College Application Process

It is important to start planning for college as early as 9th grade with a 4-year plan. By preparing ahead of time and taking advantage of available resources, the process of selecting and applying to college can be manageable.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a college. It is important to explore factors relating to academics, location, size, quality of campus life, student population, support services, and cost. You can call college admissions offices to set up campus visits. Also, stop by the school counselor’s office to talk about colleges!

Visit this website to get a brief summary of schools.
College Score Card

Visit the College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) for additional resources on planning for college.

NACAC Guide to the College Admission Process

High School Timeline:

9th grade:

  • Create a 4-year plan to ensure that you are on track to graduate from high school with the required credits.
  • Take electives to help you explore your interests. This can help you establish a general path you want to pursue to achieve college and career goals.
  • Get involved in extra-curricular activities like clubs, sports, work, volunteering, job shadowing, summer programs, etc. Select a few that you are passionate about and stick with them throughout high school and show leadership. Colleges like to see students involved in activities outside of academic classes.
  • Work hard and do well in your classes. Colleges like to see you do well all throughout high school.

10th grade

  • Continue to engage in extra-curricular activities and explore electives.
  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT. Scores will give you a sense of your strengths and weakness so you can start preparing to study for the SAT/ACT.
  • Challenge yourself! If possible, consider taking an honors or AP course.

11th grade

  • Consider taking AP classes or Alamance Community College courses for college credit.
  • Visit college campuses and narrow your search. You should have an idea of specific schools you are considering applying to by the end of your junior year.
  • Take the ACT or SAT. Consider taking either test twice to improve your score or consider taking one of each.
  • Begin thinking about writing a college admissions essay. Application season in the fall will be a busy time and this is something you can work on over the summer.
SAT registration information:!4330!3!651221423700!p!!g!!sat%20sign%20up!13829454383!129908940212

12th grade

  • Continue to work hard and do well in your classes. Colleges will look at grades from your senior year.
  • Take the SAT or ACT in the fall if you are not satisfied with your score from junior year.
  • Meet with your school counselor to create a plan to complete college applications. Return all necessary forms to the school counselor at least 30 days before the application deadline. Request transcripts and ask for recommendations. You are responsible for knowing deadlines!
  • Apply to schools at CFNC or The Common Application
  • You will also need to complete the NC Residency Determination Service application to apply for in-state tuition.
  • In October, submit a FAFSA. See updated FAFSA information below- it will not open until December for the class of 2023. 
  • Search for scholarships. CFNC is one great resource:
  • Graduate!
  • Send your final official transcript to the college you plan to attend.
FAFSA update:
FAFSA Information.pdf

Financial aid is available in many forms, including grants, work study programs, loans, and scholarships. The main way to access this is through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). All students who apply to college will have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at Once submitted, you will be eligible for most of their financial aid programs.

Tips for submitting a FAFSA:

  • The earlier you submit it, the better. The application will become available after October 1st. Check individual colleges for their specific deadlines for the FAFSA form.
  • Before you can access the FAFSA form, you need to create a FSA ID. You can do this directly from the FAFSA homepage.
  • Have your parent/guardian’s tax return information ready when filling out the form.
  • After you submit your FAFSA form, the Department of Education will look at your financial information and determine the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the amount that you should be expected to pay. Colleges will look at the EFC and try to provide a combination of grants, loans, and scholarships to meet your needs.

***Once you are admitted into a school, the school’s financial aid office can offer valuable information on loans and other financial opportunities.

Visit CFNC for more resources on financial aid.

College cost comparison worksheet



The most important thing when applying to college is to note deadlines!

Most schools offer a chance for students to apply early (usually October/November) and receive their admission decision early.

  • Early Decision-Students who apply early decision are committed to attending that school if accepted. You can only apply to one school early decision. If not accepted early decision, you can either be rejected or deferred (put into the regular decision pool). If you are deferred, you are no longer committed to attend the school if accepted.
  • Early Action-Students who apply early action are not committed to attend that school and may apply to more than one school early. Many schools will allow you to put your final decision off until May.

Common Application

Many colleges accept the Common Application, which allows you to apply to more schools with less work. Check college websites for specific guidelines. Some will not accept it or require a school-specific supplement in addition to it.