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Oct 16, 2018
Charlton Heights Elementary SchoolPashley Elementary SchoolStevens Elementary SchoolO'Rourke Middle SchoolBH-BL High School

Counseling Center: College Timeline

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More Information

The BH-BL counseling center provides the following timeline to help both students and parents navigate through high school and get prepared for college.

Please feel free to call us at (518) 399-9141, ext. 83320, if you'd like more information or assistance.

Use the "More Information" tool bar (right) to skip directly to a specific grade


Grade 9: Freshmen

Welcome to high school. Ninth grade is a time for exploration, so it's important to do just that. Join clubs, athletic teams and get involved in other school activities. Volunteer! How else will you know what you're good at or what you enjoy if you don't try new things?

It's also important to make sure you get off to a strong start in all your courses. Students who have to repeat classes close off their options and choices in coursework/internships, etc., down the road.

November-December: Counselors meet with freshmen in small groups to discuss adjustment to high school, review graduation requirements, encourage school and community involvement, and any concerns they may have.

March: Counselors will meet individually with students to review academic program and select courses for the next school year.


Grade 10: Sophomores

During your sophomore year, you'll want to be watching for these things:

November: Parents can attend the Financial Informational Seminar. Look for the date and time in the newsletter, school calendar, and on the district's website.

January-March: Counselors meet with each sophomore for his or her annual review. At this time, course selections for 11th grade are finalized, academic standing is reviewed and continued career exploration is encouraged. Parents are not sent individual notifications about the sophomore conference, but they're encouraged to call their son or daughter's counselor in early November if they would like to attend.

April: Counselors meet with students in group settings to introduce the Naviance College and Career Program.  Students complete interest inventories, learn how to navigate the career and college resources, and begin building their resume.


Grade 11: Juniors

Your junior year will be a challenging one in terms of academics. Most 11th-graders will take at least four key Regents exams at the end of the year (English, math, science and social studies). It's important to work hard and keep up in all your courses since your junior year academic record will impact—positively or negatively—your choice of colleges and scholarship opportunities next year.

Some specific things to be on the lookout for this year include:

September-October: Sign up for and take the PSAT, a pretest for the SAT. Also, plan to meet with college representatives visiting BH-BL this fall. (Listen to the morning announcements for details, visit the website or ask your counselor.)  Be sure to sign up for the two college fairs offered at the high school.  Over 100 colleges will be represented.

November: Parents should attend the Financial Informational Seminar if they didn't attend last year. Look for the date and time in the newsletter, school calendar, and on the district's website.

March: Parents and students should attend the College Information Night at the High School where they will hear presenters speak on topics including: Private 4 year college admissions, SUNY options, financial aid, and Naviance Family Connection.

March-April: During this time, students should register for the SAT, ACT and/or SAT II exams that are given in May and June. Register online at the College Board website and/or Consider taking an SAT prep course.

April-May: Counselors will meet with every junior to complete a junior conference. Discussions focus on academic progress, PSAT scores, course selections for grade 12, the college selection process and career plans. Parents are notified through their child as to conference date and time, and are highly encouraged to attend.

PrepMe is a free program offered through Naviance for ACT and SAT review.

May-June: Take the SAT, ACT and/or SAT II exams. The SAT or ACT are required for admission to many 4 year colleges.  Exams should be taken during the spring of the student's junior year.

June-August: The summer before your senior year is a good time to visit colleges. Students should call for an appointment first to avoid visiting a campus when it may be closed or between semesters. An interview with an admissions officer is advisable.  Check out our tips for visiting colleges and a list of sample questions you can ask.

Summer is also a great time to volunteer in your community or attend a summer program.  See the summer board in the counseling center for opportunities.



Grade 12: Seniors

Congratulations, you're almost there! Your senior year will be an exciting one which, for most students, will be focused on making the smooth transition to college. (In recent years, roughly 90 percent of BH-BL graduates plan to move straight on to either a two- or four-year college.)

There's a LOT to do this year (parents and students alike), so take a deep breath and try not to get overwhelmed. Here's a step-by-step checklist to keep you on track:


  • Take (or re-take) the SAT and/or ACT College Entrance Exams. The SAT is required by most colleges and most students take this extremely important exam as juniors. Many re-take it as seniors to try to improve their scores. Register for the October SAT by the September registration deadline. You must register online at If one or more of the colleges you are applying to require the ACT exam, register for the October test by the September registration deadline ( You must also register online for the ACT exam. Remember: you must take tests like the SAT and ACT at least six weeks before scores can be submitted to colleges. SAT/ACT Exam dates.
  • Senior Conference. Each senior meets individually with his or her counselor to review graduation and course requirements and post-graduation plans. A college application timeline is formalized at this meeting.
  • Meet with college representatives visiting BH-BL. The counseling center can tell you which schools will be visiting our district and when. Ask for a pass to get out of class and ask the college representatives lots of questions! (Keep in mind you are responsible for making up any missed class work.)
  • Visit some colleges. If you haven't done this already, try to schedule some college visits this fall. Interview some students, faculty and staff if possible. Check out our tips for visiting colleges and list of sample questions you can ask.
  • Start your college application. Most schools use some form of online application, with many schools using Common Application. Most college applications require an essay.  Get the topic and start writing it early. Try to make your essay compelling and be sure it reflects your best effort. Give it lots of thought, edit, spell-check and ask for feedback from an English teacher, counselor, parent, etc.
  • Finalize your college choices. Decide on a minimum of three potential colleges. You should be thinking about some "reach" schools, "comfortable" choices and a "safety" school. This pertains to academic, as well as financial, considerations.
  • Make a list; check it twice. Make a checklist for each college you are going to apply to. Include all the pieces of information that need to be assembled (i.e., forms, recommendations, essays, transcripts, etc.) and all deadlines (including when the application must be postmarked or submitted by). This will help you break the application job into smaller parts. It will also help you stay organized, calm and on track.
  • Request recommendation letters. NOW is the time to ask teachers (from your junior and senior years), counselors, coaches and employers for letters of recommendation related to your activities and employment. These will be required for college applications. Ask for the recommendations in person. Be sure to write a thank-you note to each person who provides a recommendation.
  • Try to finish your college applications by the end of October. Even though many colleges have rolling admissions, the earlier you apply, the better your chances of getting accepted. Even if the college's official deadline is March 1, it's better to get your application in to your counselor by November 1. You'll be ahead of the game and able to shift your focus to financial aid applications, scholarships and simply enjoying your senior year. Unless you thrive on stress, there is no good reason to wait until the last minute to begin working on college applications.
  • Start checking for scholarship applications. Plan to visit the counseling center at least once a week to check the scholarship board for announcements and application information. New scholarships come in at all different times during the year and they aren't just for the "straight A" students. Don't miss the boat; check in weekly.


  • Apply for your FAFSA pin number and start gathering financial information. Virtually all colleges require the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form to apply for financial aid. Visit FAFSA on the Web at and sign up for your personal pin number if you're going to submit the form online. This is also a good time to print out the worksheets for filling out the FAFSA so you'll know what's involved and can begin gathering the financial records. (The actual form cannot be submitted until after January 1, but most colleges want it by February 1, so preparing now will reduce stress later.)
  • Find out if colleges require the CSS/Financial Aid Profile. Some colleges (mostly private schools) require this special form, which is essentially a supplement to the FAFSA. The College Board website has a list of the schools that require it, but it's always better to check with the college directly.
  • Call the financial aid offices to find out if they require any other special financial forms of their own. This is most common at private colleges. If they require specialized forms, ask them to mail them to you now.
  • Find out the deadlines for all financial aid forms now.


  • College applications should be close to completion.  You will need to see your counselor to request that an official high school transcript be sent to each college you are applying to.  Please be sure to keep your Naviance account up to date as your counselor uses this site to submit your documents.
  • Request official SAT/ACT scores from testing agency.  You are responsible for having your scores sent to the colleges you are applying to.  The scores will NOT be included on your transcript.
  • Attend special programs, such as college fairs and the College Financial Informational Seminar for parents.
  • Continue checking for scholarship applications every week in the counseling center.


  • If you're still applying to colleges, get those applications filled out and turned in to your counselor as soon as possible, allowing at least three weeks for processing. Keep in mind counselors are often on vacation over the Christmas recess; not reviewing college applications. January 1 deadlines should be turned in to your counselor by December 1 at the latest.
  • Parents: Save year-end payroll stubs that show your earnings for the year. You may need it for financial aid eligibility reviews by schools and to estimate your taxes on the FAFSA form.
  • Review the list above. Are you on schedule? Have you skipped anything?


  • January is financial aid month. Look for notification of financial aid seminars and other similar programs throughout the Capital District.
  • Get your income tax returns prepared early. Colleges may request them and you will need tax information to complete the FAFSA. Note: since some schools require the FAFSA by February 1, and many employers don't give out W-2 forms until late in January, you can opt to estimate your taxes using the prior year's tax returns and this year's pay stubs. (See the FAFSA Web site for more details.)
  • Complete the FAFSA form. Submit the form as soon as possible after January 1. Some schools require it as early as February 1, but be sure to submit it no later than March 1. You improve your chances of receiving financial aid if you submit your forms early. Colleges are handing out aid as the applications come in and there IS a limit to how much they have to give. Get your application in late and all their available money may, quite simply, be gone.
  • Remember to keep copies of all financial aid forms you submit.
  • Apply for outside funding and scholarships. Keep checking for scholarship applications in the counseling center every week and explore other sources. For example, parents might belong to organizations or work in businesses that award scholarships. Ask around. Visit the internet's largest free scholarship search. Look around.


  • Make sure your FAFSA is complete and has been submitted.
  • Check on mid-year transcripts. Did you tell your counselor which colleges want mid-year transcripts? Stop in the counseling center and confirm that they were sent.
  • Watch for your Student Aid Report (SAR). This is a one-page summary of the FAFSA information you submitted. It is sent to you to confirm the accuracy of all data one last time before it is forwarded to your colleges. Occasionally the SAR will note that information is missing or incomplete. In all cases, follow directions on the SAR and return it as quickly as possible. If you have not received your Student Aid Report within five weeks after sending in your FAFSA, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at (301) 722- 9200. The report arrives by mail or by email if you filed the FAFSA electronically.
  • Rank your college choices while you wait for responses to your applications.


  • Watch the mail or email for college decisions. They typically start arriving in April.
  • Compare financial aid packages from each college.
  • Make a decision which college you will attend and send them your formal acceptance and deposit.

May and beyond:

  • Notify the other schools. Be sure to call the admissions and financial aid office of the colleges that you will not be attending.
  • Watch for important deadlines at your college of choice. These may include housing deposits, financial aid, orientation sessions, and more.
  • Register as a BH-BL alumnus. Remember to register in the BH-BL alumni database. This site will help you keep in touch with classmates in the years ahead and keep you informed about any reunions that your class may be planning.
  • Have a fun summer and good luck in college!

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