Checklist for College-bound High School Juniors

With all you need to do before your first day of college, beginning the college selection process during your junior year is no longer considered “early.”

In fact, it’s necessary if you want to be certain in your very important decisions of college and career choice.

That’s why we’ve put together this checklist for college-bound high school juniors.

– Scott

The checklist is broken down in three major categories:

Testing for College, Researching Colleges, and Paying for College.

Testing for College

The major to-dos on this list are taking your PSAT, ACT and SAT tests during your junior year. With all of these, your guidance counselor can inform you of times and dates of tests, how to register, and costs to take the test.

If you’re taking the PSAT…

  • Sign up to take the PSAT by September of your junior year.
  • By the end of October, you should have already taken it.
  • By December, review your PSAT scores with your guidance counselor and parents.

ACTs are next. They are held every December, February, April, June, September and October. It’s recommended you:

  • Sign up to take ACT exam by November.
  • Take the December or February ACT during your junior year.

SATs are held in only four months of the year – In 2011 they were held in January, March, May and June.

  • By the end of February, you should be registered to take a SAT exam and already studying for it.
  • Take your first SAT by May or June.

Researching Colleges

Choosing the right college begins with gathering information about schools and programs. One of the most important tips I can give you is to stay organized.

Use separate folders for different schools. Label them. Try to organize their contents as identically as possible so you can compare information more easily. Some other recommendations:

  • Attend a college fair by October or November at the latest.
  • Also by November, you should have scheduled a few campus visits. A campus tour is the best way to get a feel for what a school is like.
  • By January or February, you want to narrow down what you are looking for in your ideal college. Among things to consider: Tuition costs, proximity to home, large or small school, public or private, community college, academic curriculum, student-teacher ratio, and urban or rural location.
  • By the end of March, your list of schools should be trimmed down considerably (think 5 to 10).
  • By April, begin working on college applications and admission essays.
  • By the end of summer, you should have visited most colleges you are seriously considering attending.

Paying for College

There is over $150 billion available each year from the Federal Government, states, colleges, universities, as well as private foundations and organizations. Getting your “fair share” is often just a matter of knowing how to get it.

Here is a checklist and timeline for the most important things to do to financially prepare for college during your junior year.

  • In September, you need to have a family talk about paying for college. Among things to discuss: Is the student going to contribute? And if so, what are they willing to help with? Are they expecting to take on loans? Are you expecting to take on loans?
  • By the end of November, your student should have searched for and identified some scholarships they intend to apply for. It’s important to do this early because scholarships have different deadlines – some as early as the summer after your junior year.
  • During Christmas break, learn about student loan options and eligibility requirements for student loans.
  • Also during Christmas break, learn about the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. This is one of the most critical forms you will complete as you prepare for college. Being familiar with it before applying will make applying much, much easier.
  • By March, as you narrow down your list of desired schools to at most 10, estimate how much it will cost to attend each. Expand your search for scholarships to include local organizations in your community, organizations related to your desired fields of study, scholarships available only to students (or future students) of schools you desire to attend.
  • By April, contact each school’s financial aid office to see what kind of payment options they have – monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, semesterly.
  • Also in April, as you work on college applications and essays, begin filling out scholarship applications. It is never a bad thing to be the first one in the door.

To your college funding & admissions success,

Scott Weingold

Co-Founder, College Planning Network LLC

Publisher, – The free educational resource of College Planning Network

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.