College Planning TImeline
Our philosophy is that the college search process is one of self-discovery and personal growth. It isn’t something that happens overnight, or in just your senior year.
Below you’ll find links to each year with tips and suggestions to make the most of your time at Besant Hill School as it relates to the college search and application process.
Ask questions, get to know others, talk to your teachers. Be active and explore opportunities inside and outside the classroom. Become engaged in things that interest you, and if you need help connecting an interest with action, then ask for ideas from your teachers and classmates.
Challenge yourself, but don’t go overboard.
Work with your advisor to carve out a four-year academic plan in which you can perform well, and will also challenge your mind beyond an easy A.
If you need help, ask.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to ask for help. If you don’t understand an assignment or lecture topic, ask your teacher questions to help clarify. One of the fantastic things about BHS faculty is that many of them live on campus and will meet with you outside of normal classroom time.
Read, read, and read some more.
Whether it be leafing through a paperback fiction novel, listening to a book on tape narrated by your favorite actor, or staining your fingertips with a newspaper from a country you’d love to visit, you’re taking in information that will open your eyes to the world around you.
With one year of classes behind you, you might have a slight idea of your preferences when it comes to subject material. Did you find history fascinating, or was that biology class more your line of expertise? Talk to your advisor to help continue to mold your academic path towards something that challenges AND interests you. If there are prerequisites for the classes you’re interested in for junior and senior year, discuss those and see what you need to accomplish to obtain that coveted seat.
Forge strong connections with faculty you admire.
You know how you’ve always said that you disliked math, but something about your teacher this year made that feeling change? Remember those study hours chats with your volleyball coach and how they spent extra time just to listen to how your day went? At your fingertips is a diverse population of people who are not only here to feed your mind, but also to feed your curiosity about the world. They’ve been to interesting places, gone to college, made mistakes and have learned valuable lessons. Find out what makes the world go round and connects us all in one big puzzle. Ask questions, be curious.
Are arena lights or theater spotlights beaming throughout your dreams?
Talk to your coaches and fine arts teachers about your future possibilities. You may need highlight tapes, portfolios, or audition pieces to prepare for the college process. Now is the time to discuss your plan of action for the next two years.
You’ll take your first standardized test.
The PSAT predicts how you will most likely perform on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. While we ask that you do your best on the test, colleges will not see the scores when you apply during your senior year. Please know that selective pre-college programs in the summer may want to see your PSAT scores for their admissions processes.
Are you active on campus yet?
Colleges are looking for inquisitive and engaged members of their community. You do not need a resume filled with activities to grab their attention, but you do need to communicate a passion whether it be taking extra music classes and performing in the drama events at school, or attending Bioneers and helping in a local garden. Ask your teachers and college counselor for ideas on how to get involved in areas that suit your talents and interests.
Fun time in summertime.
Look for ways to explore your academic and extracurricular interests beyond classroom walls. If you need to get a job, that’s just as important. Beyond anything, DO SOMETHING. If your travels take you to somewhere you’ve never been, or even if it’s just to grandmother’s house in a city you could walk with your eyes closed, find a way to make it different this year. Visit local colleges, whether you’re interested in that particular one or not, because it gives you an idea of things you like and dislike about the environment and type of school. Research the history of the town, try a restaurant you’ve never been to. Try geocaching or read a book from a secondhand store, just do it differently from the last time.
Start the year off on the right track.
Make sure you’re in the right classes for your intended academic goals. Again, if you need help, ask for it, don’t wait till exam time to cram things in at the last minute.
Get familiar with Naviance.
An all in one tool that will help you search for schools, research, and build a college list, Naviance will become your best friend as you navigate the college application process.
Take the PSAT, again.
Yes, you have to do it, but it gives you practice for the real thing in a few months.
Attend the fall college fair.
It’s a great way to hear about places you’ve never been, places you might want to go, and majors you never dreamed existed.
Visit colleges during breaks.
While you are on vacation, take a look at what colleges are in the area that you are visiting. Now is a good time to start exploring colleges that may be of interest to you. If you need help planning where to go, ask your college counselor. Visit a variety of sizes (small vs large), location (rural vs urban), and type (research university vs liberal arts college). Take notes after your visit to help you remember key points to talk with your college counselor about.
Register for the SAT/ACT and TOEFL, and begin prepping.
Most students will sit for their first college entrance exam in March and will take it one or maybe two times after that. International students will also take the TOEFL in April with their BHS classmates (or before if they choose to do so on their own) and should talk with their college counselor to plan on whether they should take it again after that. Regardless of whether you are applying to arts schools, test-optional colleges or playing athletics at a major university, you have to take a standardized test at least once.
Assess your goals and take a second look at your ‘resume.’
This should serve as the “it’s not too late” realization for you to assess your goals and analyze what you are presenting to colleges for your future applications. Look at what clubs you’ve joined, what drama productions you’ve been in, and think about what else you want to do in your last two years at BHS. Leadership? Community service? Environmental interests? There are opportunities for everyone, and it’s not too late to find something to call your own.
Have honest conversations with your family regarding financial aid.
Financial aid is an all-encompassing title for scholarships and need-based aid. It’s important to have honest and open conversations regarding your family’s needs before you start identifying colleges to apply to. Sharing this information with your college counselor will allow them to build an appropriate list with you should this be one of your priority concerns when applying to college.
Let’s talk about colleges.
While you’ll already have interacted multiple times with your college counselor, now is the time when you will formally meet each week. Whether it is in a larger group or one on one, your counselor is your go-to resource for all things college. Yes, you can get information on the internet, but is it always true? What about ranking lists? How do I fill out the Common Application? Answers to these questions and more lie just behind your counselor’s office door.
Build a college list.
Your list should be comprised of safety, fit and reach schools. Remember, this list is your own – no two are exactly alike. By no means should you ever feel pressured to share your list with anyone other than your college counselor and your family. This is your journey.
Build a college visit list.
Whether it be during spring break or summer, plan to visit colleges this semester and beyond. Register online or by calling the admissions office. Your visit should include a tour, an admissions presentation and/or one on one admissions representative discussion, and any other important highlights you want to view while you’re on campus. Try to visit colleges when they are in session – do not just drop in. First impressions are everything!
Take the March SAT.
You’re prepped, and you’re ready. Remember, this isn’t your one and only chance. Get a feel for the test, do your best, and register for the next date that works best with your schedule. International students should plan to also take the April TOEFL with their BHS classmates.
Ask (in person) two teachers if they’re willing to write college recommendation letters for you, and log their names in Naviance. Choose teachers from junior year classes in which you were fully engaged in. An additional teacher may be asked should you be applying to a specific program or interest, such as fine arts.
Double check that your class schedule is appropriate for next year.
Challenge yourself as always, but don’t overdo it.
Summer plans shouldn’t only consist of playing video games.
You’ve already heard the speech plenty of times by now. Whatever you do, DO SOMETHING. Be interesting. Be creative. Go to an engineering camp, attend a writer’s workshop. Go to the library, check out books, and plan your dream around the world vacation. Make it different, make it fun, but by all means, do something you can talk about. Even if you’re scooping bird food at the local grain store, talk to the people you meet. Everyone has a story. What will yours be?
Which leads us to…THE ESSAY.
It sounds scarier than it really is. There’s a lot of topics that you can write about, but know that colleges want to hear something ‘different.’ What makes you so unique? Admissions officers can spot a carbon copied essay a mile away, so tell them your story. You don’t have to have traveled the world to tell the college how much you want to see Siberia or Antarctica (you’re the only one who would go to the freezer to help the dining staff prepare for meals, and who checked out books on survival tips in extreme temperatures). Be imaginative, be you.
Review your schedule, get help when you need it, and stay engaged.
You’ve already heard these statements multiple times by now.
Schedule your college counseling meeting, and stick to it.
By following the plan you and your counselor have set up for this semester, the college application process will be less stressful.
Create a Common Application account.
Our policy is that a student use the Common Application (CA) whenever possible for their college applications, even when there is a choice between completing the application on the college’s website or CA. Take your time filling out the CA, there is a lot of information that goes into it. When you and your college counselor decide that your list is ready (see below), you’ll add schools to your CA and start filling out the college-specific information they require in addition to the standard CA questions. If the college you’re applying to does not offer the CA as an option, you’ll fill out an application on the college’s website or through the Coalition Application.
Refine your college list.
Make a decision about application types. When you meet with your counselor, you’ll finalize your list and talk about application types. Early Decision (ED) requires you to apply by November 1st in most cases and you receive a decision mid-December, and you make a binding commitment to attend if you gain acceptance. ED shows your genuine interest in that college since you can only apply to one ED school. Early Decision II (EDII) operates on a similar facet with deadlines at the beginning of January and decisions in March, and again you make a binding commitment to attend if you gain acceptance. Early Action (EA) allows you send your application in earlier than the Regular Decision (RD) date, indicating your interest in the school. Neither EA or RD require you to fully commit to the school before the National Candidate Reply Date of May 1st. There are a variety of other application types, so you should always check each college’s website to view their options, deadlines, and requirements.
Register for the SAT/ACT/TOEFL and send your scores.
If you are applying to a college with a November deadline, October is your last chance to take a test that will have scores ready for those deadlines. College deadlines vary, so check the admissions websites for more detail. Most colleges will only accept up through the January test for scholarship purposes. You are responsible for sending your test scores to colleges on time, BHS does not send them for you nor do we report them on your transcript or in Naviance to colleges.
College rep visits and the college fair.
Each year, colleges from across the country and some abroad visit BHS with news regarding their campus and majors that may interest you. Check Naviance for the weekly visit schedule. You are responsible for making up any class work that you miss while you are visiting with the college rep, and you should notify your teacher ahead of time should you plan to miss class or leave early/come in late.
Finish your main essay and move on to the supplemental ones.
Work with your college counselor to review and edit your essay. Look up your colleges on the Common Application or on their admissions websites to view any supplemental essays that you’ll need to write. While they won’t be as long as your main essay, they are equally as important as these are questions the colleges specifically ask of their admissions candidates.
Review other requirements.
Do you need to interview? A portfolio? A peer recommendation? Check to make sure you’ve completed the requirements for each school.
Finish your applications and press submit.
After you’ve reviewed your application and essays with your college counselor, it’s time to press submit. Allow for the ‘oops’ moment, and apply at least 24 hours before the deadline. This allows for computer malfunctions or credit card issues that could derail your plans.
Apply for financial aid.
The PPY FAFSA now allows families to fill out their federal financial paperwork in October of your senior year using last year’s taxes. For more instructions on filling out your FAFSA, visit this link: https://fafsa.ed.gov/.
International students – submit financial paperwork.
Colleges will require that you submit a variety of information to them including bank statements, affidavits of support, etc. Check each college’s website to view their required materials and due dates.
Read your email. Check college portals.
Sometimes colleges will communicate through email and others may want you to log into your college portal. Either way, stay on top of checking for important communication through email, logging into college portals, and reviewing the admissions websites.
Update Naviance with college decisions.
Finish up your college visits.
If you were unable to visit a school you’re interested in before you applied, make sure that you get in a visit during school breaks if possible – it can help your decision making process immensely.
Make your decision, stick to it, and get excited.
If you didn’t receive an admissions offer through ED or EDII, then May 1st is your reply date for all of the other colleges on your list. Pick one, and make it the pick you truly want. Do not dwell on where you didn’t get in; get excited about where you’re going and the possibilities that lie ahead. Submit the required deposit and look for any additional requirements from the college. If you decide to defer your admissions offer for a year, contact the college to follow the appropriate steps to save your place in next year’s class.
Your admissions offer remains conditional till you step onto campus no matter when you received it, which means that colleges reserve the right to revoke the it for a variety of reasons. Colleges expect you to finish the year with the same academic standards you set for yourself that gained you admission in the first place. This also goes for other community expectations at BHS and when you are off campus. Make sure that you conduct yourself in a way that models good citizenship for the underclassmen.
Say thank you to those who have helped you along your journey. Write notes to your teachers, dorm families, or kitchen staff that made your life a little brighter while you were at BHS. A little appreciation goes a long way.