Path To College: 12th Grade

Prepping for College

Preparation for graduation and moving on to college can feel like they dominate your senior year. And there’s no doubt about it—senior year can be stressful.

Here’s where you will need to focus your time and energy during your final year of preparing for college.

Maintain a High GPA

Academic success has been a priority for the first three years of high school. But senioritis can make it easy to let your grades slip. And if you stacked your senior year with AP and college-level classes, maintaining a high GPA can be challenging.

College admissions committees do look at your senior year GPA, so it’s important to stay focused. Maintaining top grades and continuing to work on good study habits remains the most important thing you can do to prepare for college in high school.

Develop a Standardized Test Strategy

If you didn’t take your SAT or ACT in your junior year, you should consider doing so early in your senior year. 

If you have already taken a standardized test, you’ll have to decide whether to use your scores, re-take the test to try to get a higher score, or simply not share your scores with colleges. 

For colleges that are test optional, there’s no right or wrong choice. You have to look at your individual score in the context of your application. School counselors can help you decide which strategy is best for you.

Decide Where to Apply

Much of your focus senior year will be on deciding which colleges and programs you want to apply to. 

If you feel confident about your first choice school, you may want to consider applying early decision or early action. However, you’ll still need to have applications to other schools ready in case you aren’t accepted or are wait-listed at your top choice.

Because many colleges and universities today use the Common Application, it’s easier than ever to apply to a number of different schools. 

Be sure to check specific application requirements for each individual school, however. And always remember to customize each application. 

Complete Your Applications

A large part of senior year will be spent in the college application process. You’ll need to be focused and organized. 

Be sure you know when all the applications are due. 

Keeping an organized calendar of deadlines will help you plan enough time to gather the necessary information. Writing a high quality essay will take time (and many drafts). You’ll also need to give teachers, counselors, coaches, and others sufficient time to prepare and send in their recommendations.

The process can be stressful. But again, the skills you use to move through the applications successfully will be useful when you start college!

Don’t Forget About Financial Aid

Applying for financial aid is an integral part of the application process. 

Financial aid, including scholarships, loans, grants, and family contributions, can be complex. You’ll need to work with your family or guardians to ensure that you have all the correct information and to complete the appropriate forms.

To determine your family contribution and your eligibility for federal student aid, FAFSA is the place to start. You’ll also want to check out similar forms for state financial aid. 

And don’t forget to search for scholarships for which you may be eligible. School counselors often maintain lists of organizations in your area that offer scholarships for high school students.

Build Life Skills

Preparing for college also includes making sure that you are ready for the greater level of independence and responsibility that you’ll have at college. 

You’ll have more control over your schedule, for example, but that also makes it easier to procrastinate. Those organizational and time management skills that you’ve built in high school will be critical to staying on track. 

It’s also important to build basic life skills. Do your own laundry. Work with your family to manage your medications. Go grocery shopping and prepare simple meals. Even these small steps will pay off in the long run as you move to the next phase of your life.

12th Grade Timeline


  • Get applications for the colleges you wish to attend and be aware of application deadlines

  • Sign up for the ACT or SAT test and SAT Subject tests required (Also known as the SAT II) – you only have until December of your senior year to complete tests

  • To register for the SAT, go to

  • To register for the ACT, go to

  • Visit to chart your high school grades online, get a head start on your CSU college applications, watch virtual college tours, look up college campus facts, and much more


  • Finish your essay for college admissions

  • Attend college fairs and make additional visits to college campuses

  • Attend informational meetings such as senior college night and financial aid night. Be aware of college application deadlines. CSU is Oct. 1- Nov. 30 and UC is Nov. 1 – 30

  • Make sure you visit the College and Career Center on a regular basis for information on career assessments, scholarships, as well as visits from college reps


  • Submit admissions application (electronically preferred) to UC and CSU systems

  • Request letters of recommendation by November 1st

  • Begin to send in private college/university applications as due

  • Begin to send in private college/university applications as due

  • Begin researching possible career options at the Career Center in H2 and websites such as

  • Keep your grades up!


  • Last months to take the ACT or SATs!

  • Apply for your and your parent’s financial aid PIN # at for use with the FAFSA online application

  • Review the FAFSA application online at with your family before you begin

  • The FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid – you should never pay to apply!


  • Send your midyear grade reports to private colleges that require it

  • Start filling out the FAFSA application at – the online application is available from Jan. 2 – March 2… do not procrastinate!

  • If you’re not applying to a 4-year college, inquire about community colleges and career options

  • Continue to research scholarship opportunities by visiting the College and Career Center in H2 and online at

  • File the FAFSA no later than March 2

  • Make sure you’ve sent in your GPA verification forms for Cal Grant

  • Apply to community colleges and register for placement exams

  • Follow specific campus guidelines regarding housing

  • Check in with the Career Center to discuss possible career options, summer jobs, and internships – also check out sites like,, and!


  • Check with the College Office for dates when community college representatives will be on campus to help with your online application and registration for placement exams

  • Register for AP exams with the College Office

  • Start preparing your resume with help from the Career Center and sites like


  • Regular decision admission letters arrive

  • Discuss the financial aid package with your family

  • Send in the acceptance notice to your chosen school and make sure to send in your deposit by May 1

  • Decline offers of admission from remaining colleges

  • Keep your grades up!


  • AP exams are administered this month. Make sure you send the AP Grade Report to your chosen college

  • Athletes: to play college athletics, you must be certified by the NCAA! Visit and the College Center for eligibility information

  • Thank those who helped you succeed!

  • Plan for high school graduation


  • Congratulations graduate!

  • Begin summer job, school, or community service

  • Ensure that your school sent your final transcript to your chosen college

  • Plan to attend Freshman Orientation at your chosen college or university

Cleveland Humanities Magnet graduates are attending the finest colleges and universities in the country.