College Planning

How to Start Planning for College in 11th Grade

You’re now a high school junior! It’s time to step up your college planning game and make sure you’re on track for applying to colleges.

Here's a breakdown of the steps in our college planning checklist for 11th grade. If you’re a parent, you can also follow the family action plan for 11th grade.

College planning tasks you can do before winter break (September–December):

  • Make a list of what you’re interested in studying and explore career ideas
  • Learn about colleges and save schools you’re interested in to your College Board account
  • Make an appointment with your counselor to ask about upcoming college fairs and which college representatives are visiting your high school
    • Browse the college brochures and catalogs in your counselor’s office—you might find a college you haven’t thought of
  • Ask your counselor or a teacher about taking the PSAT/NMSQT scheduled in October
  • Manage your college search, test scores, and application statuses by saving information in your College Board account
    • If you’re looking at visual and performing arts majors, some colleges require a portfolio or audition, so look into the Major and Career Search tool and find out how you need to prepare
  • Estimate how much college might cost and how much financial aid you may need with our free Tools & Calculators
  • Register to take the SAT and/or the SAT Subject Tests and practice on Khan Academy® for free
  • Register for AP Exams for the courses you’re enrolled in this school year. Check with your AP teacher or coordinator about your school’s registration deadline.
    • A score of 3 or higher can get you college credit at more colleges than ever before. Check out the credit policies at the schools you’re interested in. 
  • Opt in to the College Board Opportunity Scholarships and start earning chances at scholarships for $500–$40,000

College planning tasks you can do before the school year ends (January–May):

  • If you’re considering military academies or ROTC scholarships, you should begin the application process the summer before your senior year
  • Continue to build your college list and explore schools by type, housing options, majors, sports, student organizations, cost, and more
  • Take the SAT or consider retaking the SAT
  • Learn 3 different ways of getting financial aid and get a copy of your family’s tax returns
  • If you’re considering playing sports in college as a student-athlete, make sure the NCAA® gets your SAT score and ask your counselor to upload your official transcript to the NCAA Eligibility Center
  • Take the AP Exams you registered for to show colleges that you’re committed and motivated to succeed 
    • Review the exam schedule and make a plan get ready for exam day 
    • Login to AP Classroom to use free resources, including AP Daily videos, to review content and get prepared 
    • Consider which of the 38 AP courses you want to take next school year 

College planning tasks you can do in the summer and before beginning your senior year (June–August):

  • Find a full-time job, part-time job, or internship to gain work experience
  • If you can, visit college campuses, attend an information session or a campus tour, and make sure you talk to current students or professors while you’re there
  • Create a résumé so you have a record of your academic accomplishments, extracurricular activities, and work experience
    • Brag about your achievements!

Visit bigfuture.org for more free, comprehensive college planning resources.