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College Admissions Timeline for Sophomores

college timeline for sophomores and college application timeline

As you enter the 10th grade, you want to stay on top of things. This college admissions timeline for sophomores will help you identify your priorities and ensure that you are well prepared for the college admissions process. You’ll be filling out those college applications before you know it, so start early!

Here is what you can work on during 10th grade, season by season.

Fall

Stay involved!  Continue to pursue those extracurricular interests that engage you and that give you a sense of accomplishment. It’s not what you do: it’s how well you do it.  Commitment and achievement are more important than the volume of activities.  Start bringing more focus to the activities about which you care most.

college admissions timeline for 10th grade
Don’t just check boxes in preparation for college. Do the things that matter most to you.

Make a college calendar. There won’t be a lot on it right now, but as you get closer to your college applications, you’ll get busier. If you plan everything out now, you’ll have less trouble keeping track of things later on. You might start by putting these items from our college admissions timeline for sophomores!

If you can, take the PSAT and/or PLAN tests a year early as a way to discover which format suits you best, and to get some practice in taking these exams. Research indicates that scores improve with familiarity with the tests—so go ahead and take them!

Start thinking about college criteria. While you shouldn’t start making a college list at this point, now is a good time to think about what you want from a school in general. Big or small? Urban or rural? Generous with scholarships? Lots of Greek life or none at all? There are a lot of things that you need to consider, so start thinking about them now.

Winter

Make a schedule for your standardized testing.  Using your scores on the early tests as a guide, lay out a plan for your junior year, and begin researching test preparation tutors or classes. Your testing timeline is one of the most important aspects of your college admissions timeline for 10th grade.

Get to know your school guidance counselor. They’ll be an integral part of the process later on, so making an effort to know them now will make it easier for them to write that recommendation letter for your application later on.

If you plan on at least applying to a selective college, plan to take one or two SAT 2 Subject Tests in May or June of your sophomore year.  For example, if you are taking 10th grade chemistry, take the chemistry SAT 2 Subject Test while the subject is fresh in your mind.

Once again, it’s time to plan for summer.  A job?  A summer program?  Academic enrichment?  If your family is planning a vacation, make sure to include visits to some campuses that interest you.

Practice your essay writing. Though the prompts themselves may change from year to year, the basic format of the Common App essay will remain the same. Pick one of the topics that interests you and give it a try; practicing now will make writing your actual essay much easier in a couple of years.

Think about leadership positions (club officer, team captain, volunteer organizer) that you can pursue in your extracurricular activities. 

Spring

Make your first visits to college campuses.  Visit the schools in your local area, even if you aren’t sure any of those colleges will ones you eventually apply to.  Take tours.  Listen to info sessions.  Wander around.  Most colleges offer Saturday tours, so you’ll have an opportunity to learn how to learn about campuses—well before the pressure is one next year.

Revisit your high school curriculum plan and make any necessary adjustments before you register for junior year classes.  Take as many challenging courses as you can, including AP and honors courses.  Also investigate dual enrollment options, whereby you take community college classes earn both college and high school credits.

Foster good relationships with teachers. If you have a teacher you especially liked and who knows you well, and in whose course you achieved much, let that teacher know it.  Good relationships with teachers who know, like, and respect your work are important as you begin to collect college recommendations further down the road.

Plan to visit a college fair in your area. College fairs can give you a lot of information about a lot of colleges all at once, and they’re a chance for you to make a good early impression on the admissions counselor for your area. Look up online for when these fairs are scheduled, and note them down in your college admissions timeline for sophomores.

Summer

Begin a resume or “brag sheet.”  You’ll find lots of templates online, or ask your counselor for tips on structuring the resume.  You’ll begin to see some patterns emerging, and you’ll also see what areas are thinner.  Again, remember that the goal is excellence and achievement, not simply checking off boxes on a form.  Do what you love, and do it well.  A resume will help you to see your achievements, and to point out areas in which you could use more focus.

Keep reading.  It’s fun, and it helps you down the road with those standardized tests.

Speaking of standardized testing, summer can be a great time to do some test prep. Whether you work with a company or a tutor, do an online prep course, or study on your own, the summer gives you a lot of free time that you can use to prepare.

If your family takes a vacation, put a couple of college visits on the itinerary.  Make sure to plan for the visits in advance, and if possible, try to meet with an admissions officer, and maybe a professor or two.

It’s never too early to be thinking about scholarships.  Do your research.  Talk to your counselor.  Check out websites.  The best is Fastweb.com, but also have a look at supercollege.com, wiredscholar.com, and scholarshipexperts.com. 

College Admissions Timeline For 10th Grade – A Summary

As you make your 10th grade plan, just keep in mind the major categories of things that matter in the admissions process.

Your grades. Do as well as you can in school. Take the hardest, most challenging classes you can manage. Your transcript is the #1 most important item on your college application.

Your test scores. They are important. You need to prepare, and you need to get highest score you can. This will help you both with admission and with financial aid (both need-based and merit-based). But if your score is not as high as you’d like, you can always look at the 1000+ colleges and universities that are test-optional.

Your extracurricular achievements. Get involved. Stay involved. Step into leadership roles. Measure your success by what you accomplish. Participation is great, but achievement is better.

Your personal characteristics. Be nice. Be engaged. Make good choices. Make your bed.

Mark Montgomery
Educational Consultant

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