Timeline: How and when to prepare for university in grades 11 and 12

Congratulations on starting a new school year! If you are starting grade 11 or 12, you are entering a fast-paced and exciting time in your life—taking your first steps toward university and your chosen career. Now is the time to work hard, plan well, and finish high school on a strong note.

During the last two years of high school, you should concentrate on determining your goals and how to achieve them. Here is a list of actions to take during grades 11 and 12.

Grade 11

September to January

What to do: Think about your reasons for attending university. What are your goals? What learning opportunities are most important to you? Where do you see yourself as an adult? What career do you want to pursue?

How to do it: Talk with your mentors (parents, educators, counsellors, friends or relatives who attend university) and investigate possible career options and the degrees you need to attain for each option.

January to March

What to do: Identify what factors are most important in the university you wish to attend. Do they include the major or program offered at the university? The location, or proximity to home? The cost? Campus life? Athletics or extracurricular activities?

How to do it: Consult university websites, guidebooks, and other resources for incoming students. Does the information presented match what you want in a university? Can you picture yourself there? Also, don’t forget to register for a university admissions exam! The latter part of grade 11 is an ideal time to take the test. Be sure to take practice tests and investigate other test prep options.

March to June

What to do: It’s time to make a list! Include your top universities, and don’t be afraid to “think big”—include your ideal choices because you will have time to narrow your list later. Be sure to include each university’s “positives” and “negatives” to help you determine which is the best fit for you.

How to do it: If they are available in your area, attend a college and university fair or other outreach event. Plan a university visit in person. Take your university readiness assessment to prepare for university applications.

Break between grades 11 and 12

What to do: This break can be an excellent time for growth, exploration, and planning to help you focus on what you will need to do during grade 12.

How to do it: Pursue a summer job that matches your career interests. This will help you get a taste of the career while earning money for university. You can also look for unpaid volunteer and “job shadowing” opportunities to give you a close look at your dream career.

Grade 12


What to do: Compare the universities on your list. Have you weighed the positives and negatives carefully? Which universities meet your needs?

How to do it: If time and travel are not barriers, try to visit a few more universities, or at least continue researching them online. Organize your university choices into a detailed, ordered list that prioritizes the universities that fit you best.

September to December

What to do: Apply for admission to your top-choice universities. Do you have all the necessary forms and information the university requires? Double-check the application and scholarship deadlines and put them on your calendar.

How to do it: Obtain application forms online or with the help or your counsellor or tutor. Submit your high school transcripts and college readiness assessment scores. Are your scores acceptable to the university or do you need to consider retesting to obtain your best score?

January to February

What to do: Have you investigated scholarships? Most students are eligible for merit-based (earned with your academic achievements) or need-based (for students with financial barriers to university).

How to do it: Talk with your counsellor, tutor, or a university’s financial aid office about scholarships that might be a good fit for your needs. Write down the deadlines for each and start applying as soon as possible, as there is a fierce competition for scholarships among students.

March to May

What to do: Gather your acceptance letters and make your final university decision.

How to do it: Share your decision-making process with trusted mentors. They can help you make that final choice. Feel good about your decision because you put a lot of thought into making it!

Most of all, remember to keep a positive attitude and keep up your confidence during these next two years! Your curiosity, hard work, and perseverance will make all the difference in your success!