College Planning Process

Preparation starts earlier than you might think!

We recognize that many families choose Canterbury School for its college preparatory curriculum, helping each student pursue a successful college experience. We lay the foundation beginning freshman year through individual student meetings, and we build upon that foundation throughout the following three years. Here, we've provided comprehensive student-parent guides for each year of high school.


The goal of every Canterbury High School freshman should be to become fully engaged in the life of the school.

The freshman year should be one of discovery and development. As such, freshmen are encouraged to pursue an active role in school life and to take advantage of the opportunities to develop in mind, body and spirit.

The following are keys to freshman success. The mastery of these habits for success ultimately allows students to move through the college search and admission process with many viable options:

  • Enroll in challenging academic courses and do well in those courses.
  • Read and take advantage of the writing opportunities you have in various courses.
  • Develop and refine study habits and academic discipline that are critical for future success.
  • Practice good study skills, time management, and organization.
  • Participate actively in the extensive athletic and physical conditioning programs available to Canterbury students.
  • Explore the variety of visual and performing arts offered as electives and co-curricular options.
  • Discover new interests and develop hidden talents by sampling clubs, taking part in student government, and supporting service projects by volunteering.
  • Get to know your teachers. Let them get to know you.


By sophomore year, students should have successfully maneuvered the transition into High School.

Sophomores should be ready to focus on enhancing their academic opportunities, accepting responsibility for personal academic success, and seeking opportunities for involvement in the larger life of the school through co-curricular activities.

Ideally, sophomores should be completely engaged in the school life. As part of that engagement, sophomores should continue to pursue the habits for success honed during the freshman experience through the following:

  • Take challenging courses and do well in those courses. As colleges consider applicants, nothing takes the place of strong academic achievement in a rigorous curriculum.
  • If freshman year did not feature a high level of academic success, keep in mind that colleges tend to overlook a weaker start if a student shows a sustained record of higher achievement over the next three years.
  • If your freshman year was a strong one, keep up the good work. Colleges expect a maintained level of effort and focus. A downward trend could be counterproductive in the process.
  • Read and take advantage of the writing opportunities in various courses.
  • Practice good study skills, time management, and organization.
  • Get to know your teachers. Let them get to know you.
  • Get involved outside the classroom (performing/visual arts, athletics, special interest clubs, student government, service projects). Sophomores should begin to focus on the activities that are most meaningful to them. Explore leadership roles in areas of involvement.
  • Take the PSAT test in the fall.
  • Take SAT Subject Tests (if appropriate) in the spring.
  • Attend Canterbury's College Fair, open to the region, in the fall.
  • Participate in the week-long Sophomore Class College Trip, and gain a basic understanding of the types of colleges and universities that are available to you.
  • Complete the sophomore-year community service requirement (20 hours).
  • Investigate interesting summer options for study, travel, or work.


A very important year, indeed!

Most students apply for college admission in the fall of their senior year, which means their senior grades are often not used to determine admission. Therefore, your performance junior year will be the most recent grades colleges see. In addition to overall grade point averages, colleges are most often concerned about trends in performance, particularly students who demonstrate an increased level of achievement over time.

This is not to say that a good junior year in the classroom can offset two years of mediocre performance, but it is to say that it will certainly help. Students who make their best grades (or who continue to make good grades) junior year, end up with more college choices come spring of their senior year.

Our expectations for juniors include the following:

  • Take the PSAT Prep class in the fall.
  • Re-take the PSAT test in the fall (everyone).
  • Register with Family Connection (aka Naviance). This is Canterbury’s web-based information and communication program for all of our college counseling efforts.
  • Make as high, if not higher, grades since starting High School.
  • Take the most challenging and most appropriate classes.
  • Work unsupervised and be internally motivated in class and with homework.
  • Seek leadership positions in co-curricular activities.
  • Attend the Canterbury School College Fair, open to the region, in the fall.
  • Take the ACT and/or SAT Prep Class during the winter.
  • Complete junior-year community service requirement (40 hours).
  • Take the College Bound class during spring semester and complete the 18 assignments which are aimed to prepare students for college applications next fall. Specific topics include the following:
    • Learn the differences between a college and a university.
    • Learn how admission decisions are made.
    • Complete the Common Application.
    • Write a college essay.
    • Prepare for a college interview.
    • Craft a list of colleges.
    • Search for financial aid and scholarships (as appropriate).
    • Procure teacher letters of recommendation.
    • Register for the SAT, the ACT, and SAT Subject Tests (as appropriate).
  • Conduct individual conferences with the college counselor.
  • Take the SAT in late winter or spring.
  • Take SAT Subject Tests (as appropriate) in the spring.
  • Take AP Exams (as appropriate) in the spring.
  • Take or retake the ACT in the spring.
  • Plan meaningful summer activities.

We also encourage junior parents to do the following:

  • Attend the Back-to-School Night in September. This is a vital meeting for all junior parents as we cover school, student, and parent expectations for the year in detail.
  • Register for the school’s web-based college counseling information and communication program, Family Connection (aka Naviance).
  • Talk with your junior about which tests and which test preparation classes are appropriate for him/her.
  • Reserve at least one week of spring break for visiting colleges. This is an optional time to do this.
  • Learn how to make the most of college visits by attending the College Night Program for junior parents.
  • Ensure that your junior completes his/her community service requirement (40 hours) and documents the hours to Mrs. Walda.
  • Schedule an appointment with the College Counseling Office with your child present to discuss his/her college options.
  • Complete the Parent Information Form which specifically asks your input on parameters for the college search process.
  • Purchase copies of the following books: "Looking Beyond the Ivy League" by Loren Pope, "The Fisk Guide to Colleges" by Edward B. Fisk and "Pope’s Colleges that Change Lives." These books are very helpful content for the college search process.


It's college application time!

First semester is a busy time for seniors, with many deadlines. During the College Bound process, and individual meetings, college counselors work with students on their college choices, essay requirements and Common App requirements. They also look at portfolio requirements for arts programs and Early Action, Early Decision and Regular Decision deadlines.

Our expectations for our seniors include the following:

  • Re-take the SAT and/or the ACT test in the fall (as appropriate).
  • Take or re-take SAT Subject Tests as needed.
  • Regularly update college lists on Family Connection so that parents, teachers, and the College Counseling Office all know where you stand with your applications.
  • Adhere to the Senior Year College Counseling Calendar.
  • Complete National Merit and National Achievement Scholarship applications (as applicable).
  • Meet all school-established guidelines and deadlines for applications.
  • Meet with the teachers who are writing letters of recommendation.
  • Visit colleges on application lists.
  • Continue to explore financial aid and scholarship options (as appropriate).
  • Meet with the college counselor once a week or as needed until the college applications are completed.
  • Assume leadership roles in all areas of school and the co-curricular life of the school.
  • Help parents file the Profile and the FAFSA as early as November in order to meet the deadlines for all financial aid available to you for college.
  • Make arrangements for senior internships in a timely manner.
  • Assist with all senior class and House activities such as prom, Bingo Night, and the blood drive.
  • Assist with making a decision on the senior class gift.
  • Cooperate with faculty members and parent representatives in regard to all pictures needed and meeting all picture deadlines.

We also encourage senior parents to continue everything you have been doing the last three years PLUS:

  • Attend the Senior Parents’ Night Program in September. This is a vital meeting for all senior parents as we cover school, student and parent expectations for the year in detail.
  • Schedule a meeting with the College Counseling Office early in the fall to finalize college application plans.
  • At least once per month, check the Senior College Counseling Calendar to make sure that your senior is meeting all deadlines.
  • Sign the Early Decision Binding Agreement if your senior is applying Early Decision.
  • Let the College Counseling Office know what your needs are at this time in the college search process.
  • In the fall, do not stress over where your senior is going to college, just where he/she is applying.
  • Attend the Senior Parents’ Night Program in January. This is a vital meeting for all senior parents as we cover graduation and end-of-year activities in detail.
  • File your Profile and FAFSA financial aid forms as early as November.
  • Order graduation announcements no later than February.
  • In the spring meet with the college counselor if you need assistance with making the final college decision.
  • Help your senior arrange his/her senior internship.
  • Finally, enjoy these last few months with your senior at home as much as possible. Your relationship with your adult child will grow and evolve over the next four years just as it has for the last four.
  • You’ve made it!