Timeline by Grade

9TH GRADE

• Academic Plan — Consider drafting an academic four-year plan with your adviser. In general, you should plan on taking four years of English, math, social studies/history, science, and foreign language. Some students opt to double up in areas where they have a strong academic interest (i.e. science or foreign language) once they have completed Tower Hill’s graduation requirements, usually junior or senior year. While there is nothing specific you can do for college admission in 9th Grade, a really solid and thoughtful beginning to good grades and leadership will go a long way in developing good patterns of study and in building a solid academic foundation.

• Coursework — Work with your adviser to determine course selection for 10th Grade. Take the strongest selection of courses available to you based on your previous preparation and history of performance in each subject.

• Events — Attend College Night (January) and Case Studies Workshop (May) to learn about what college admission officers consider (and consider important) when they review your applications.

• Extracurriculars — Get involved! No college wants students who do only academic work. Sign up for at least two clubs and begin exploring all of the non-academic options we offer. Freshman year is the best time to begin, allowing you to grow in depth and leadership of each organization as you move through Upper School.

• Hit Your Stride — Focus on your transition to Upper School and enjoy your time as a freshman!
 
10TH GRADE

• Coursework — Continue taking classes in all subject areas. Begin to think about which classes you enjoy the most and which give you the most trouble (they need not be mutually exclusive!). Seek help and support where/when necessary. To colleges, your “trend” in grades is as important (sometimes more important) than your bottom-line GPA, so this is the year to focus on academics if you haven’t already.

• PSAT — Take the PSAT in October of your sophomore year. The PSAT is administered to all 10th graders during the school day. When you receive your results, look at the score report for areas where you feel you can best improve. The PSAT is, truly, just a practice exam for the 11th Grade PSAT.

• Events — Attend the college counseling events open to all Upper School students: the autumn or spring What to Expect program, the January alumni panel, the January College Deans’ Night, and any school day sessions we offer. Get to know us!

• Extracurriculars — Continue with extracurricular activities, perhaps building on what you did in 9th Grade. Begin to think of which activities you most enjoy. Colleges would rather see you deeply involved in a couple of activities as opposed to presenting a somewhat meaningless list of clubs and activities in which you have no real investment. It’s about quality, not quantity.

• Visit College Counseling — If you feel yourself “chomping at the bit” to talk about college, use the summers before 10th Grade and after to make an appointment with college counseling. It is extremely difficult to determine an accurate list before the midpoint of junior year, but we can help you think about how to approach the college process. If you choose to visit colleges, focus on “type” of schools to begin thinking about “match”—see a big university, a small liberal arts college, an urban campus, rural campus, suburban/college town campus, etc. Keep track of your reactions—they will help as we officially start the college process in 11th grade once we have some grades and test scores with which we can work.

• Practice Tests — Consider taking the Kaplan practice SAT/ ACT combination tests offered at Tower Hill in June. This abbreviated combination test is designed to help you decide between taking the SAT and ACT and is free to any THS student.

• Summer — Think about summer plans. This summer is a good time to continue with an activity you’ve loved, seek a part-time job, explore volunteer opportunities, or take advantage of a summer academic enrichment opportunity.

• Get a Notebook — Seriously. Write it all down. After visiting a number of colleges or talking with reps, it all starts to blend together. After a visit or conversation, write down what you liked, didn’t like, what intrigued you, and what you want to explore further. If you come acrosses quotes you love, write them down, too. It could be the beginning of a great college essay.
 
11TH GRADE

• Coursework — Junior year grades are especially important, so focus on doing your best academically. This is the year to seek extra help from teachers, talk with your adviser and college counselor if you are having trouble, and focus on the learning process. You have excellent teachers and interesting classes— enjoy them and work hard to do well!

• PSAT — Take the PSAT 11 in October. Tower Hill will test all juniors during the school day. When you receive your results, look for areas that need improvement. See the college counseling office for names of SAT/ACT tutors if needed. While the PSAT is practice for the real SAT, it also is the qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship Competition.

• Events — Attend (and ask your parent to attend) evening and school day sessions offered by the college counseling department. This includes the fall What to Expect parent panel, financial aid information evening, THS alumni panel (for students only), College Deans’ Night, Application Case Studies Workshop, and junior college planning seminars (held in the spring) to begin work on essays and application prose.

• Tests — Juniors should plan to take the SAT either in the fall or in the spring of junior year. If you plan to take the ACT, you should take it at least once during junior year. SAT subject tests can be taken in May or June. See the college counseling handbook or speak with your counselor for recommendations on which tests to take.

• Visit College Counseling — After you complete your college counseling questionnaire, and as early as December, contact your college counselor to make an appointment. Your parents might want to attend this first meeting as well. If your parents contact college counseling to set up a meeting, we will schedule it for one of your free periods. It is important that you take an active role in the college process from the beginning.

• College Visits — Over spring and summer breaks, plan on visiting colleges (schools should include a variety, including those recommended by college counseling, that fit within the Green, Yellow, Orange and Red Zone for schools). Make note of what you like, don’t like, would love if one thing were different, etc. Your impressions will help us to better define your list or to suggest different schools.

• Recommendations — In April of this year, ask two teachers who know you well to write letters of recommendation for you. Have Mrs. Ogden add these teachers to Naviance.

• Summer — Begin thinking of summer options. Similar to last year, you should consider continuing with an activity or job you enjoyed or pursuing an academic (or other) enrichment opportunity. Colleges are as happy with you having a summer job as they are with exotic travel or high-level academic pursuits— they want to see that you are making use of your summer.

• College Essay — You will begin working on your college essay ideas during spring of junior year, but you should plan to use the summer to complete a solid draft of your common application essay. Many seniors find themselves overwhelmed in the fall because they did not begin necessary writing pieces and then discover that they have multiple supplements (including additional essays) to complete.

• Common Application Workshop — Attend the Common Application Workshop, offered on multiple dates, in August. Sessions are held in the library and provide you with the opportunity to complete the majority of the Common Application and to get more feedback on your long college essay
 
12TH GRADE

• Visit College Counseling — In early September, meet with your college counselor for another longer meeting to provide an update on your summer, college visits, testing plan, and final college application list.

• Tests — Begin sending official SAT, ACT, and/or SAT Subject test scores to colleges and universities two weeks prior to the application deadlines.

• Recommendations — Touch base with your recommendation writers to make sure they are aware of any updates in your life and to give them a firm date of your earliest deadlines. Complete applications, essays and supplements. Make sure you are keeping track of all deadlines.

• Visit College Counseling, Again — Senior year is a busy time! Meet with your college counselor on a regular basis to make sure you are staying on top of all deadlines. We can help you to update your Google Sheets organizer.

• Coursework — Focus on doing well in your classes. First semester is difficult, and college applications add another layer of work to your already busy schedule. Make sure you are talking to your teachers and doing your best—mid-year grades WILL be sent to colleges.

• More Tests — Take another round of the SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Tests if necessary. It is best that most seniors finish SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject tests by December to ensure all tests will be scored and test results received by colleges.

• Events — Attend college information sessions, held daily. Over 100 colleges and universities visit Tower Hill each fall, and the person visiting is usually the primary reader of your application. Listen to the daily announcements and keep an eye on the television screen outside of Mrs. Cover’s office. This is a great chance to follow up with a school you have visited or learn more about a school you were not able to visit.

• Financial Aid — If you plan to apply for financial aid, attend the financial aid information session (held each fall at one of the local independent schools). Contact college counseling for information about FAFSA and the CSS Profile and the Delaware Scholarship Compendium.

• College Essay — If you’d like help with your college essay, talk to Ms. Lauck, Mrs. Meeker, or Dr. Hickey. We want to read your essays and provide suggestions for improvement. We also are happy to brainstorm with you about possible topics. Resist the temptation to leave this until the last minute! Essays can and do make a difference in this process.

• Apply — Make sure you meet all deadlines, request transcripts through Naviance, and keep your college counselor informed of any changes. You must list all colleges to which you are applying in Naviance.

• Show Your Gratitude — After you send your applications, write thank you notes to teachers for writing your recommendations. Writing letters is something they do that is above and beyond their classroom work at Tower Hill.

• College Visits — You are allowed excused absences to visit colleges in the fall. Use them judiciously! Visit the College Counseling Office for excusal forms.

• Application Follow-Up — Check each college’s requirements to make sure you have “checked all the boxes.” If interviews are required or suggested, make an appointment for one—it is a great opportunity to advocate for yourself. Write thank you notes to anyone on the college side who interviews you or helps you.

• Decisions — Once you complete your applications, send your test scores from the testing agency, and submit your transcript requests through Naviance, all you have left to do is wait for the decisions. Remember to inform college counseling when you receive a decision. We are here to help, so if you are deferred, denied or wait listed, please see us for advice or support.

• Enjoy your senior year! — This is it — don’t forget to appreciate each and every moment with your friends, family, classmates and teachers. 

Founded in 1919, Tower Hill School is a private, college prep school in Wilmington, Delaware, serving students in preschool through Grade 12.
Tower Hill is regarded as one of the best private schools in the U.S. Many of Tower Hill's students attend top universities and colleges.


  • Tower Hill School
  • 2813 W. 17th Street
  • Wilmington, DE 19806
  • 302-575-0550