College & Career Planning Timeline

During your sophomore year you’ll want to stay on track with your high school classes and activities and begin to narrow down the plan for your future. A strong GPA and dedication to a few extracurricular activities throughout your high school experience will make you a desirable candidate for many colleges.


  • Meet with your school counselor to discuss your interests and your future goals.
  • Stay Focused on Academics. An impressive academic record – challenging curriculum and strong grades – is the most important admissions factor at the majority of colleges. Think twice before dropping a foreign language or enrolling in an easier math class. A rigorous class schedule shows intellectual curiosity, a willingness to challenge yourself, and that you are comfortable with hard work. There are compelling financial benefits, too. A strong academic record can lead to merit scholarships. Credits earned from dual enrollment, AP, and IB classes can cut college costs.
  • Take on new roles. Stay involved with your extracurricular activities and work toward leadership positions in the activities you like best.  Seek out opportunities to develop leadership roles. Depth, not breadth, of experience is key.  Most colleges prefer to see fewer activities, but ones that really interest you, where you are involved in a significant way. Evidence of passion, leadership, initiative, commitment and meaningful engagement is important. You may also want to consider an internship, research position, job shadowing opportunity or part-time employment in an area that interests you. Become involved in community service and other volunteer activities. 
  • If you’re interested in playing sports in college, research the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) eligibility requirements. The NCAA requires completion of certain core courses; you can find the specifics at
  • Examine how you use your time. Learn time management strategies that you can use throughout the year.
  • Investigate your Learning Style and practice Self Advocacy (use Naviance Student for various asessments tools on this)
  • Practice making good decisions utilizing the 7 – step decision-making process.
  • Use the PSAT Study guide to prepare for the PSAT test.
  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT during your school day in the fall. This is a practice for the SAT and can also help link you to scholarship money.
  • Set goals to improve your time management, study skills, and work completion. Goal Setting Worksheets are very helpful for this!

Early Winter

  • Build a Four Year Plan and Choose Classes for your junior year schedule.
    • Use the Course Planner in Naviance Student to help plan for your diploma requirements and build your junior schedule
    • Take challenging and rigorous courses that will set you apart from others especially in math and science.
    • Make sure you know which high school courses are required by colleges, and that you’re taking the right classes as early as the ninth grade. You can ask your counselor about what those “right” classes are.
    • Get to know the levels of courses offered by your school.
    • Interested in a Career & Technical Education program? Apply to Area 31 Career Center for your junior year.  Visit their webpage to get more details on their programs. You will need to be on track with your credits in order to be able to attend the Career Center for a half day.
    • There are many dual credit courses available for the senior year, plan ahead and take courses to prepare you to take advantage of free college credits!
  • Set Up a College Admissions Email Account. If you don’t have one already, set up an email account to use for college admissions. Avoid user names that an admissions officer might find silly, inappropriate or immature. With easy web access, Gmail is a good choice. You’ll often be asked for an email address when you attend university presentations, college fairs and when you register to receive scholarship and college admissions information.
  • Start Exploring Colleges. You may have a clear image of your perfect-fit school or no sense at all. Visit some college websites and start thinking about what is important to you in terms of academics, size, prestige, location, cost, campus, activities, athletics and recreation. Take advantage of opportunities to join college mailing lists and request information from schools of potential interest. Jot down user names and passwords in your college notebook. If you are in the geographic area of a college that interests you, check it out. It’s best to visit when school is in session, but you can get a feel for a college almost any time. Often, your campus visit can be more valuable if you take an organized tour and attend an information session. Eating a meal on campus, chatting with undergrads in the student union, visiting a dormitory, and sitting in on a class can help you get a better feel for the college. When you visit, be sure to sign in at the admissions office. Some colleges give preference to applicants who have visited the campus.
  • Create a Khan Academy account after receving your PSAT results to build an individualized practice plan to be more prepared for the SAT in your junior year. 

Late Winter

  • Read, Write and Build Your Vocabulary. One of the biggest factors in strong performance on the verbal portions of the SAT and the ACT is independent reading. Enhancing your skills during high school will not only help you perform better on college entrance exams, it will prepare you for success in college and beyond. Regular reading of challenging articles and editorials (e.g. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist) is proven to help students feel more confident with the reading passages given on the SAT or ACT.
  • Search for Colleges using the college search tools in Naviance Student to check out possible matches for your interests. View college profiles and their websites. You may even want to start a list of colleges that might interest you.


  • Set goals to increase your GPA and work hard in your classes, colleges & post-secondary schools are encouraged by upward trends in grades, GPA, and standardized testing scores.
  • Update your Resume in Naviance Student, write a cover letter and practice interview skills.
  • Visit a college campus. Learn more about how you can prepare for a campus visit.          
  • Understand the Cost of College. Get the facts about what college costs. You may be surprised by how affordable higher education can be. Start by reading Understanding College Costs.
  • Use National Scholarship Search sites such as FastwebCollege Board’s Big FutureChegg or UNIGO or the Scholarship Search tool in Family Connection to become familiar with the types of requirements and criteria associated with scholarships so you can begin to log the kinds of experiences you need to qualify for scholarships.
  • Review Your Online Persona. Examine your information on Facebook and/or other social networks. Consider updating or deleting content that might not be viewed favorably by college admissions officers.


  • Use Your Summer Wisely. The summer between sophomore and junior years is the perfect time to prep for entrance exams and enhance your resume. There are many options to consider including: specialized academic programs and enrichment, camps and athletic programs, volunteer opportunities, internships, or a summer job.