College Counseling Process & Timelines

Students are encouraged to take the most challenging classes they can successfully manage and earn the best grades possible each year as both grades and strength of curriculum have the greatest influence on the college admissions process. Everything counts, including summer programs, jobs, and community service.

Formal college planning begins in January of junior year, when students engage in workshops followed by individual and small group meetings with their assigned counselor.

The Process & Responsibilities

Freshman And Sophomore At A Glance

Academic Counseling

Each student is assigned a counselor who they will work with throughout their Interlochen experience. Counselor assignments can be found within the Education Community.

College advisement will be presented as part of the curriculum.

Students attend a course planning meeting with their Academic and College Counselor in the spring of each year. Each student develops a course planning worksheet which will outline their curriculum during their four years at the Academy.

Counselors advise students on how best to meet both graduation requirements and post-secondary expectations based on individual goals.


  • Ninth graders take the PSAT 8/9 during second semester following spring break
  • Tenth graders take the PSAT 10 during second semester following spring break
  • Ninth and Tenth graders may request to sit for PSAT with the junior class in October.
  • Students are encouraged to begin taking the official SAT and ACT in their junior year

College Advisement

  • Visit colleges to take a private lesson and/or campus tour. This will help you better understand what schools are looking for in the college admissions process
  • You will be introduced to college research and readiness tool Naviance and provided with login credentials
  • Meet with college and university representatives who visit campus
  • Attend the Visual, Performing, and Literary Arts College Fair

Many families begin planning ahead for the upcoming expenses, time, and travel that will accompany the college application and audition process in the student’s senior year.

Junior Year Timeline


  • Use Khan Academy to practice for the PSAT


  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT. It provides students first-hand practice for the SAT I: Reasoning Test. It also allows students scoring in the top 1% an opportunity to enter the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) scholarship programs.
  • Interlochen Arts Academy will automatically register all juniors for the PSAT. Students should register themselves for at least one ACT and SAT in the spring. Students whose first language isn't English should take the TOEFL prior to leaving campus for the summer.
  • Attend the Visual, Performing, and Literary Arts College Fair.
  • Students interested in taking Advanced Placement Exams, must register. 

January - March

  • Group Workshops: Review PSAT results and discuss SAT/ACT test preparation and Naviance tasks to prepare for senior year.
  • Discuss possible college and/or conservatory options with artistic instructors and directors.
  • Make an appointment for your first individual counseling conference with your college counselor to:
    • Plan senior curriculum.
    • Review testing timeline and register for the SAT, ACT, and/or TOEFL. Students must have or create an account to register. All national SAT exam dates are offered on the campus of Interlochen. The ACT is offered in Traverse City; transportation will be arranged.

Spring Break

  • Visit colleges, when possible
    • Call ahead or check online for tour schedules.
    • Inquire with music instructors regarding the possibility of a lesson.
  • Discuss cost and affordability as a family to determine the range of finances needed at most schools. Use tools and calculators to estimate cost of attendance, estimated family contribution, compare schools, etc.
  • Discuss cost of application/audition fees and audition trips (travel, food, lodging) and begin to budget for those costs.

April - May

  • Attend a workshop where you will begin the Common Application
  • Work within English classes to write an admissions essay
  • Work within majors to create Resume/Repertoire list
  • Continue to create preliminary list of colleges within Naviance
  • Request letters of recommendation (see Naviance Tasks to obtain the form)
  • Take ACT (if not taken earlier or wish to take it a second time)
  • Take TOEFL (non-native English speakers only)
  • Take Advanced Placement (AP) exams, as appropriate
  • Take SAT Reasoning (if not taken earlier or wish to take it a second time)


  • SAT Reasoning 


  • Engage in camps, intensives, and institutes
  • Consider getting a job or volunteering
  • Visit college campuses, interview, or take lessons, when available
  • Continue work on the CommonApp
  • Utilize Khan Academy to prepare for the SAT
  • Work on college essays and supplemental questions


Junior Year Responsibilities


  • Register for SAT/ACT exams
  • Send SAT/ACT scores to schools after applications are complete
  • Register for AP exams (if applicable)
  • Request recommendations
  • Review college applications
  • Develop college essay(s)
  • Talk with arts faculty about college choices


  • Help student arrange travel for college visits and auditions
  • Pay for SAT/ACT exam fees
  • Discuss future plans with student so all are on the same page (financially, geographically, academically, artistically)


  • Register students for fall PSAT
  • Help student schedule classes
  • Ensure all graduation and college requirements will be met
  • Arrange transportation to/from ACT
  • Assist student in creating college list
Senior Year Timeline


  • Ensure that you are registered for the classes necessary to meet graduation requirements as well as college expectations.
  • Request all letters of recommendation. Seniors who are in their first year at Interlochen are encouraged to request one academic letter of recommendation from an instructor at their previous school.
  • Attend your first group meeting with assigned counselor, followed by individual and small group meetings during the remainder of the process.
  • The first unit of all English literature courses will be devoted to the college essay.
  • Utilize our College Organizational Chart* to assist with organizing application due dates, scholarship deadlines, audition dates, prescreening and repertoire requirements as well as safe, target, and reach schools. *You will need to make a copy of the College Organizational Chart in order to edit.
  • As part of your application, you will request an audition date. The sooner you are finished, the more likely you are to get the audition date and location you selected. This is especially true for theatre majors.
  • Determine a testing timeline and register for TOEFL, SAT, and/or ACT.
  • Update the list of colleges you intend to apply to in Naviance.
  • For students interested in taking Advanced Placement Exams, register through the Academic and College Counseling Office.
  • For many students, the application process will be over within the first eight weeks of the school year.
  • If you have not created a Common Application, do so now. Remember to link your Common App to Naviance.
  • If you are planning to apply to schools in the UK, you will need to fill out the UCAS application. 


  • Take additional standardized tests, as needed.
  • Attend the Visual, Performing, and Literary Arts College Fair.
  • Begin the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which opens Oct. 1 (U.S. citizens only).
  • Complete the CSS Profile. The PROFILE form is administered by the College Scholarship Service (CSS), the financial aid division of the College Board. The CSS PROFILE is required by many private colleges and universities to determine your eligibility for non-government financial aid, such as the institution's own grants, loans and scholarships.
  • Musicians: Work with private lesson instructor to reserve music prescreening space.
  • Submit applications for Early Action and/or Early Decision by Nov. 1.
  • Visual artists: Attend Portfolio Review Day.
  • Submit applications for any schools that have a Nov. 1 scholarship or application deadline.


  • Take additional standardized tests, as needed.
  • Complete any outstanding application for Dec. 1 deadline.


  • This is the last opportunity for seniors to take SAT/ACT/TOEFL and meet application deadlines.
  • The majority of music, dance, and theatre applications are due Dec. 1. All other majors may have a later due date unless applying early action or early decision.

January / February


  • Spring break, potential last minute college visits
  • You may begin receiving college admissions decisions


  • April 1 is National Notification Day, when all schools will notify students of their admissions decisions.


  • All students must commit to the school they plan to attend no later than May 1
  • Report within Naviance which school you will attend to ensure your final transcripts are submitted