Key Milestones

College Admission Recruitment Steps to Get Into Top College on List
Use this handy reference calendar to keep track of milestones that you must meet to get into your college of choice.

Junior Year


  • Map out a testing schedule, including the PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and/or ACT. Pick the test dates that will work with your schedule, taking into account family events, extracurricular activities, and holidays.
  • Meet with your guidance counselor to review your course plan for the school year and to plan your senior schedule.
  • Begin to establish criteria for the college search: Are you interested in a small rural college or a large urban campus? Visit some local colleges to learn what you do and don’t like.
  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT. Scores are important, as they are used to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Competition and the National Achievement program.


  • Contact the colleges you are interested in to find out if they prefer the ACT or the SAT.

Spring Break

  • Visit schools that interest you. Call ahead and ask for appointments with the departments of financial aid and admissions, academic advisors, professors, and students.


  • Consider registering for the May and June SAT and ACT test dates; it’s not too early to start testing.
  • Re-evaluate your list of potential schools and eliminate those that no longer interest you.
  • Begin searching for financial aid.

Senior Year


  • Register for the fall ACT and/or SAT test dates as needed.
  • Request letters of recommendation from teachers, coaches, and other adults who are familiar with your accomplishments.
  • Meet with your guidance counselor to review your final list of colleges.
  • Make sure you have all the applications required for financial aid and admission, and make a list of deadlines.
  • Now is the time to file early decision applications if you have made a decision.
  • Have official test scores sent by the testing agency to the colleges on your short list.


  • Start writing and editing your application essays.


  • Complete and submit your college applications (make copies before mailing, or save copies of applications filed electronically).
  • Schedule college admission interviews, if needed.


  • File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon after January 1 as possible. File online at or request a paper form by calling (800) 4-FED-AID (433-3243).
  • Request that your school send your grade reports/transcripts to the colleges you applied to.
  • Contact the colleges and confirm that all application materials (transcripts, recommendations, and financial aid forms) have been received.


  • Be on the lookout for your Student Aid Report (SAR) after completing the FAFSA. Now’s your chance to make any corrections, if needed.
  • Finish up any outstanding scholarship applications.


  • Review acceptances and compare financial aid packages.


  • By May 1, you should decide which college you will attend and notify other prospective colleges that you have selected another school.
  • If your first-choice college placed you on a waiting list, you should let the admissions staff know that you are still interested in attending.


  • Ask your counselor to forward your final transcript to the college.
  • Contact the college and determine when fees are due for tuition and room and board.


This article was written by Sally Wood

Sally Wood is a freelance writer and editor from Marionville, Missouri. She worked as a high school counselor in the Aurora R-VIII School District in Aurora, Missouri, from 1980–2000.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.