The process of searching for and applying to college can be both exciting and daunting. HCPS school counselors, career counselors, and GRASP representatives are available to help families through various programming and events, small groups, and individual support. This resource is a great place to start. Everyone's process may look a little different and that is ok. By the time students reach senior year, they have developed academic and career plans in 7th, 9th, and 11th grades, met with their school counselor multiple times for course and post-secondary planning, had the opportunity to explore their personality traits, identify careers that may be a good fit, and meet with colleges and employers.

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Use this Senior timeline as a great checklist to navigate the college admission process. Students in grades 9-11 will find this timeline helpful. 

NEW Fall 2024: SchooLinks

HCPS will be introducting SchooLinks in fall 2024. This comprehensive college &  career platform is a great tool for all high school students in researching and planning their post high school plans and will  be used by Seniors for their college application process. They can research careers, take personality/career assessments, organize their college list, and practice career/life budgeting. Stay tuned for more information in Fall 2024 from your high school counseling office.

Opportunities Book Link

Free College Guide and Workbook: Opportunities 

ECMC is a nonprofit corporation providing services in support of higher education finance, we assist students and families in their efforts to plan and pay for college. Each year, they release a FREE guide for Virginia families that helps with college admission and planning, as well as helps to navigate the financial aid process. Paper copies can be found in the high school counseling office. A digital copy can be accessed here. 

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Two vs. Four Year Colleges

A two-year college allows students to earn a certificate in a specific field, or an Associate's degree. In Virginia, students are offered the opportunity to transfer to a VA public four-year college through  Transfer Agreements. Richard Bland College, for example, is considered a junior college and is specifically designed for students to transfer to a 4-year college. Students can research on what will transfer to a four-year college.

A four-year college allows students to earn a Bachelor degree that typically includes both a breadth of curriculum (often called general education) and a depth of curriculum of their choice (called a major).

There are more types of colleges beyond simply 2 and 4 year. Women's colleges, HBCU's, etc. Read more here about the various types.

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Visiting a College Campus

Visiting a college campus can be an insightful experience. There is nothing comparable to setting foot on a college campus and that initial gut reaction. However, it's important to prepare. Learn more about how to best prepare for your visit. Be sure to engage and do more than just drive through.

Can't visit a campus in person? Consider a virtual tour!

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College Essays

There are many resources for students to write college application essays. A student's school and career counselor can help students reflect a bit more about what would be helpful to share with a college. Some English classes also include work on the personal statement. Additionally, The College Essay Guy Ethan Sawyer, provides many free resources for students. Watch Randolph-Macon College provide great tips and information to Hanover students about the college essay.

Personal Statement (Common App essay)

Supplemental Essays (Scroll halfway down for resources)

Activities List 

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Standarized Testing

Four-year colleges and universities may require a standardized test for admission or to be considered for merit scholarships. The SAT (aptitude/reasoning) and ACT (achievement) measure content that students learn in high school. Specifically, they assess reading, writing, and math. The ACT also measures science. These tests are typically taken by Juniors in the spring and Seniors in the fall. The College Essay Guy provides information to better understand the similarities and differences between the SAT and ACT. SAT and ACT have published a concordance table to better see the relationship between scores.

Test Optional/ Test Blind - Check each college website for more specific details on their requirements prior to applying as some colleges still require them (ex: military academies, public colleges in Georgia and Tennessee, as well as highly selective colleges, etc.). Over 1800 colleges and universities (40+ in Virginia!!) have become test-optional or test-blind/test-free for admission purposes.

AP & IB Exams - While AP and IB exam scores are rarely used in college admissions, students may want to see what colleges will award college credit. This AP website will allow students to search a college's policy.  Also, each college's registrar website will also have information on what is awarded credit.

*If the cost of the SAT/ACT tests would cause a financial hardship for a family, please see your school counselor for more information about fee waivers.

**Virginia code requires ACT and SAT scores be reported on the high school transcript. Families can choose to opt-out and have them removed by completing a form in the School Counseling office. Aim to have this done by early September of grade 12.


Learn more about the content of the SAT here. The CollegeBoard provides resources for students to prepare for this test. 

SAT Test Dates



Starting in Fall 2024, HCPS students can order a copy of their transcript through SchooLinks. Students applying to colleges will add their college list to SchooLinks and order transcripts to be sent to these colleges directly through this platform. It's recommended that a student order a transcript to review themselves prior to sending to any college or organization. If a student has earned dual enrollment college credit, they'll need to order a transcript from Reynolds, not HCPS, when applying to college.

NCAA Eligibility Center

The Student Athlete

Prospective student-athletes must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center in order for eligibility to be determined. Students who are considering playing at the NCAA level can follow this helpful timeline provided by the NCAA.

If there is a possibility that a student may participate in a Division I or Division II sport at an institution, they must register online with the NCAA Eligibility Center

Each student must also send a transcript to the Eligibility Center through Parchment. If official test scores appear on the transcript, they need not be sent separately. If they do not, the student must request additional score reports to be sent to the Eligibility Center. To do so, simply designate the NCAA Eligibility Center as a score recipient on the test registration form by filling in code 9999 in the section on college and scholarship codes. 

Reynolds Community College

Community College

Through HCPS Advance College Academy and other dual enrollment options, many students will graduate high school with college credit through Reynolds. Students can check to see what Virginia colleges accept Reynolds Dual Enrollment courses by visiting Transfer Virginia. For students who want to continue their education pursuing a certificate or earning an Associate's degree in order to transfer to a 4 year college, Reynolds is a great local option but there are many other community colleges in Virginia as well. If students want to qualify for Reynolds scholarships, they should plan to apply and complete the scholarship application by March 1. After students apply, they should go through the SOAR (orientation and registration) process.

Helpful College Search and Application Tools


Click the image below of  this helpful tool to organize your college research and applications. 

(Note: This requires a Google Account in order to access this Google Sheet.)