College Planner Timeline

If you're thinking about going to college, even if that's still several years off, you should browse through the following Timeline. It's got a lot of information that'll help you get ready for college. Here are some general guidelines, with links to important information.

1. Start early.
The best time to start is in the eighth grade, because then you can set up a plan for all four years of high school that'll get you ready for college. If you're already in high school, it's not too late, even if you're a junior or senior.

Regardless of the grade you're in, you should:

  • Pay attention to dates and deadlines.
  • Plan to take the pre-college curriculum required by all public universities in Kentucky.
  • Take at least two years of the same foreign language.
  • Get the best grades you can in the most challenging courses your school offers.
  • Take part in extracurricular activities at school (band, sports, clubs, etc.) and volunteer in the community.

2. Start looking at what you want to do with your life.
If you have a definite career goal in mind, that makes getting ready for college a lot easier. You'll know what you need to take in high school to get you ready for what you'll have to take in college.

3. Find the college that's right for you.
You can use to help you find a college by name, by comparison (Comparative View) or by preference (Matching Assistant). Then you can use Campus Tours for a virtual look at the colleges you're interested in. It's also a good idea to visit campuses in person, of course.

4. Look for ways to pay for college.
If your parents are picking up the whole tab, you're in great shape. If not, you need to find out all you can about scholarships, grants, work-study and loans.

5. Apply online.

6. File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid - the FAFSA - as soon as you can after January 1.

8th Grade
In addition to GoHigher Kentucky, you should ask counselors, teachers, parents and friends questions you have about college.

Talk with your guidance counselor about:

  • Going to college
  • Courses to start taking in the 9th grade
  • The importance colleges place on grades and at what year in school grades will start to be considered in the admissions process
  • College prep, AP, IB and other honors-level courses you should take in high school
  • Academic enrichment programs, including summers and weekends

Remember, you'll have more options if you start planning now and do your best to earn good grades.

Prepare for the EXPLORE test. The state requires all eighth-graders in public schools to take this test.

Think about extracurricular activities (such as sports, performing arts, volunteer work or other activities that interest you).

9th Grade/Freshman Year

Talk with your guidance counselor about:

  • Your Individual Learning Plan
  • Going to college
  • College prep classes. You should take at least 4 college prep classes per year, including:
  • 4 years of English
  • 4 years of math (including Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II)
  • 2 years of foreign language
  • 3 years of natural science
  • 3 years of history/social studies
  • 1 year of visual and performing arts
  • 1 year of electives from the above list
  • Using the Freshman Planner to keep track of your courses and grades.
  • Taking algebra, geometry and a foreign language (most colleges have math and foreign language requirements)

Remember, you'll have more options if you start planning now and do your best to earn good grades.

Create a file of the following:

  • Copies of report cards
  • Lists of awards and honors
  • Lists of school and community activities, including both paid and volunteer work, and descriptions of what you do

Start thinking about the colleges you want to attend. Once you've narrowed down the list of colleges in which you're interested, start visiting campuses. Our Campus Tours section can also give you some valuable information.

Find out about AP, IB, and other honors-level courses.

10th Grade/Sophomore Year

Talk with your guidance counselor about:

  • The high school curriculum needed to satisfy the requirements of the colleges you are interested in attending.
  • What AP, IB and other honors-level courses are available, whether you're eligible, and how to enroll in them.

Update your file or start one if you haven't already. (See 9th Grade for a list of what it should contain.)

Continue extracurricular activities, as admissions officers look at extracurricular activities.

Continue participation in academic enrichment programs, summer workshops and camps with specialty focuses such as music, arts, science, etc.

Prepare for the ACT PLAN test, which the state requires sophomores in public high schools to take. It will help you prepare for the ACT, which you must take as a junior if you attend a public high school.

Consider taking the PSAT in October. Your scores won't count for National Merit Scholar consideration since you're a sophomore, but it's good practice for when you take the PSAT as a junior year, when the scores will count, and for the SAT.

Register in April for any SAT II subject tests you want to take in June.

11th Grade/Junior Year
Fall Semester


  • Talk with your guidance counselor about your options and plans. Ask about test dates for the PSAT, ACT and SAT. You'll need to register up to six weeks ahead of time.
  • Sign up for courses with your eyes on the prize: college and money to pay for it! A tougher course load may pay off with scholarships and give you a better chance to get admitted to the school of your choice.
  • Start investigating sources of financial aid. Take note of scholarship deadlines and plan accordingly.
  • Sign up for activities to boost your college applications.


  • Find out about schools you're interested in attending. Treat your school selection process like a research paper: Make a file for information about schools, financial aid and campus life. Go to college fairs and open houses and learn as much as you can from the Internet about schools.
  • Begin planning college visits. Fall, winter and your spring break are good times because you can visit when classes are going on.


  • Take the PSAT. You'll get the results by Christmas.
  • Consider signing up for ACT or SAT prep courses. Many high schools will offer ACT prep because the state requires all juniors in public high schools to take the ACT. You must take the ACT/SAT before high school graduation to qualify for a KEES bonus award.
  • If your top college picks require essays or recommendations, now's the time to begin planning your essays and choosing whom you'd like to ask for a recommendation.


  • Applications for the Governor's Scholars Program are available in your guidance counselor's office. The program offers high school juniors a taste of college life.


  • Begin the application process for service academies (West Point, Annapolis, etc.)
  • Decide if you should take AP exams in May. Investigate the CLEP program.

Spring Semester


  • Meet with your guidance counselor to set your senior schedule.


  • Think about lining up a summer job, internship or co-op.
  • Plan campus visits for spring break.


  • Get ready for AP exams.
  • Write a résumé.


  • May 1 is the last day to accept or decline a Governor's Scholars appointment.

12th Grade/Senior Year
Fall Semester


  • Review your high school transcript. Will you meet all graduation and college entrance requirements?
  • Narrow your list of schools; request catalogues and admissions information.
  • Register for October SAT and/or ACT. You must take the ACT/SAT before high school graduation to qualify for a KEES bonus award.
  • Considering signing up for ACT or SAT prep courses.


  • Review admissions applications; begin writing essays.
  • Meet with college admissions representatives or schedule visits to schools you are interested in attending. Talk with students and staff.
  • Register for December ACT and/or SAT.
  • Attend college fairs and financial aid nights.
  • Request recommendations from teachers, employers and guidance counselors.
  • If applying for Early Decision, send in your application.


  • Continue working on admissions essays
  • Begin preparing college applications.
  • Watch scholarship deadlines.


  • Register for January SAT and/or February ACT. Finish admissions essays and complete the admissions process for your top choices.
  • Remind your references of application deadlines and send them thank-you notes.
  • Mail all applications or turn them in to your high school, depending on the system your school uses.
  • Keep copies of all admissions applications.

Spring Semester


  • If accepted for Early Decision, withdraw other applications.
  • Gather the information you need for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Submit as soon as possible after January 1. The best way to file is online at If you want to file a paper FAFSA, you can request up to three copies by calling 1-800-4FED AID.
  • Keep copies of all financial aid applications.


  • Register for March SAT and/or April ACT. This may be your LAST CHANCE to earn your full KEES scholarship award.
  • Get a physical exam if your school requires one.
  • Review college acceptances and compare financial aid offers.
  • Make sure mid-year transcripts have been sent to the schools to which you have applied if required.


  • Register for May SAT.
  • Make a final decision about a school. Send in a deposit and notify other schools of your decision.
  • Request course descriptions and schedules from the school you have chosen.
  • If you filed a paper FAFSA, watch for your Student Aid Report and review it for accuracy.


  • Register for June SAT.
  • Confirm housing arrangements. If necessary, send in deposits.
  • Research AP or College Level Examinations Program (CLEP) exams.
  • If you don't qualify for need-based aid or need more financial aid, consider other sources such as loans, work-study or cooperatives.


  • Register for June ACT. Complete AP examinations.
  • Submit scholarship acceptance forms.
  • Make sure you've returned all financial aid award notices.
  • Plan to attend freshman orientation and registration.


  • Make sure your final transcript is sent to the school you'll attend.
  • Finding a summer job can help pay some of your expenses.
  • Summer After Senior Year


  • Make a list of what you'll need to take with you for your dorm room.
  • If you haven't met your roommate, call, write or e-mail to get acquainted.


  • Make sure housing documentation is quickly accessible when you move into the dorm.
  • Review a campus map. Learn how to get around at your new school.
  • Buy your books and supplies after the first class meeting.