An independent co-ed day school for grades Pre K-12

The 4 Year Plan

Freshman Year

The challenge of the freshman year is making a smooth transition into the Upper School. Students entering ninth grade face new academic expectations and multiple opportunities for extracurricular involvement. This is the year to establish a strong academic foundation by taking five academic courses as well as electives in the Arts. Students are also encouraged to get involved in extracurricular and co-curricular activities. Students should also seek out leadership and service opportunities that will enable them to develop their interests and promote personal growth.

Freshman and parents are invited to attend the College Forum for Ninth and Tenth
Grade Students and Parents in the spring. Freshmen and parents are also invited to attend College Forums for Upper School families which are given at various times throughout the school year.

  • Head of Upper School reviews class schedules and consults with College Guidance on recommendation as necessary.
  • Review Subject Testing Advice. Plan to take Subject Tests if appropriate (eg: Honors Biology).
  • Students should strive for the most success possible in the most challenging curriculum that is appropriate for them.
  • Develop good study habits; remember, freshman year counts.
  • Get involved in School Activities.; explore your current interests while developing new ones!
  • Remember the 4 P’s: Program, Potential, Performance, Person

Summer Enrichment:
Students are encouraged to participate in summer enrichment programs. General information on a broad range of summer programs for grades nine through twelve is available in the College Guidance Office. Students are also encouraged to get involved in volunteer activities and community service.

Sophomore Year

Students are expected to build on the academic base established in the freshman year, taking five courses in addition to electives in the Arts. Students continue to engage in athletics, community service, clubs, and other extracurricular and co-curricular activities that build on their special strengths and interests.


  • Remember the 4 P’s! Continue to push yourself in terms of academic and extracurricular involvement.

September - October

  • Students review for and take the PSAT Practice Test at GFA; results mailed home in December
  • Keep track of awards and important activities throughout the year


  • Sophomores and parents speak with their child’s Academic Coordinator as well as advisor to plan grade 11 courses and to discuss co-curricular activities, opportunities for leadership, etc.
  • College Guidance Counselors consult with Academic Coordinator to give input on proper curricular recommendations class selection.
  • Review subject testing advice and consult with your teachers and college guidance on best SAT Subject tests (if any) for you in June.
  • Sophomores who are planning to take the June SAT Subject Tests must
  • Register by May deadline.


  • Take the June SAT Subject Tests (if appropriate)

Summer Enrichment:
Students are encouraged to build on areas of interest by doing summer enrichment, which may mean studying abroad in a language immersion program, doing a community service project, or taking special courses for high school students offered at leading colleges and universities. Resources on summer enrichment programs are available in the College Office. Students are also encouraged to seek summer employment. 

Junior Year

College admissions professionals look closely at the academic performance all four years. Students aspiring to attend a highly selective college or university should be enrolled in demanding courses which will challenge their academic abilities. It is important to maintain a healthy balance between course work and extracurricular activities. Therefore students are encouraged to enroll in classes where they can manage their achievement. All students take English or Honors English as well as United States History or Advanced Placement United States History. Most colleges like to see a program of study that also includes at least three years of history and science as well as advanced courses in mathematics and foreign language.

September - October

  • Review and take the PSAT/NMSQT at GFA in October
  • Continue to keep track of your awards and important activities


  • Attend College night for juniors and parents


  • PSAT scores released in early December. Analyze the results of the PSAT for the specific areas that you need to review.
  • Juniors ARE encouraged to register for the Mock SAT & ACT, and engage in Test Preparation for Spring Standardized Testing Schedule.
  • Complete Student & Parent Questionnaires and submit before leaving for Winter Break.


  • Individual student/college counselor meetings begin
  • College Seminar for Juniors begins
  • As the ACT and SAT approach, remember to put it in proper perspective. It is important, but it is less important than your GFA grades. It is not the most important event in your life. If you do poorly, you will get another chance and you now can choose which scores you want to send.
  • Familiarize yourself with the publications available in the college office, on the Internet, and try reading some college literature.
  • Register for the March SAT Reasoning Test
  • Register for May or June Subject Tests after consulting College Guidance and your teachers; make sure to review subject testing advice. Most juniors take two subject tests
  • Register for the April ACT test


  • Individual family/college counselor meetings begin


  • Visit colleges in which you are interested during Spring Break
  • Continue test prep
  • Register for June ACTs


  • Register for the June SAT Reasoning or Subject tests
  • Consult with your college counselor regarding teacher recommendations


  • Take the May SAT Test or SAT Subject Tests
  • Consult teachers and college counselors on best SAT Subject Tests for you in June
  • Take appropriate Advanced Placement Tests
  • Final student/college counselor meetings begin


  • Begin to make college interview and tour appointments; continue to visit schools throughout the summer
  • Final student/college counselor meetings end
  • Over the summer, register for the September ACT
  • Work on Common Application essay draft over the summer

Summer Enrichment:
Many students elect to study at pre-college programs offered at many major universities, including Georgetown, Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Duke, Northwestern, Davidson, among others. For more information on these programs, visit the College Gudiance Office. Students are also encouraged to get job experience, do volunteer work or community service.

Senior Year

As the culminating year of Upper School, seniors are challenged on many fronts. They are taking their most demanding course load; they are the leaders of the school; and they are moving through the final stage of the College Guidance Program as they finish their standardized testing and complete their college applications. During the fall term, they continue taking weekly College Seminars and meet individually with the college counselors to discuss questions relating to their college applications. All early applications need to be mailed by students by the deadline date, typically November 1 or 15. Regular decision applications need to be mailed by students by the deadline date, but are encouraged to mail by the first week in December regardless of deadline date. The College Guidance Office mails all Mid-Year Reports to the colleges by Winter Break. Decision letters are usually mailed by colleges during the first week of April and students submit their enrollment deposit May 1st.


  • College Seminar for Seniors begins
  • Student/college counselor meetings begin
  • Register for October & November SAT & Subject Tests, TOEFL, and October & December ACTs as needed
  • Continue working on Common Application, including required supplemental writings.
  • Register for the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE if applicable
  • Arrange for any interviews or overnight stays at your prospective colleges
  • Check teacher recommendation contracts with Ms. Shairer. Make sure there are two


  • Finalize your college list: Early Applications (EA/ED/Rolling) – Mid October, Regular Decision – week after Thanksgiving.
  • Finish Rolling Admission Applications and Common Application Essays.
  • Attend meetings with college reps when appropriate.
  • Apply to rolling admission schools by the end of the month.
  • Remember to send standardized test scores to colleges.
  • Submit Early Decision/Early Action applications with November 1 deadlines.
  • Submit the CSS Financial Aid Form, if applicable.


  • Submit Early Decision/Early Action applications with November 15 deadlines
  • For ALL early applications, the College Guidance Office submits your fall midterm grades
  • Remember to send your standardized test scores to colleges if you have not already done so!
  • Submit all regular decision applications and essays online and print out a copy for your records
  • If applying to public colleges and universities in California, submit your applications by November 30 (NO EXCEPTIONS!)


  • Register for a FAFSA PIN online, if applicable
  • You may wish to verify your status at each school by phone or through your online portal at the school’s website approximately one month after you send in your application materials. There is often a significant backlog in data entry at this time of year, so there may be some materials that have been received but not entered into the computer or downloaded. Be patient with the schools and do not panic.
  • See your counselor for advice if you would like to register for the January SAT Reasoning and/or Subject Tests
  • If applying for financial aid, compile important financial documents. You may complete financial aid forms using tax return numbers from the previous year if you suspect that there will be delays in compiling your data from the most current calendar year.


  • Complete and submit the FAFSA if you are applying for financial aid.
  • College Guidance Office submits fall semester grades for all outstanding applications
  • Many colleges ask for second semester updates on grades, and all schools review final end of year transcripts of entering freshmen. Keep working hard!


  • Attend to any incomplete application notices you receive from colleges and notify your college counselor immediately.
  • If you have applied for financial aid, make sure you have received the CSS PROFILE acknowledgement and the Student Aid Report (SAR) from the FAFSA application. Check both for accuracy and make any necessary corrections immediately.


  • Review all of your college decisions, scholarships, and financial aid offers with your college counselor and your family. Always keep your counselor and Ms. Shairer informed about decisions!
  • If possible, visit your top schools before you make your decision to submit an enrollment deposit and be mindful of deposit deadlines (Do NOT submit multiple deposits, as it is unethical and unfair to other applicants, and can lead to BOTH offers of admission being rescinded).
  • Notify schools to which you have been accepted, but will not be attending (It is okay and recommended that you NAME the “elsewhere” college).
  • If you are offered a space on one or more waitlists, inform the schools and your college counselor if you plan to remain under consideration for admission.

Graduation: Commencement ceremonies in early June mark the culmination of the Upper School experience for GFA seniors. Final transcripts are sent to the colleges where seniors plan to matriculate. The college process is now officially complete.

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