Grade Level Timelines

To ensure that you are best positioned and on track throughout the college search, application and admission process, our college counselors will work with you as early as ninth grade.

Below are timelines that serve as a checklist of what students in each grade level should be thinking about along the way.


9th Grade


  • Get to know your advisors and teachers. Introduce yourself to Mr. Orvis and Ms. Higgins, the SMS college counselors, so they can begin to get to know you, your personality, your interests, etc.
  • Get involved with arts programs, athletic teams and student organizations both on-campus and off.
  • Try new things! This year is the perfect time to reach outside your comfort zone and discover new interests and talents.
  • Learn about the community service program and work consistently to complete your 20 hours per year.
  • Be (and stay) organized. Your first year serves as an academic foundation for the rest of high school. If you’d like help with your study habits or time management skills, talk with your advisor and the faculty in Academic and Counseling Support (Ms. Davis, Ms.Schweizer, Ms. Turlington).
  • Take the PSAT in October. It will be administered here at Saint Mary's.
  • Begin exploring and becoming familiar with Naviance Family Connection, our school’s college planning website. Complete the Learning Styles survey and the Game Plan survey in Naviance. Ask the college counselors or your advisor when you have questions about the site.


  • Do something of interest to YOU - not to your parents or your friends, but to you. Attend a camp, find a job or participate in a program that will help you explore your interest in a field.
  • Visit some college campuses. We live in a region of the country with an abundance of college campuses. Your visit need not be official. Go to get a feel for the campus size and location. Your preferences likely will change as you progress through high school.

10th Grade


  • Continue to be engaged in your community, academically and through extracurricular activities.
  • Complete your community service hours through projects that you care deeply about. Complete your hours consistently and regularly, not all at once at the end of the year.
  • Take the PSAT in October. It will be administered here at Saint Mary's.
  • Use and explore Naviance with regularity. Identify schools you think will be of interest to you, complete career surveys, take the personality test, and begin filling in your ‘Resume’ section.
  • Search the web and research schools that you have interest in. Look at pictures, take virtual tours, read about program offerings…explore…
  • Visit Mr. Orvis and/or Ms. Higgins with any questions or concerns about the college search process.
  • Attend a college fair in the area. These events offer a great way to gather information from hundreds of colleges and university representatives in one place.


  • Visit a few colleges and universities that interest you. Take a proactive approach to your visits now. Assess details such size, geographic location, admission expectations and academic opportunities.
  • Explore work, enrichment and travel opportunities. The experiences you have away from Saint Mary’s will help to inform your choices about your future.

11th Grade


  • Develop a good rapport with your teachers. One or more will likely write letters of recommendation for your college applications.
  • Challenge yourself academically and strive for the best results possible.
  • Continue extracurricular involvement, and with a focus on the activities that mean the most to you.
  • Attend college representative information sessions. Each year, dozens of college admission counselors come to our campus to talk with you, prospective students.
  • Continue regular use of the resources in Naviance Family Connection including the online Method Test Prep program for the SAT and ACT.
  • Take the PSAT in October.
  • Attend the annual “College Kick-off” event in November with your parents.
  • Register for the SAT and/or ACT. Plan to take the SAT in January and/or the ACT in February.
  • Meet with your college counselor. Complete the College Counseling questionnaire. Be ready to discuss openly your feelings about the types of colleges you like/dislike. Be open-minded and ready to absorb new information and suggestions.
  • Visit colleges throughout the year and especially during COMPASS Week. Register for guided campus tours and also explore independently while on campuses. Really get a feel of the place, the atmosphere, and whether you see yourself there. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
  • Register for and take standardized tests in March and April as needed. Discuss test timing with your college counselor.
  • Attend college fairs and area receptions throughout the year.
  • Continue conversations with your college counselors and your parents.
  • Register for SAT Subject Tests. Take these exams in May or June.
  • Request teacher recommendations for college applications. A request form will be due in May before you leave for summer break.
  • As you make your summer plans, do not forget to include college visits!


  • Narrow your final college application list to a reasonable number of schools that you are seriously considering. Aim for 5 to 9 institutions.
  • Update your resume.
  • Begin to work on your college essays. Brainstorm possible topics and consider experiences in your life that have had a significant impact in your personal development.
  • Create your online application accounts as sites go live. The Common Application is available August 1st. Review the essay prompts and become familiar with the application work ahead of you.
  • Finalize your testing plans for the fall of senior year.

12th Grade


  • Consult regularly with your college counselor.
  • Keep track of deadlines. Update your application lists in Naviance Family Connection.
  • Keep your grades up. Colleges will see senior grades.
  • Retake standardized tests in September, October and November as needed.
  • Follow up with teachers who are writing recommendations for you. Let them know where you are applying and why, and tell them your deadlines. Please also thank them for their support!
  • Begin the financial aid application process in October. The CSS/Profile is available in late September. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is available in October.
  • By mid-January, ALL applications should be submitted according to individual deadlines.
  • Submit FAFSA if applying for financial aid. It may be submitted after January 1st.
  • Share any and all information requests or decisions you receive with your college counselor.
  • By April 1st, all admission decisions likely will be available.
  • Colleges usually make their financial aid offers by April 1st.
  • During April, revisit the colleges at which you have been admitted to make your final choice.
  • Pay your enrollment deposit to ONE college or university by May 1st.
  • Waitlisted? Discuss a plan with your college counselor.