College Advising Timeline

Key students receive one-on-one guidance throughout the college advising and admissions process from Key's Director of College Advising. Although the majority of interactions take place during students' junior and senior years, there are multiple important touchpoints with all Upper School students beginning in ninth grade.

9th Grade

All freshman complete the life skills course, Changing Lives, with one unit taught by the Director of College Advising. This unit is designed to help students explore potential career options and understand their learning styles and personality tendencies. Students focus on discovering elements of how they learn, who they are becoming, and what types of possible professions might match their interests. They take a series of assessments and surveys, interview working professionals, and research career trends.

10th Grade


Sophomores take the PSAT in order to gain an understanding of how standardized tests are structured. This score is used as a baseline for students, providing a report that shares which questions were answered correctly and which areas need to be developed further. Colleges never see PSAT scores but they can be used to determine scholarship eligibility. Colleges will begin sending marketing materials shortly after PSAT scores become available.


Key holds one evening meeting for sophomores and their parents mid-way through the year. This meeting provides an overview of what is to come with regard to the college search in the junior and senior years. Current seniors share their experiences and how they developed a list of prospective colleges. The focus of this meeting is twofold: to remind students of the importance of doing their best work in their classes, and to encourage them to begin thinking about which courses they would like to take as juniors and seniors when they have more flexibility in course selection.

11th Grade

Throughout the academic year, juniors and their parents attend a series of evening meetings discussing the timeline for researching and applying to schools. These meetings provide important information about the overall college search process as well as what students can do to prepare for the application process. Each junior meets with the Director of College Advising at least two times to discuss his/her criteria, academic and extracurricular record and a list of colleges to consider.


The entire junior class will travel together to visit two area colleges. This serves as the official kick-off to the college search process. Students will meet with admission counselors, take a tour of campus and spend time with Key School alumni who attend the colleges.

Students take the PSAT for the last time and may qualify for the National Merit Scholarship program depending on their respective scores. Students take the practice ACT to be able to understand the differences between the standardized exams. This is the last practice exam before taking the SAT and ACT.

Financial aid and scholarship workshops are also offered to provide an overview of the FAFSA and CSS Profile forms that are used by colleges, as well as information about local, state and national scholarships.


During the mid-point of junior year, all students and their families will meet with the Director of College Advising and complete interest and criteria surveys to determine the student’s individual plan for college and post-graduate interests. Students also meet with the Director of College Advising individually to continue these discussions. All students use Naviance Student to direct and document their college search and applications.

College fairs are offered regionally to allow students to meet with admission staff and alumni and learn more about prospective schools. The Director of College Advising will guide students on how to approach the fairs to get the most information possible.


We host a group of college admission counselors/directors to better understand how applications are evaluated. Counselors will share case studies to inform students and families of how the admission committees come to decisions.

Most students begin to visit college campuses in the winter and late-spring to get an initial impression about the types of schools they like by attending information sessions and touring campuses. Some athletes may begin reaching out to coaches if they intend to pursue a NCAA sport.

An optional SAT/ACT prep course is offered on campus by Capital Educators as a separate program.

Students take both the ACT and SAT once before the end of junior year. Some juniors may also take AP exams in May.

Students select two faculty members to write letters of recommendation on their behalf for their college applications.

12th Grade


Seniors spend a large portion of their time visiting colleges and researching their list of schools.

The Director of College Advising offers a five-day workshop through Summer at KEY to help students work on the Common and/or Coalition Application, complete a draft essay, develop their resume, and participate in a mock interview with college admissions counselors.


Completing applications is time consuming and can be overwhelming. We work ahead of these deadlines to help students plan and complete their applications and essays on time and with as little stress as possible.

An evening meeting with students and parents kicks off the senior year so seniors can review their final transcript, understand what's to come during the application process and make final decisions about where they will apply.

A college application activity and time during grade meetings provide ample reminders of what needs to be done for applications and time to complete essays and activity lists.

Seniors also may choose to take the ACT, SAT or SAT IIs/subject tests during the fall.


By February of senior year most application deadlines have come and gone. Once students hear back from their colleges, they can meet with the Director of College Advising to determine how to make a decision about their college choices.


"Decision Day" is celebrated each year on May 1. All seniors are encouraged to wear clothing representing the school they have elected to attend.