It’s no secret that the college admissions process can be a stressful one. After years of studying and preparing, sitting for standardized tests and pursuing the valuable extracurriculars related to your interests, it’s finally time for students to choose which colleges to apply to, to prepare an outstanding college application, and send out application packages detailing all their hard work and accomplishments. Having an ideal college application timeline in place at the start of your junior year of high school will help you stay on track!
With so much going on junior and senior years, it’s easy to lose track of time and forget some of the key deadlines for completing tasks and submitting materials. Follow this college application timeline to ensure tasks are completed on time and give yourself the best shot at being accepted to your dream school.
College Application Timeline: Junior Year of High School
September – February
Believe it or not, the college application timeline process starts as early as the fall of your junior year of high school. During this time, students should meet with their college counselor to discuss their educational goals. Depending on what schools they hope to attend, students may need to adjust their course loads or take on new extracurriculars. Additionally, students should start preparing for any AP exams they’re going to take the following May and decide when they want to sit for the ACT or SAT for the first time. Below is a checklist to consider:
– Research colleges: use college search engines, visit schools’ websites, and attend college fairs. Visit those colleges that really interest you.
– Start to narrow down your list of potential colleges.
– Consider your extracurricular activities, academic interests, and scholarly endeavors and start thinking about what major you may apply for. Think about what independent, research, or capstone project you could pursue to demonstrate your scholarly excellence.
– Start thinking about your summer plans.
– Register for standardized tests: SAT, ACT, and AP exams.
– If you haven’t already done so, take the PSAT in order to practice for the SAT and be entered into the National Merit Scholarship Program.
March – May
During the second half of junior year, students will take AP exams. Most students also opt to sit for the SAT for the first time in the spring of 11th grade. Additionally, students should consider requesting letters of recommendation from teachers and coaches prior to the end of the school year. Doing this gives writers more time to craft meaningful letters and ensures your recommendation doesn’t slip through the cracks. Below is a checklist to consider:
– Take standardized tests: SAT, ACT, and AP exams. Most students take the SAT/ACT for the first time in spring of junior year.
– Finalize summer plans and continue your most focused extracurricular activities.
– Start thinking about what major you will be applying for and make sure your activities show evidence for your interest. Start or keep working on your independent project.
– Ask teachers if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. Be sure to follow up with your teachers over the summer!
– Identify what major you will be applying for and do your best to try and showcase achievement within that discipline.
– Ask teachers if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation.
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College Application Timeline: Senior Year of High School
June – August Before Senior Year
Senior year is when you really need a solid college application timeline. If you were dissatisfied with your SAT results – or simply want to increase your score – the summer before senior year is a good time to retake the test. In general, around 63 percent of students see a score increase when they take the SAT a second time. However, experts generally don’t recommend taking the exam more than two or three times. Summer is also a good time to take an SAT prep course if you’re looking for significant score improvements.
Additionally, students should set up their application accounts during the summer break. While most students will wind up using the Common App, some schools require students to create accounts on the Coalition or UC apps as well. Take advantage of the warm weather at this time of year to tour local colleges you’re thinking of attending. You can also take virtual tours of colleges that are farther away. That way, you don’t waste time or money applying to schools that aren’t in serious contention. Below is a checklist to consider:
– Relax and enjoy your summer! You’ve worked hard up to this point and deserve a break before senior year begins.
– Use this time to brainstorm ideas for your independent project or capstone research project if you haven’t started one already. What you do in your senior year of college can help you in the process especially for regular decision applications.
– If you haven’t already done so, visit the colleges on your list to get a feel for the campus and see what is the right fit for you.
– If you are retaking the SAT/ACT, prepare accordingly and target those areas where you need to improve.
– Open and work on Common App, Coalition App, and UC Application.
– Open BS/MD application (if applicable).
– Begin working on your personal statement or application essays.
– Start working on the Common App essay.
– Start working on Common App activities.
September – October
During the fall of senior year, students should finalize their college application lists and determine whether they’ll be applying to any schools early. Early decision (ED), early action (EA), and restrictive early action (REA) options allow students to receive admissions decisions earlier in the application cycle.
Note that you should only apply to a college ED if you’re certain you want to attend since ED is a binding commitment, though early action is generally more flexible. For best results, be sure your college list includes a minimum of four match schools (moderately competitive), and two likely schools (least competitive) and as many reach schools as you would like.
Take time to research each of the schools you’re considering in the fall of senior year and note any important dates and deadlines. Most ED, EA, and REA deadlines are November 1st. While most colleges have a regular decision application deadline of January 1 or January 15, there are some exceptions. For example, students need to submit materials to the UC schools by November 30. Keep a calendar or spreadsheet with these dates so nothing falls through the cracks.
Once you’ve decided where to apply, it’s time to fill out your applications. Write the Common App Essay during this period, as well as any required supplemental essays. After completing your essays, take time to solicit feedback from trusted sources like parents, tutors, or teachers. You can also use a professional service that provides college essay feedback for a fee. Most students write a few drafts of their essay over a period of two weeks to a month.
Students should also use this time period to collect additional documentation and information they’ll need for their application packages. Along with requesting your SAT scores, it’s a good idea to check in with the individuals writing your recommendation letters to be sure they haven’t forgotten. Finally, students can submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as October 1.
– Continue working on college applications.
– Start working on supplemental applications.
– Finalize college list.
– Sign up for college interviews if offered.
– Some colleges have a rolling admissions process, meaning they review applications as they are received and make decisions accordingly.
– Apply Early Action or Early Decision if you’ve decided to pursue these opportunities.
– Request transcripts from your guidance counselor.
– Reconnect with teachers you asked for letters of recommendation from in the spring.
– Continue to work hard! First quarter and first semester senior year grades matter! Keep working on your extracurriculars and independent project.
– Submit early action, restrictive early action, and early decision applications.
November – December
– Continue working on regular decision college applications and supplemental applications.
– Sign up for college interviews if offered.
– Some colleges have a rolling admissions process, meaning they review applications as they are received and make decisions accordingly. Submit to colleges with rolling admissions as soon as applications open!
– Apply Early Action, Restrictive Early Action, or Early Decision if you’ve decided on a first choice school and meet the requirements.
– Request transcripts from your guidance counselor.
– Remind teachers about letters of recommendation, if necessary. Write thank you notes to recommenders once letters are submitted.
– Submit regular decision (RD) college applications.
– Decide if you will be applying Early Decision 2 (ED2). These applications are submitted at the same time as RD applications.
– Ensure all transcripts are requested and sent.
– Continue interviews.
– Start seeking out scholarship opportunities.
February – April
– ED2 admissions results, which are binding, are typically released in early to mid-February.
– Continue working on your independent project or capstone research project.
– Most colleges extend acceptance from March through April.
– Attend admitted students’ days for colleges where you are accepted and seriously considering.
May – June
During the spring of senior year, students can expect to receive their acceptance and rejection letters from regular decision colleges. If you were waitlisted at a particular school, you may be able to submit a waitlist letter during this period. It’s also the time when some students choose to letters of continued interest to colleges that waitlisted their applications. Once you’ve reviewed all your acceptances and financial offers, it’s time to make a final decision and submit your deposit.
It’s important to remember that the timeline listed above may not work for every student. In some cases, it may make more sense to complete steps slightly earlier or later than suggested. The goal is to plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to create a robust application package that gives you the best shot at success.
– Make a decision about which college to attend.
– If you are waitlisted at a top choice school, send a letter of continued interest.
– Submit your housing deposit and any other necessary paperwork to finalize your enrollment.
– Celebrate your accomplishments! You’ve worked hard and deserve it.
July – August
– Get ready for college! Use this time to prepare for move-in day,
– Attend any required orientations and deadlines set by your college.
– Start thinking about your class schedule. Some colleges require you to select courses before you matriculate.
– Move into your college dorm.
– Attend orientation and then start classes! Good luck!
By following the steps on this timeline, you’ll set yourself up for a successful transition to college. Remember to take things one step at a time and enjoy the process. Soon enough, you’ll be a college student! MedEdits wishes you the best of luck!