11th Grade College Planning Timeline

Eleventh grade is very important in the college planning process, with standardized testing, defining your college list, connecting with teachers for strong letter of recommendation, and keeping your grades high. 

This Fall – This year the college search process really gets going.

Take practice SAT & ACT to determine your best test
We will compare your scores on the SAT & ACT practice test to determine which test is the best for you. Please take a Practice Test for both the SAT and ACT by clicking on the link. You can also do it through other test companies or directly their sites. Look at these Test Prep Options. Here is a Conversion Table to see the different scores.

Do some early research
Look at these articles Finding a College that you Love and Researching a College to see what is important. Then use Scoir to look at colleges that might be of interest. The website provides good college entrance information, as well as information about what schools offer. Summer is a great time for you to check out some of the websites and pick colleges that you are interested in exploring. Reach out to the admissions office and ask them to send you information. Most colleges track all contact that you have with them to determine how interested you are in the school.

Focus on getting the best grades that you can, and getting help where needed
Monitor your grades throughout the year and find ways to keep them high. Talk to teaches when you don’t understand a concept, and ask for extra work at the end of a semester when you grade is a on the edge of a higher one. Showing an interest and communicating with your teacher can make a difference in your grade.

Organize your college information
Set up a filing system on your computer or use file folders for each college’s correspondence and printed materials. This will make it easier to locate the specific information you’re looking for.

Try to find time to visit colleges on your days off
Seeing colleges in session is more useful than during the summer. It gives you a chance to see the students and the vibe of the campus. There may be Options for College Visits so check on them. Take a tour and attend the information session. You may also be able to talk to students or sit in on a class which interests you.

Be an active participant
Go to college fairs at your school or other venues, speak with college representatives who visit your high school, like colleges’ Facebook pages after you have enhanced yours, see Colleges Look at your Social Media. Be open-minded as many students change their criteria significantly during this process.

Be prepared by practicing
We will determine which tests you will take (ACT, SAT, SAT subjects tests) and the dates for them, please register for them and mark those dates on your calendar. You will need to prepare by taking practice tests and getting comfortable with the material.

This Winter – Stay involved, organize college lists, and prepare for standardized tests

Make a difference with your extracurricular activities
Colleges look for consistency and depth in the activities you pursue. Taking on leadership roles or starting a new venture and making a commitment is significantly more important than just being a member of an activity. I will be sending out an article on this shortly.

Discuss colleges with family and friends
Have discussions about the colleges you’re interested in and learn more about them. Talk to students about what college life is like, especially if they attend a school you’re interested in. Although it’s important to hear what the admissions staff has to say about a school, it’s also important to get the students’ perspective. Your family and friends can learn about what you want to pursue and you can hear any concerns or suggestions they might have. Also feel free to e-mail me with any questions or information that you need.

Use your summer wisely, plan ahead

Summer employment and internships in fields you’re interested in is ideal and powerful on a college application or resume, but there are many other options, Summer Activities that Give you and Edge, and Summer Activities part 2. Be involved in something that interests you. One needs to start looking into this in the winter as some programs and opportunities have early deadlines.

Next Spring – Take the standardized test at least twice and keep your grades high
Continue to prepare for standardized tests.
Practice makes testing easier, less stressful, and you more successful. Take either the SAT or the ACT at least twice in junior year. If you need SAT subject tests schedule them for June. Know that you can take the ACT or SAT again in the fall of your senior year if you’re unhappy with your scores.

Pick classes for senior year.
Touch base with me before you pick your classes, don’t load up on easy electives. Colleges do review your senior year courses and grades, so challenge yourself and take classes that are in your areas of interest. See this article for more information, How Many AP’s to Take.

Some high schools want you to ask teachers for letters of recommendation before the summer
Teachers and guidance counselors are often asked to write recommendations for lots of students. Consider whom you want to ask now and let them know so they’ll have time to prepare before the fall. Ask teachers who know you well and who will have positive things to say. Please read this article to get the best letter possible, How to get a Great Recommendation.  If you have a coach, activity leader, or a boss who knows you well outside of school and can speak to your accomplishments and character that is also valuable.

Plan campus visits during Spring break

You should plan ahead and sign up for the tours when visiting colleges. Spring break can be a very busy time for colleges, so make sure there is room. You can sign up on-line or call the admissions office. There may be Options for College Visits so check on them.

The Summer

Make this time productive
Students should be participating in constructive activities during the summer, colleges care. Summer study, jobs, and volunteer work always rate high with admission officials. If your child has a career goal in mind, see if you can help arrange a day where he or she can “shadow” someone who works in that field.

 Visit some colleges
Although summer is not the ideal time to see a campus, it is still useful to learn about what colleges offer and to have a broader frame of reference. If your vacation plans take you near colleges of interest, build a tour into your agenda. See my article Visiting Colleges.

Research colleges
Continue to add schools which you learn about and may be of interest. Use Scoir to help define your college list to include schools that meet your most important criteria (academic majors, size, location, cost, or activities). Build a list of about 10 colleges which really excite you.

Campus Visit Review

As you drive home from a campus visit take advantage of the drive time to review your experience! Write down your opinions while the experience is still fresh on your mind.

College: _____________________________ City/State:__________________________ Admissions Office Representative:______________________________________________ Tour Guide:__________________________ Email: _____________________________ Campus Visit Date: ___________________

Tour /  Rate each category (5 being best)

Grounds / Setting       Campus Housing       Student Center       Classroom Buildings        Class Size

Library Resources       Size       Energy       People        Athletics       Social Life       Cafeteria / Food

Fitness Center          Student Clubs / Organizations         Career Resources          Other

Impressions:

 

 

If you interview, Interviewer’s name Email:___________________________________________________________

What did I learn about the school:

 

 

Off Campus Life (i.e. music, movies, shopping, restaurants, cafes, art, theater, events)

 

Near campus:

 

City Highlights:

 

Outdoor Activities Nearby:

 

Transportation Options:

OVERALL ASSESSMENT: What I like most:

 

What I like least:

 

Level of academic challenge? Just right   Too difficult  Too easy  Would I feel comfortable here?

Does this school have what I am looking for?

Should I apply to this school? Why:

 

Honors Programs Have Real Benefits

Many colleges and universities throughout the U.S have Honors Colleges or Honors Programs that are worth investigating. Such programs offer advantages to students that are in the top tier of the college’s applicants. Honors programs may have the best professors, smaller classes, early registration, better housing, more school events, and unique classes, and a cohort of like-minded students, all at the same cost of the school’s normal tuition. Actually numerous colleges give significant merit aid to attract these accomplished students to the school and program.

Being one of the top students at a college can be very beneficial not only financially, but also academically and personally, as more opportunities are available to them for field trips, internships, study abroad, research with professors, and mentorships. In many cases it is worth investigating what is offered, and what the criteria is for admission into these selective programs.

In order to be eligible for these advantages, one needs strong grades and test scores. Some schools require a separate and early application to qualify, but many do not. Since these programs are limited in size it is advantageous to apply early.

For instance University of Maryland has an honors college and offers multiple honors programs such as Honors Humanities, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Living-Learning Programs, University Honors, Gemstone, ACES – Cybersecurity, Design Cultures & Creativity, Integrated Life Sciences, and Departmental & College Honors Programs.   (Learn more from the below links). Beyond the academic perks, being a part of a more specialized program makes this very large university feel a bit smaller. Be aware that it does require an early application for consideration.

George Washington University has an Honors Program, but has other alternatives also. They offered one of my students $80,000 in merit scholarship aid as well as the opportunity to participate in a Women’s Leadership Program in which students attend symposiums, special classes, and participate in events during which they meet prominent women in different careers.

As you tour, ask colleges if these programs are available, and about the benefits and criteria for their students. Some schools also schedule Honors College information sessions that students can attend during a campus visit.

You can find valuable information about Public Honors Colleges at public university honors, but also look at private college programs through Google.

 

Maryland 

Salisbury University

Towson University

University of Maryland Baltimore College

University of Maryland

 

Washington, D.C.

American University

Catholic University

Georgetown University

George Washington University

 

Virginia

Christopher Newport University

College of William and Mary

George Mason University

James Madison University

University of Virginia

Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Tech

 

 

Options for College Visits

Which type of visit would be best for you: Open Houses, Autumn Preview Days, specific Major or Honors College tours, Personalized Visits, an Overnight Visit, or a regular tour? Many times families are constrained by the calendar, but it may be worth finding out about your alternatives. Larger colleges have open houses while smaller schools can accommodate more individualized visits.

Open Houses

Many of these take place on Saturdays, Columbus Day, or President’s Day. The advantage can be many extra activities to participate in versus just a tour and information session. They can have specific tours or sessions on majors, study abroad options, meetings with faculty and financial aid representatives, and lunch in the cafeteria. Open Houses can last anywhere from 4 – 6 hours.

Tours of Majors / Schools

Quite often colleges will offer tours of specific programs so you can learn more in-depth what is offered and what differentiates them. This is worthwhile if you are sure of what you want to study.

Personal / Individual Visits

If you have narrowed your list to a few schools this type of trip can be well worth the time. A personalized experience allows students to observe classes, and meet with professors and other students. In order to arrange a personal visit, call the admissions office and give them at least three weeks notice.

Overnight Visits

Not all colleges allow this due to liability issues and past students getting drunk on their visits. For schools which will, a prospective student stays overnight on campus with another student. You have the ability to spend time with students and see how they spend their days and nights.

Honors College Programs

These can be a wonderful way for a students in a large university to have a small school experience, and some of the best professors a college has to offer. Quite often they have separate and better dorms as well a special honors classes. They also can have an easier time registering and getting the classes that they want. In many instances these students also receive merit scholarships.

Visiting Colleges

Planning

Plan your college visit ahead of time and see a number of suitable colleges in the same geographic area. You can use the website GoSeeCampus.com, and click on Trip Planner which can show you routing from one university to another, as well as nearby hotels. Also, when you input each college on the list it usually gives you links to the colleges’ websites so that you can sign up to attend the information session and the tour. Then it will tell you the distance between the schools, and the roads that you can take. Google Maps also works well for trip planning. Do not plan to visit more than two colleges in a day, as it becomes very stressful and hard to remember the details of each college.

Do You Need to Visit

The general rule of thumb that college admissions counselors use is that if you are within four hours of the school, you should take the time to visit the college to show that you are truly interested in them. Further than four hours the school does not require it, but you will need to show interest, see this article Demonstrate Interest. Most big universities do not track your interest level at all, as it is mostly a numbers game for them. If you have chosen the right classes, you have a GPA the college looks for, and test scores in the college’s range, you should get admitted. Touring colleges will hep you determine what is important to you and broaden you understanding of choices, Options for Visiting a College.

Being Engaged

This college visit is an important opportunity for you to really understand what the college can offer you, and if it is a good fit. Do not let your cell phone or a conversation with a friend distract you from this task. Decide which of these questions you want to ask the tour guide, Questions to ask on a College Visit. Silence your cell phone and be engaged so that you have accurate memories.

Eat at the College

I generally recommend that people go to the cafeteria and eat, so that you have an idea of the quality of food and the atmosphere. Additionally you can either observe students or sit down and talk to some and get a more candid picture of the college. You can learn a lot from students who are on campus and they should answer your questions honestly. Just remember that there are many opinions, but the more information that you have the better your decision will be.

Interviewing

I always recommend visiting schools when they are in session so that you can get a better feel for their students and the atmosphere. This can be done during any holidays or spring breaks, as well as quick visits on Saturdays. Most colleges give two tours on Saturdays and some also do Sunday tours. Going in the fall can be a very busy time for colleges, so you may need to plan quite a bit ahead to make sure you can be part of the group. If it is a college that recommends that you interview with an admissions representative on campus, make sure that I have time to prepare you for the interview.

Use My Checklist

Use a checklist to write down your thoughts, so you won’t confuse information from one college campus with another. While you are on the tour ask questions that you have to the tour guide or the person running the information session. Just realize that these people are not always candid, and most are being paid by admissions to represent the college.

After the visit take the time to record what you really liked, as well as the aspects that you did not. Think about whether that school could be your home for the next four years. Put an approximate rank on the school and feel free to change that as you go. These notes will help you when you need to make a decision at the end.

Questions to Ask on a College Visit

Finding the right college fit requires matching multiple key characteristics. College visits are an important part of a well-rounded college research strategy.

During a campus tour, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the many buildings, programs and information that is given.

Take a copy of this college visit questionnaire with you on your next campus tour and make the most out of your next college visit.

Ask the questions that are important to you, and write down your answers and impressions.

College Academics

  • Professor Availability: Does the university use teaching assistants for it’s large lectures? Is it important to be taught by a professor? Are professors or teaching assistants available if you have questions?
  • Popular Programs/Majors
    • Do they have what you want? If you change your major are their other good choices?
  • Classroom environment:
    • Are the lecture facilities comfortable?
    • How large are classes freshman year?
  • Internships
    • Does the College have opportunities in your area of interest?
    • Does the Career Center help you find Internships?
    • What percentage of Students do Internships?
  • Study Abroad Opportunities
    • Are you interested in visiting the areas that are on the college’s program?
    • Does it cost significantly more or is the cost the same to study abroad?
  • Available Technology
    • Wireless coverage on campus?
    • What types of devices can you use on the network?
    • Are there shared computers available for you to use?
  • Library Facilities and Resources
    • Can you see yourself studying there?
    • Do they have enough meeting rooms and study spaces?

Campus Life

  • Number of students enrolled (and is it a good size for you)?
  • Is there Greek life? – Fraternities and Sororities
  • What are the Special Campus Events?
  • How Many Students Live on Campus vs. commuting?
  • Is housing guaranteed all four years? (If not for how many years is it guaranteed?)
  • If the dorms are co-ed, is it by wing, floor, or every other room?
  • What are the best dorms on campus?
  • What happens on campus on the weekends? (Does it empty out or is there plenty to do?)
  • Can freshmen have cars? (Are cars necessary and easy to accommodate?)
  • Sporting Events – which ones are well attended? How is the school spirit?
  • Dining Facilities: Go see them and eat there. How is the atmosphere? How is the food?

Campus Setting

  • Location of College (City, State) and (Urban vs. Rural)
  • Surrounding Community (College Town) is it safe? Is it a place you want to spend time?
  • Distance from major cities and attractions that you want
  • Activities on campus and surrounding neighborhoods
  • Is the student body diverse or does one type dominate?

Look of the College

  • How good is the quality of the Dorms and Nearby Housing
  • Lecture Halls & Classrooms
  • Is there easy Access and Transportation from your home and to classes
  • Libraries – What are their hours?
  • Security & Safety – What is the crime rate? Theft rate?
  • Current Construction Projects show that money is being spent.
  • How Well Are Current Facilities Maintained?
  • Recreation and/or Fitness Centers would you want to workout there?

Admission Criteria

  • What are the College’s Requirements and What Should  you Include with the Application
  • Are you a good fit for this college given your GPA & Test Scores
  • What Scholarships and Grants are Offered
  • Student Support/Counseling Center

General Questions for Current Students

  • What is one positive feature about this college?
  • What is one negative feature about this college?
  • What outstanding professors or courses might the tour guide recommend regardless of a student’s major?
  • What is the quality of faculty advising?
  • How is the student turnout and spirit at sporting events?

Your Overall Notes

  • What features (activities, traditions, location) pertaining to the student experience sound appealing?
  • Is there anything you didn’t like about this particular college?
  •  Is there anything else you would like to know about the school?
  • Use this space for other notes about this college:

Join the conversation – share your favorite college visit questions on our Facebook page!