.
    • Participation in extracurricular activities is also a good idea in high school. Activities that require time and effort outside the classroom (such as speech and debate, band, communications, and drama) indicate a willingness to cooperate with others and put forth the effort needed to succeed.
    • Computer science courses or courses that require students to use computers in research and project preparation can also help aid your future college performance.
  2. Visit the college(s) of your choice through our Campus Tours.

    Once you have narrowed your selection, arrange to visit the campuses in person.

  3. Discover your payment options.

    You should look into scholarships, student loans, and other financial aid options before you apply to a particular college or university. Since there is so much financial aid available, however, and since colleges are generally willing to work with you to put together a favorable financial aid package, money shouldn't be a primary concern when considering a college.

  4. Apply online.