These steps will help juniors narrow their college choices, and will help seniors prepare for the college application process.

Step 1: Research colleges.

Start by asking your school counselor for college-search advice and resources. Here are other things you can do:

  • Learn about the types of colleges and their degrees.
  • Talk to admission representatives when they visit your high school.
  • Attend a College Fair or Educational Planning Program where you can talk to college representatives.
  • Use our College Profiles to match colleges with your interests.
    • Another good resource is BigFuture from the College Board.
  • Explore the websites of colleges that interest you.

Step 2: Go on campus visits.

This is the most important step you can take to determine if a school is the right fit for you!

  • Start your visits in the spring of your junior year and revisit your top choices in the fall of your senior year.
  • Contact the admissions office at least two weeks in advance to schedule a campus visit.
  • Visit while school is in session. You won’t get the full campus experience during school breaks, finals week, or summer.
  • Meet with an admissions representative and financial aid counselor to discuss how to apply and pay for college.
  • Ask to meet with faculty in your areas of interest.
  • Ask a lot of questions!

Step 3. Narrow your college choices.

Now that you’ve done your research and gone on campus visits, it’s time to compare notes and pick your top college choices. Compare schools based on academic programs, size, location, career preparation, internships, and social climate.

Step 4. Take college entrance exams.

You’ll take the ACT in the spring of your junior year, and you may want to take the SAT as well. Retake the exam(s) in the summer and fall – colleges will use your best score for scholarship and admission decisions.

Visit ACT and College Board for sample questions, test dates, registration, and fees. Click here for test-prep options.

If you attend a community college, you may be required to take the Accuplacer or Companion placement tests.

Step 5. Apply for admission.

Be aware of deadlines and apply to your top 3-4 colleges in the fall of your senior year. Most will require:

  • The application and fee
  • Official high school transcripts which will show:
    • Your grade point average and class rank
    • That you completed required high school coursework
  • ACT/SAT test scores

If your school conducts an Apply2College event, you’ll get help with your applications during the school day. If not, use our college application checklist and other resources in the sidebar.

Step 6: Select a college.

In the spring of your senior year, compare your top colleges and make your final decision. Then, complete these tasks:

  • Sign up for your college’s online student account or portal.
  • Submit the application form and deposit for campus housing.
  • Register for new-student orientation.
  • Notify the other schools of your decision and decline their awards.
  • Apply for student and/or parent loans, if needed.