Directing Your College Future





  • Begin taking courses that will satisfy the UC “a-g” requirements. Get the best grades possible and do NOT assume freshman year does not count with regards to GPA.
  • Pursue extracurriculars and activities of interest.
  • Consider summer vacation and resourceful uses of your time.  Begin keeping track of all time spent pursuing extracurriculars, hobbies, athletics, music, art, employment, community service, etc., including during the summer (hours/week, weeks/year).



  • Begin compiling a “College List”.
  • Research college websites and take notes on what you discover. 
  • Email every college you might be interested in and ask for a Viewbook, prospective student information and any information you may want regarding other aspects of college life at that particular college.
  • Read through Guide Books including Fiske’s “Guide to Colleges”, The College Board’s “College Handbook”, “The Insider’s Guide to Colleges”, Loren Pope, “Colleges That Change Lives”, Princeton’sReview, “The Best 361 Colleges” and others.
  • Visit the College Board website ( for all kinds of information.



  • Visit Colleges. There are so many colleges close by that you can visit casually or take a guided tour, including UC Berkeley, St. Mary’s, University of San Francisco, Santa Clara University, CSU East Bay, CSU Monterey, CSU Sonoma, Stanford University, UC Santa Cruz. Also, if you go on vacation, check out a college or two near where you will be staying. The more colleges you see, the better you will feel about what the “right fit” means to you. You may know instantly if a college seems like it will work for you. Think in terms of “Could I spend the next four years of my life here?” Check out the UC website ( and the Common Application website (
  • Get Organized. Find a file box and set up files for transcripts, test scores, a college list, college Viewbooks and information, application information, etc.
  • Begin to compile an Excel sheet, or construct a large calendar on a white board or with a large poster board size piece of paper. Put important dates on the calendar, including dates of SAT, ACT and SAT II tests, AP test dates, etc.
  • Prepare a resume listing academic honors, awards, extracurricular activities, community service, and employment. Include number of hours/week and weeks/year you were involved in any particular activity.
  •  Research scholarships.
  •  As soon as the website allows, sign up for SAT, ACT tests for spring. Go to the College Board’s website ( or for the ACT test website. Consider doing test preparation and sign up with an individual or group program. See me for a list of recommended test prep companies and individuals.
  •  Put some thought into which teachers would be the best to request recommendations from and meet with them to ask if they will be willing to write a compelling recommendation.
  • Begin completing college applications the SUMMER before SENIOR year.  Begin drafting essays, referring to essay prompts on the applications of the colleges in which you are most interested. Every effort should be made to complete as much of the application as is possible, before school starts in the fall.  This includes primary essays and all other parts of the application. Supplements for the Common Application are sometimes delayed until the fall. Typically these cannot all be completed before the start of school.
  • Add any new information to your resume including accomplishments, awards, honors, extracurricular activities, and work experience. Be sure to identify and describe any leadership experience associated with the activities.
  • Get started on Early Decision/Early Action applications right away! Deadlines are typically November 1 or 15. UC and CSU applications must be completed by November 30.



  • Contact your high school counselor, make an appointment and meet to discuss your college plans and letters of recommendation.
  • Continue to research potential college choices through your college counselor, on the web and in the library. Those you already contacted in the summer should have already or will be sending you application information in the mail or through emails.
  • Attend college fairs and talk to college representatives for colleges you may be interested in.
  • Finalize the “College List”, focusing on a reasonable number of schools. For example, 3-4 Reach  Schools, 4-5 Match Schools and 3-5 Safety Schools.
  • Once the final list of colleges is determined, provide recommendation forms and pre-addressed, stamped envelopes for each college to teachers and counselor if necessary. If using Naviance, be sure names of teachers are entered in appropriate section.  Provide deadlines to teachers for each application, making special note of Early Decision/Early Action applications.


  •   Take any SAT I, SAT II, ACT tests.
  •   Go on college visits, if possible.
  •   Work on unfinished essays and supplements.
  •   Begin completing UC and CSU applications on line. Apply for housing at CSUs, if appropriate.
  •   Submit Early Decision/Early Action applications. Make sure you copy all application materials before sending.
  •   Mark all deadlines on a calendar and keep it where you will see it daily.
  •    Attend UC/CSU open houses if you are planning to apply to any of these schools.


  •  Take SAT I, ACT or SAT II tests.
  •  Follow up with teachers and counselor regarding recommendations. Write thank-you notes to teachers and  counselors who are writing recommendations.
  •  Finish up college essays and proofread them diligently.
  •  Mail applications to “Rolling Admissions” colleges as early as possible (admission decisions made relatively soon as applications are received).
  •  Complete and submit UC and CSU applications before the November 30 deadline.
  •  Complete all other applications.


  • Submit all Regular Decision applications electronically.  Make a copy of all completed applications. Follow up any deficiencies, as reported by the schools.
  • Take any final standardized tests.
  • Send in test scores to all universities to which you have submitted applications.
  • Obtain a copy of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at your high school, local library or on-line and the CSS/PROFILE if applying to private schools.
  •  Check all scholarship opportunities.
  •  Early Decision/Early Action applicants will likely hear by mid-month.


  • Complete and submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 (estimated tax return calculations are acceptable). This must be submitted to be considered for need-based aid, including loans. Complete and submit CSS Profile.
  • Study for semester finals as mid-term grades count and will be considered with the application for admission. Make certain counselor sends in mid-year grade reports to colleges where applications have been sent.
  •  Check in with counselor and teachers writing recommendations to be sure they have submitted forms.


  •  Keep grades up. Senioritis = hugely distracting.
  •  Get dates for Advanced Placement Exams and study.
  •  Review Student Aid Report (SAR) for corrections. This will arrive several weeks after submitting the FAFSA.
  •  If eligible for a Cal Grant, complete a GPA verification form available from the counselor.
  •  Send information about any additional honors/awards to colleges.
  •  Confirm with counselor that mid-year transcripts have been sent to colleges where you submitted applications, if necessary.


  • Receive college admission decisions and weigh your own decision carefully.
  •  If you have been accepted Early Decision, be sure to notify all other schoolsl to have application withdrawn.
  •  Visit or revisit top choices, if the choice isn’t obvious.
  •  Once you decide what college to attend, notify that college by returning the enrollment form within the time-frame allowed and send deposit by May 1 or the date requested.
  •  Submit information regarding your decision to other colleges you have sent applications to.


  •  Take AP exams.
  •  Submit supplemental material to schools where you have been deferred or wait-listed to show desire to attend.
  •  Expect Cal Grant or other financial aid award letters.  Sign and return forms promptly, or if necessary, contact the Financial Aid office.


  •   Graduate!
  •   Check with counselor to be sure transcript of final grades is sent to your selected college.
  •   Get on with summer and your life!!!

*Timeline compiled from various sources including College Board, The College Caddy, New Visions for Public Schools