My daughter is a senior in high school, and she hasn’t done anything to prepare for college. I told her that it’s too late for her to get into most colleges or universities.  Although there is nothing wrong with it, she may have to attend a junior college or a local state college, but I really want her to get accepted into colleges she wants to attend.  Unfortunately, I’m afraid it’s too late!

Are you in the process of having this discussion with your high school senior?  Most college planners will tell you that the best time to begin preparing for college is in 9th grade. I believe the preparation process really begins in elementary school.  Nevertheless, it is absolutely not too late!  However, the preparation and application process must begin immediately!  If your senior follows these steps, you should expect a favorable outcome.

1. Develop a written inventory of where you are academically. How are your grades? What are your GPA and class rank? How many APs and honors courses have you taken?  What type of schedule did you select for your senior year?  You may not be able to take mostly elective courses.  Remember, it’s not over until the acceptance letters arrive in your mailbox.

1a. Review the average acceptance criteria for colleges you are interested in attending, then check it with your inventory. (You wrote that down, right?) You can find this information easily on colleges’ websites, and sites such as College Navigator 
(, College Insight (, and College Board’s Big Future (

1b. Decide how much money you need. This will increase or decrease your search.

2. Prepare to take the SAT and ACT. You can find information on the College Board’s ( website.  Use free test prep online courses offered on and  You only have a few opportunities to take these tests, so be sure to prepare.  Going in cold turkey is rarely a good idea, especially as a senior.

2a. Take the test as soon as possible, in case you want to take it over.  ACT test dates for 2017 are: September 9, October 28, and December 9.  SAT test dates for 2017 are: August 26, October 7, November 4, and December 2. Be sure to register before the deadline.

2b. Determine minimum and average SAT and ACT scores required for admission to colleges on your list.  This also may increase or decrease your list.

3. If you haven’t already, get involved in community and/or school activities, especially those that are civic minded.  Consider joining a team.  You want to show that you are a well-rounded person, with various interests. You also want to demonstrate leadership skills.  Some institutions may also like to see church or scouting participation.

4.  Apply during the general application period, instead of early. The December or January application deadline gives you time to get everything in order. Only apply early to colleges that you currently meet the acceptance criteria.

5. Prepare a list of at least two colleges you are pretty sure will accept you, two that probably will accept you, and two that are long shots, but you really want to consider. Since you are beginning this process your senior year, I recommend you apply to a variety of 6-10 colleges.

Finally, take a deep breath. Even if you are just getting on the college application bandwagon, although 100% acceptance may not be possible, you should receive acceptance letters, in May and June.  So, good luck, and get started!