High School Timeline

Preparing for college, from your freshman to senior year
Portrait Of Female Pupil Studying At Desk In Classroom

Someone once said, “Success is a journey, not a destination.” True college success actually begins in high school. This doesn’t simply entail learning facts and acing tests, but in setting a course towards getting into a college matching future goals.

When the eighth grade teacher asked, “What do you want to study in college” or “What field do you want to work in after you graduate,” this wasn’t jumping the gun. While such questions may seem like undue pressure at an early age, they aren’t. The time is right for answers, showing how best to use the upcoming high school years. And for students who remain undecided or unsure, these questions can stimulate family discussions.

Before high school graduation, students in Oklahoma must now complete 23 credit units of classes. Of these 23 units, 15 must be core studies in the following: 4 Language Arts; 3 Mathematics; 3 Science; 3 Social Studies; 1 Find Arts; 1 World Language or Computer Technology, with the final 8 credits coming from a student’s four years of elective classes. (sde.ok.gov/sites/default/files/2023-CORE-curriculum-graduation-requirements%20FINAL.pdf)

While your high school counselor can give you specifics on which classes fit in each category, and which classes within each group are mandatory for graduation credit, most universities suggest classes that prospective students should take if considering their specific schools. The following are fairly standard curricular requirements that must be met by incoming college freshmen:

  • 4 Units — English Grammar, Composition, and Literature
  • 3 Units — Mathematics Algebra I and above
  • 2 Units — History must include one unit of American History
  • 2 Units — Lab Science Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Physical Science
  • 1 Unit — Citizenship Skills Economics, Geography, Government, Non-Western Culture
  • 3 Units — Other Any of the above and/or Computer Science and/or Foreign Language

However, by senior year in high school, check requirements with each school you’re considering, as these are just the common requirements. For instance, in the last section, foreign language is listed as a suggestion, but for many Oklahoma universities, already having two years in a foreign language satisfies the foreign language general education requirement for graduation. Most universities list this type of information on their web sites.

Preplanning is key to success, so here’s a year-by-year timeline to keep high school success on-track:

High School Timeline Planner

Freshman Year

In Fall/Winter

  • Set a goal to take the most challenging classes offered at your high school and stay focused on getting high grades.
  • Start building your vocabulary. Read outside of schoolwork.

In Spring

  • Look into work, study, community service or sports summer programs.

Sophomore Year

In Fall/Winter

  • Continue goal toward high grades.
  • Find out when your school offers the PSAT and sign up. Take a practice PSAT.

In Spring

  • Start researching colleges; gather information.
  • Meet with your high school counselor to discuss plans about college and path to admissions.
  • Identify work, study, community service or athletic programs to get involved in this summer.

Junior Year

In Fall/Winter

  • Complete preparation for the SAT I or ACT.
  • Research colleges and universities that interest you.
  • Plan college visits. Look at websites for information and student visit days.

In Spring

  • Take the AP test for those AP or college-level courses you’ll complete this spring.
  • Take the SAT IIs in courses and key areas just completed.
  • If at or over your target SAT I score, take the SAT I in spring. If still prepping to improve your scores, take the test in May.
  • Take the ACT. You can take the ACT or SAT more than once. If you have test anxiety, it might be a good idea to take it more than once.
  • Check with guidance office or college websites to see if any representatives from your target schools plan visits and sign up. Prepare questions for the recruiter.
  • Stay in touch with admission representatives at your top choice schools, and become familiar with their admission deadlines.
  • Visit colleges.
  • Identify people to write recommendation letters.
  • Identify organized study, work, volunteer or athletic program for this summer.

Senior Year

In Fall/Winter

  • Complete the FAFSA.
  • Submit FAFSA as soon after Oct. 1 as possible. Must be submitted by March 1 for most state aid. Deadline to qualify for fall federal aid is May 1. The earlier you get this in, the better. Scholarships and other money may be more limited the longer you wait.
  • Check with guidance counselor and target schools to be sure you have all financial aid and admission forms. Complete and submit forms before the stated deadlines.
  • Follow up on your applications before the deadline.
  • Continue to visit colleges, if possible, to help make your decision.

In Spring

  • Review your Student Aid Report (SAR) for accuracy and completeness. Make any necessary changes now, and keep a copy of everything submitted. Be sure you directed that all target schools are to receive a copy of the SAR.
  • Decide on college or university you will attend this fall. Make sure you’ve received admissions and financial aid award letters, and notify choice college.
  • ‘Take SAT II exams if high scores allow placing out of academic requirements for entering freshmen or will help you to place into advanced courses.
  • Estimate college costs and your sources of financial aid. If aid sources don’t meet estimated expenses for the upcoming year, check loan opportunities.
  • Take the AP tests for those AP or college-level courses completed this spring.
  • Begin evaluating housing options for the fall. If planning to live off campus, May is usually the best time to find an apartment near campus.


From freshman year on, keep a record of activities, community service, leadership roles and other extracurricular programs you have participated in. It’s also a good idea to keep a portfolio of awards, honors, certificates, outstanding schoolwork, etc. throughout your high school years. This will make filling our college applications easier. You may think you’ll remember everything you’ve done over four years, but you won’t.


High School Timeline Pin

Categories: Education: Middle and High School