The College Counseling Office guides and supports students as they explore and apply to colleges and universities across the nation. In keeping with the mission of the school, the counselors strive to educate and prepare students and parents in a very individual process.

Applying to college can be a complex and confusing process, but it should also be rewarding as the student goes through a process of self-examination and seeks the college or university that best meets his or her academic and social needs. The College Counseling Office provides a framework and process to help each student and family understand the college admissions process and find the best college match.

Planning & Advice For Students

List of 5 items.

  • 9th grade

    Starting to plan.
    General Advice:
    - Perform to your highest potential in the classroom. Your grades begin to count in 9th grade, and your GPA will be used by colleges for both admissions and scholarship purposes. Pay close attention to your end-of-semester grades, as these will be reported on your Randolph transcript.
    - Build strong relationships with your teachers by participating in class, going for extra help, asking pertinent questions, and seeking their advice and counsel. Showing your teachers the depth of your effort and learning how to advocate for yourself will be a critical skill throughout your years at Randolph and beyond.
    - Develop a four-year course plan with your parents and your advisor. Your course schedule in the freshman year is fairly set, but as you move through the Upper School, you will find more opportunities for electives, honors courses and Advanced Placement courses. Choosing appropriate courses to meet prerequisite requirements is important and begins early in the process. Speak with a college counselor, dean, or division head if you need additional guidance in developing a four-year plan.
    - Explore your interests outside of the classroom. Both Randolph and the Huntsville community offer myriad opportunities to explore and develop lifelong passions. The 9th grade year is a great time to join an athletic team, to develop musical and artistic skills, and to get involved in community service. Get involved with civic and religious organizations. Consider taking on a part-time job. Take opportunities to travel, to meet different people, and to get a sense of what you enjoy doing beyond the classroom.
    - Keep track of awards, accomplishments, honors, and affiliations. Using the resume-builder on Naviance is an easy way to keep track of your activities and awards.

    Counseling Plan:
    - All 9th graders at Randolph sit for the PLAN exam in October. This exam, which is a pre-ACT, exposes students to the examination’s format. It also offers some guidance about potential careers and college majors.
    - All 9th graders take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test through Naviance. This personality assessment is completed during advisory and is referred to throughout the college counseling process.
    - All 9th graders take a “learning styles” assessment. Your advisor will help you to figure out how you learn best. Using information from this assessment will help you in course planning and will give you a set of skills to make the most out of your experience in the classroom.
    - In the spring, 9th grade students and parents attend an evening program on campus that introduces the college admissions process. Randolph invites a college admissions dean to address the group and to help both students and parents make sense of a sometimes challenging process.
    - Students with an “A” average in Biology should consider taking the SAT Subject Test for Biology in June after consultation with their teacher and the college counseling office. Some additional preparation might be necessary.
  • 10th Grade

    Revisit and revise.
    General advice:
    - Now that you have completed your 9th grade year, revisit and revise your four-year course plan with your parents and faculty advisor. If your goals, interests or passions have changed, you should feel comfortable revising this plan. If your grades merit it, consider taking honors level courses that interest you. Highly selective colleges look for applicants to perform well in the most rigorous course of study available to them.
    - Continue to perform to your highest potential in the classroom. College admissions offices like to see an upward trend in grades, so concentrate on improving upon your 9th grade year. Ensure that you are using Randolph resources to maximize your performance. See your teachers for extra help whenever necessary.
    - Continue your involvement in extracurricular activities by deepening your commitment to things about which you are passionate. Explore leadership opportunities within those activities and find ways to hone your skills (community theater, travel teams, workshops, youth conferences, etc.). Colleges prefer depth over breadth in terms of extracurricular involvements, so feel free to jettison those activities about which you have little enthusiasm.
    - Start to explore colleges informally. Look at websites, take virtual tours, and spend some time on local college campuses. Get a sense of what it might be like to go to college at certain school “types” (urban, rural, large, small, near, far, liberal arts, research university).

    Counseling plan:
    - In October, all sophomores will sit for the PSAT. This preliminary exam will give you a sense of the content and structure of the SAT. You will meet with the college counselors as a group to discuss your results and to learn about how to use your score report. Using the score report and online resources provided by the College Board will help you to become more “test-wise.”
    - In advisory, sophomores complete the Career Interest Profiler through Naviance. Getting a sense of potential careers and developing intellectual passions will help students to find colleges that match their interests.
    - In advisory, sophomores complete a leadership assessment to figure out approaches to leadership that fit with their personality.
    - Sophomores with an “A” average in World History 1 and 2 should consider taking the SAT Subject Test in World History in June after consultation with their teacher and a college counselor. Sophomores in Honors Chemistry should consider taking the SAT Subject test in Chemistry in June after consultation with their teacher and a college counselor. Additional preparation for these tests might be necessary.

    Sophomore summer:
    The summer between sophomore and junior year should be productive. Consider engaging in one or more of the following activities:

    - Taking a course at UAHuntsville, Calhoun, or another local college.
    - Enrolling in a summer program at a college or university. Please note that enrolling in one of these programs will not increase your chances for admission to that college or university. Enroll in a program because you are interested in the subject area.
    - Enrolling in a summer study or travel program (Oxbridge, MMLA).
    - Working a summer job.Working or volunteering at a local camp.
    - Participating in a sports camp or special program (youth group trips, service trips, Boys/Girls State).
    - Traveling with friends and family.
  • 11th grade

    Build relationships, research and refine.
    General Advice:
    -Develop a testing plan, and plan to sit for both the SAT and the ACT before the conclusion of your junior year.
    -Continue putting forth your best effort in your classes. Colleges pay close attention to your grades in the junior year to see how you perform in more difficult, upper-level courses. Furthermore, many colleges will make decisions on your candidacy before they have the opportunity to see grades from your senior year.
    -Consider adding appropriate challenges to your course schedule in the junior and senior year. Selective colleges want to see applicants take full advantage of a rigorous curriculum, including honors and AP courses. Because your success in these courses is also important, you should follow teacher and advisor recommendations when considering these additions.
    -Focus extracurricular involvement around your interests, abilities, and leadership potential. Work with sponsors, mentors, and coaches to explore ways to continue your involvement in college if you so choose. Start putting together portfolios, audition materials, athletic resumes, and highlight reels. As you become interested in specific colleges, make contact with coaches, sponsors, and department chairs to find out how their programs might match your interests.
    -Stay sane. Many students report a significant increase in academic workload while juggling greater demands of time and effort. Time management and academic stress can reach a fever pitch in the junior year. Use parents, teachers, and friends to maintain a good sense of perspective and reach out to others when you need help.
    -Concentrate on cultivating powerful and productive relationships with your teachers. In all likelihood, you will ask at least one teacher from your junior year to write you a college recommendation.
    -Build a good relationship with your college counselor.
    -Pay close attention to your social media presence. More colleges are mining places like Twitter and Facebook for information about applicants.
    -Use Naviance regularly to research colleges and to manage and update a list of colleges in which you have interest.
    -Plan your summer early. Having a productive summer between junior and senior year is an important element for success in the college process.

    Counseling Plan:
    -All juniors take the PSAT in October. This exam also acts as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, so it is important to take the exam seriously. Juniors will review their results with the college counseling staff in December. It is also helpful to compare results between sophomore and junior year to construct a plan for study and improvement.
    -College representatives visit Randolph throughout the fall semester, and a few colleges will also visit in the spring. If your schedule allows, please join these representatives when they visit campus. Juniors are allowed to miss class for these visits once they have secured permission from their classroom teacher. It is particularly important for juniors to visit with college representatives from schools outside of our region, as these colleges might not visit Randolph every year.
    -Randolph hosts a college night for juniors and their parents in November. This night serves as the official “kick-off” for the college process.
    -All juniors are enrolled in Junior College Seminar, a six week program of small group meetings with a college counselor. This seminar introduces juniors to the finer points of the college admissions process. These seminars take place in the third quarter.
    -In the third quarter, each junior is assigned a college counselor. All juniors are required to meet with their college counselor before the end of the year. Junior parents are also encouraged to schedule a meeting with their child’s college counselor. The college counseling staff will work with juniors and their families to develop a working list of potential “match” colleges.
    -Juniors should plan to visit college campuses over the Presidents’ Day holiday, Spring Break, and summer vacation. Juniors should also consider attending the NACAC National College Fair in Nashville, held each spring.
    -All juniors will register for and take both the SAT and the ACT before the conclusion of the year. These tests should be taken between February and June. Both tests are accepted at all colleges nationwide.
    -Juniors with a high aptitude in US History, foreign language, math, or English Literature and who are considering highly selective colleges should register for SAT Subject Tests in June. Consult with your college counselor and the appropriate teachers when making the decision to take these tests.

    Summer between Junior and Senior Year:
    -Research, visit, and refine. Find that match by engaging fully in the research and visiting process. Even though most colleges are not in session during the summer, they remain vibrant and bustling communities, and students can get a sense of a college during a summer tour.
    -Use Naviance to narrow the college list. Ideally, most students should enter the application process in the senior year with a list of five to eight schools representing each of the three admissions categories: reach, target, and likely.
    -Write the first draft of the Common Application short and long essays. You will continue to revise these essays throughout the first half of the senior year, both with your college counselor and in the English classroom. Both the junior and senior English curriculum devote an extensive amount of time to the art of crafting a personal essay.
    -Engage in meaningful and genuine activities over the summer.   Take a course, enroll in a program, work a summer job, engage in community service, and travel. Look into leadership programs like Leadership Huntsville or the Alabama Governor’s School. Stay busy but find some time to relax as well.
  • 12th grade

    A month-by-month guide to the application process.
    • Schedule a meeting with your college counselor. Be sure to meet with your counselor before October 1.
    • Note specific standardized test requirements and deadline dates. The first ACT registration deadline is usually in mid-August; the first SAT registration deadline is at the beginning of September. Make sure that you are following your testing plan.  
    • Keep your grades up all year! Your first semester grades will be used by many colleges to evaluate you, and any offer of admission is contingent on the successful completion of your academic coursework.
    • Gather information for your activity and honors resume for use on general applications and scholarship or honors program applications. Hopefully, you have been using Naviance throughout your high school career to keep track of these honors and activities.
    • Compose first drafts of the short and long essays for the Common Application. You should aim to return to school with drafts ready for review. See your English teacher or college counselor for revision help.
    • Revise your college list; eliminate unrealistic choices; add new options. At this point, you want to build your “intend to apply” list. Ultimately, you want 5-8 choices that vary between reach, target, and likely schools. Do not apply to any school that you are not excited to attend.  
    • Review some applications for essay questions. Start on your essay! Most schools will publish their unique essay prompts by August 1.
    • Consider pursuing a possible binding Early Decision plan if one college has emerged as a CLEAR first choice. Discuss this possibility with your parents and college counselor, and make sure that you understand the terms of any binding decision.  
    • Turn in Student Activities Sheet and Parent Questionnaire to counseling office if not already done so. We will need these in order for you to receive senior privileges.
    • Begin applying to state universities or other schools with “rolling” admissions plans. All applications to Auburn and Alabama should be completed by October 1.
    • Register with NCAA Initial Eligibility Center ( if considering collegiate athletics at a Division I or II school. Be sure to discuss your recruitment plans with your college counselor, the appropriate coach(es), and the athletic director.
    • Review plans with college counselor, narrow your list to 4-6 schools. Make sure you have at least one “likely” school.
    • Review all applications that you must fill out; ensure that you have access to these applications.
    • Submit first revision of Common Application essays. Collate essay topics from any CA Supplements or proprietary college applications.
    • Attend meetings with college representatives visiting Randolph.
    • Register for ACT and SAT Reasoning tests.
    • Consider printing applications and filling them out by hand as a draft; ensure that your online applications are meticulously proofread.
    • Plan any fall campus visits. Remember that you are given three “college” days in your senior year to go on these visits, though you must fill out the appropriate paperwork with your college counselor and Ms. Mullins.
    • Watch for scholarship competitions announced on school bulletin. Use online scholarship resources ( and are excellent scholarship databases).
    • OCTOBER 1 – By this date, all “rolling” admissions applications, including applications for state universities in Alabama, should be submitted to those universities.
    • OCTOBER 16 – Deadline for submitting applications to college counselor for Early Decision/Early Action November 1 deadline for review.
    • OCTOBER 30 – Deadline for submitting applications to college counselor for Early Decision/Early Action November 15 deadline for review.
    • Release all SAT/ACT scores to early application schools (Rolling, ED/EA).
    • Arrange all teacher recommendations by fall break by having teachers sign a blue teacher recommendation form (available through Ms. Bridges). Please consult with your college counselor before asking for recommendations. Not all colleges use teacher recommendations in the evaluation process, so ensure that you will need these letters before asking for them.
    • Finalize any binding early decision plans with your family and your college counselor. Please keep in mind that ED agreements are binding and not to be entered into lightly.
    • Visit college counselor regularly to discuss plans.
    • Attend meetings with college representatives visiting Randolph.
    • Research and enter scholarship competitions.
    • Revise second draft of essays and submit for further review (if necessary). Produce final drafts of any essay material needed for 11/1 or 11/15 applications.
    • Take ACT/SAT tests.
    • NOVEMBER 1 – Major deadline for early decision/early action
    • NOVEMBER 15 – Major deadline for early decision/early action
    • NOVEMBER 22 – Deadline for submitting applications to college counselor for January 1 college deadlines for review.
    • Take SAT Reasoning Test or ACT.
    • Apply for scholarships.   Many state schools have scholarship deadlines in November.
    • Attend meetings with college representatives visiting Randolph.
    • Work on regular decision applications over Thanksgiving holidays.
    • Aim to complete final drafts of application essays by the end of the month.
    • DECEMBER 1 – Deadline for some applications (ED/EA). A few colleges have non-traditional deadline days. Be sure to know when all of your application deadlines are.
    • DECEMBER 10 – Deadline for submitting applications to college counselor for January 15 college deadlines
    • Take SAT/ACT if necessary. Ideally, you should be finished with all standardized testing after the December sittings.
    • Most early and “rolling” admissions decisions will return shortly before Christmas.
    • Complete applications in advance of January 1 Regular Decision deadline.
    • Confirm official test scores sent to colleges of your choice. At this point, all pertinent test scores should be sent from the official testing agency to the relevant colleges.
    • JANUARY 1 – Major deadline – Regular Decision (Ivies, National Universities)
    • JANUARY 15 – Major deadline – Regular Decision (National Liberal Arts Colleges)
    •  File FAFSA (financial aid forms) as soon as your previous year tax returns are available (tax returns should be prepared ASAP in the new year). Also, check to see if any colleges on your list require the CSS/PROFILE. Please note that this second form requires a lot of financial information.
    • FEBRUARY 1 – Final major deadline; financial aid deadline
    • All forms for counselor completion are submitted. At this point in the calendar, the college counseling staff begins to shift their attention to the junior class. Please work to complete your responsibilities in the application process by February 1.
    • All official test scores have been mailed or requested.
    • Mid-year reports mailed to colleges.
    • Colleges begin to announce regular decisions.
    • Financial aid preliminary response appears.
    • April 1: Most colleges aim for decision notification by this date. Financial aid and scholarship award letters will also be sent. PLEASE share admissions decisions with your college counselor and submit all scholarship and aid award letters to the College Office as soon as they are received.
    • Financial aid awards announced.
    • Visit colleges to which you have been accepted if necessary. These visits should only be pursued if you are wavering between acceptances.
    • Attend Accepted Student Receptions, particularly if you are undecided on where to attend.
    • Respond to all waitlist offers. Ask to be removed from the waitlist if you have made another choice. If you wish to remain on the waitlist, work with your college counselor to compose a letter of interest and to update your file with recent grades, awards, and achievements.
    • MAY 1 – Major deadline; National Reply/Deposit Date (Only Wait Lists will be pending after this date. Otherwise, students should choose a single offer of admission by May 1. Do not maintain matriculation deposits at multiple schools after this deadline.)
    • Wait List offers will be made between May-July.
    • AP Examinations
    • Commencement
  • Parent responsibilities

    While this is intentionally a student-centered process, parents have an important role to play.
    Parent Responsibilities in the College Process
    At Randolph, we work hard to ensure that college admission is a student-centered process, intentionally placing the burden of responsibility in this process on the student. At the same time, parents and families play a pivotal role in this process. Parents should be engaged without being overbearing. Below, we outline the responsibilities of parents in the college process:

    1.) Engage in an open-minded dialogue with your child about the college admissions process. Listen closely to his or her interests, aspirations, and anxieties. Remember that our goal in this process is to find the right “match” for your child. Empower your child to sit in the “driver’s seat” throughout this process. Help with navigation and offer advice when appropriate.

    2.) Make an appointment to see your child’s college counselor, and use Randolph’s college counseling office as a resource. Share your concerns, boundaries, and perceptions with the college counselor, and do not hesitate to ask candid and challenging questions. The college counseling team is eager to build supportive, collaborative relationship with Randolph families.

    3.) Attend parent and student college nights and information sessions each year. The college office regularly offers programming directed towards parents and families. Use these nights as conversation starters with your child.

    4.) Bear the financial responsibility for your child’s college education. All colleges and universities use a financial methodology that determines a “family contribution.” Be sure to budget for this expenditure. Also, work with your child’s college counselor to understand and take advantage of the financial resources and assistance available to your family.

    5.) Share any boundaries, limitations, or concerns about the college search with your child, particularly any perceived financial limitations. Your child should know approximately how much money you plan to spend on his or her education. While sharing your financial information with your child might be uncomfortable, many students appreciate a candid understanding of the financial realities of a college education.

    6.) If your child asks for help with his or her applications, offer to look over application and essay drafts and give some feedback for revision. Under no circumstances should you fill out applications or help write essays for your child.

    7.) Consider dedicating a particular time each week to discuss the college process. Lay some ground rules for these weekly times to ensure civil and productive discourse. Avoid discussing applications or the process outside of this dedicated time.

    8.) Ensure that all pertinent forms and parent questionnaires are submitted to the College Office in a timely fashion. Missing signature forms can sometimes cause delays in the admissions process.

A Record of Success

The 101 students in the Class of 2016 are attending leading colleges and universities in 20 states. Among the class, there were:

• 8 National Merit Finalists
• 6 National Merit Commended Scholars
• 12 AP Scholars
• 4 AP Scholars with Honor
• 32 AP Scholars with Distinction
• 7 National AP Scholars

Randolph inducts its top students into the Cum Laude Society. Students are selected for Cum Laude based on academic achievement as well as other factors such as citizenship, service and a vigorous commitment to learning. Founded in 1906, this national organization, which comprises about 300 public and private member schools, is the secondary school equivalent of Phi Beta Kappa. Schools must apply for membership. Randolph was granted a chapter in 2002.