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 types of 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 these types of 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 also 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.


Students take the PSAT for the last time and may qualify for national merit scholarships depending on their respective scores. 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 surveys to determine the student’s individual plan for college and possible post-graduate interests. Students also meet with the Director of College Advising individually to continue these discussions. All students use Family Connection 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.


A college forum, in partnership with Severn School, provides students and their families an opportunity to learn about current trends in college admissions, understand various types of colleges and universities, and have questions answered by collegeDeans and Directors of Admission.

Most students begin to visit college campuses in late-spring to get an initial impression about the types of schools they like by attending information sessions and touring campus. 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 and students take both exams 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 working on college applications in the summer leading up to 12th grade. The Director of College Advising offers a five-day workshop through Summer at KEY to help students work on the Common Application, complete a draft essay, develop their resume, and participate in a mock interview with a college admission counselor.


Evening meetings with students and families, one-on-one meetings with the Director of College Advising, and time during grade meetings all provide ample reminders of what needs to be done for applications. Seniors also may choose to take the ACT, SAT or SAT IIs/subject tests during the fall.

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.


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.