Home For Parents Managing the College Search Process

Managing the College Search Process

How I actually created a college admission planning timeline with my teen... and it worked!

By Cherlene Hoffman

Don’t be intimidated! Creating a timeline with your teen will foster their independence and help create ownership of the process. There are so many lessons they can learn by managing and ultimately being responsible for the process of finding a college that fits their personality and goals. And once you’ve created his or her timeline it will provide a forum (or excuse) for discussions - which some teens would rather avoid at all cost.

In our house, we’re currently going through the college search with our daughter. It’s been challenging, but also very exciting, to watch her handle many tasks over the course of her Junior year.

It all started in September, when we had a “family meeting” to discuss college. We set the tone by reminding her that “we pay; so we say” which was our way of dictating how this “big and expensive project” was going to be organized and managed. We agreed to help with some of the tasks and to hold bi-weekly meetings to discuss our progress. Our mantra: “stay way ahead of deadlines.” For us, staying “way ahead” has helped to impose some semblance of calm and order in what can be a stressful family metamorphises. Our ultimate goals are to let her proactively take on more responsibility for her own life; to become fully invested in the decision making process; and to be comfortable with the school she chooses to attend.

After establishing the ground rules, we set up a two-year master calendar (we used a computer calendar) to keep track of all deadlines. We printed it and put it in a large three-ring binder with tabs for Testing, Essays, Resume, Common Application, Scholarships, etc. We also created a filing system (a file box) with separate folders for college literature and stapled the business cards of the admissions counselors she met with on the front of each college folder. The file box also has room for the test prep books, etc. These simple organizational tools, our family meetings and the timeline (below) have helped us stay sane and upbeat during this crazy year!


Junior Year (including summer prior)
August: Enroll for PSAT
September: Determine SAT/ACT test dates, sign up, get study materials, put dates on calendar
October: Take PSAT
October - June: Request information via phone or email from selected schools
November - May: SAT/ACT test prep
Winter break: Campus Visits
April: Write student resume
Spring break: Campus visits & interviews (if possible)
Spring: Attend college fairs
June: Request letters of recommendation (give teachers student resume for reference)
June - August: Narrow down college choices

Senior Year (including summer prior)
Summer: Campus visits & interviews (if possible)
July & August: Write short and long essays
Fill out common application and proof it
Determine application deadlines (early & regular) and any special requirements (essay, application, tests, portfolio, etc.)
September: Proof essays with multiple people
Complete special requirements for colleges
Request transcripts from guidance office; check for accuracy
and other college financial aid forms
Begin preparing scholarship applications
Prepare list of schools you want to apply to
September - April: Meet with college reps visiting your high school. Send thank you notes.
October: Complete Early Decision applications; copy and send
Confirm that your application has been received
Proof regular applications with multiple people
Submit part 1 of common application
Request that high school send transcript
Release and send SAT scores
November - January: Complete applications for normal admission
Copy and send applications out at least one week prior to the deadline
Confirm receipt of all applications
January: Complete and send FASFA form
February - March: Request mid-year grade reports sent
April - May: Request that final transcript be sent to college. Make sure you’ve completed the application - choose room, meal plan - whatever they require
May: Common reply due
Send AP grades

Sources: Collegboard.com