Deadlines, timelines and to-do lists are the most common area of concern for students and parents when it comes to college planning and preparation. There are many items to keep track of and deadlines to be aware of from the time your student starts high school.

For high school seniors, May 1 is a very significant date — it is the official deadline to choose the school they plan to attend. It is important for them to let their school of choice know that they will be part of the class of 2023 — and it is also important to let the other schools that accepted them know that they will not be attending.

Seniors should also be checking their new college email for a checklist of what to complete to be ready for the fall semester. One of the most important items is their summer orientation — try to get there for an early date to get the best class selection. The one disadvantage to early orientation dates — new college freshmen will not have their AP test results until July 5 — so they may not know what college credits they will have when they begin this fall.

This summer they will also accept financial aid offers and start the process of obtaining their student loans. They will go to to complete the loan counseling and then they will sign the loan documents. If additional loans are needed to cover the cost of college — it will also be the time that they learn about the options that are available to them to decide what is best for them and their parents.

High school juniors should be studying for any AP exams they have coming up to get the best score they can — AP scores translate to college credit!

In addition, now is a great time to be asking for letters of recommendation to make sure they are completed in time to get college applications in as early as possible. The Common Application opens up on Aug. 1 — and there are more than 800 colleges that utilize the Common Application — making it very easy to apply to many schools at once. If you plan your summer accordingly, you can narrow down your college choices and complete the applications prior to starting your senior year in high school. Make sure you check each school’s application dates to meet their deadlines.

It is also important to determine the GPA and standardized test score requirements for merit based aid — if available at your school of choice. This summer might be a great time to retake the SAT and/or take the ACT to see which standardized test you do better with. Most schools that offer merit based aid will take your best score — it is important to find out until what date they will take updated scores.

Summer and fall are also great times to coordinate campus visits — for rising high school seniors — and, potentially, rising juniors. Campus visits enable a student to attend a presentation from the school’s admissions office, financial aid department along with various academic areas. There is also a campus tour, typically conducted by current students, that enables a potential student the opportunity to discover what the campus is really like. It is important to attend classes, talk to professors and department heads, coaches and other key staff to determine if the school is the right fit for your student.

Summer is also a great time to work on improving the overall resume. Schools consider extracurricular activities, volunteering, work experience, level of interest, job shadowing and leadership skills along with GPA, standardized test scores, rigor of courses and class rank — to name a few. It may be a great time to look at areas that need some attention. We are fortunate to be in an area where it is easy to find volunteer opportunities, and many businesses are happy to allow your student to come in to either job shadow, interview employees or even obtain an internship.

If you have questions of how to maneuver the college planning process, take advantage of Michigan College Planning’s College Planning workshop to learn more about the application process and how to become what colleges want. During the summer time they offer complimentary discovery meetings to learn more about the process.

Workshops will begin again in the fall — visit or locations and dates. The workshops are informative and include steps you can take right now to assure you understand the cost of attendance and how you can afford college. If you are unable to attend a workshop, feel free to call Michigan College Planning with your questions.

Vicki L. Beam is a college planner at Michigan College Planning located in Traverse City. She encourages questions and comments about future columns. Contact Michigan College Planning at (231)947-0203, by email at and at

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