College Acceptance, Step by Step

College Acceptance is on your agenda.

College Acceptance. A step-by-step guide to get you there.


NOTE: Students with Diagnosed Learning Disabilities should also check out

Learning Disabilities and the college admissions process.


Probably your first official activity on your path to college acceptance, in the fall of your junior year at the very latest, is the PSAT or the PLAN test.

  • The Pre-SAT (PSAT)

  • or the PLAN (Pre-ACT Exam), which is closely tied to that of the achievement tests in the ACT. Broadly used for college entrance and placement decisions. The PLAN test from ACT

    Moving forward:

  • Keep your grades up

  • Take Advanced Placement Courses
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • which include volunteering are essential parts of your college applications.

  • SATs and/or the ACTs

  • SAT Subject Matter Tests

  • Search and learn about colleges

  • College Rankings - Take this with a grain of salt and find the best school for you

  • Do an honest self-appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses. Evaluate your grades, scores, extracurricular activities, honors, achievements, and future plans. Set realistic goals for yourself.

  • Visit colleges, and attend college fairs.

  • Accumulate brochures, information, application deadlines.

  • Sign up on the email sites of schools that interest you, or that have contacted you.

  • Decide whether to apply for Early Decision or Early Action.
    • Early Decision means you have told that one school that if they accept you, you will absolutely attend that college.

    • Early Action means you submit your application earlier than the rest of the pack, and therefore receive an acceptance or turn-down earlier.
  • Recommendations

  • Send a thank-you to each recommender
  • Applications

  • Application Essays

  • Assess Financial Aid Needs

    College interviews: Prepare, practice, and save your first-choice college interviews til the end of your interviewing schedule

  • Savor acceptances. If undecided, visit the schools again, do more research, assess carefully

  • Enroll in meaningful classes for second semester and keep up your grades: DO NOT let them slip! Recent news article make it clear that colleges look closely at the second semester performance of students they have admitted, and several of the prestige schools have begun cancelling student acceptances if grades or course content slips in the second semester.

  • Wait-listed: If notified of wait-list status, write the schools and tell them you are still interested. Send them any new information you might have that would enhance your application, and see if one of your recommenders would write an additional letter to bolster your application. (Yet another reason that earlier in the year you thanked everyone who helped you along the acceptance path.)
  • Go here for more detail about the nuts and bolts of the college admissions process


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