Comprehensive College Application: Timeline

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There’s so much that goes into college applications – essays, test scores, sending in transcripts, scholarship applications, and more. It’s easy to feel lost about when to finish each part of the application while balancing school, but this post will break down the timeline of the applications process during high school to help you see the big picture.  

Freshman and Sophmore

  • Focus on doing well in classes and trying to maximize your GPA
  • Participate in extracurriculars
  • Build connections with teachers
  • Think about career fields you may be interested in, and try to build your resume with activities relating to your interests and potential major
  • Try to begin saving for college if possible
  • You can also try to search for scholarships early on so you can understand how to build your resume to increase your chances of receiving the scholarship 

Junior Year

  • Continue taking college-preparatory classes and building your resume
  • Prepare for and take the PSAT in the fall – a high score can qualify you for the National Merit Scholarship Program and other Honors and scholarship programs at various universities
  • Begin searching for colleges you’re interested in 
    • You can even try and make a few college visits during the year
    • Make sure to have a finalized list by the end of junior year, along with specific details relating to each college  
      • Keep a spreadsheet or other form of documentation so you can track deadlines and include other notes
  • Ideally, try to finish all SAT/ACT/SAT Subject Tests testing by the end of junior year
    • Try to take one set of exams in the fall, and test again in the spring until you’re satisfied with your scores
  • Remember to keep studying for AP Exams or SAT Subject Tests!
  • Begin searching for scholarships and continue your search throughout junior and senior year
  • Identify teachers who would potentially write you recommendation letters, and ask them if they are willing to write them for you at the end of junior year 

Summer of Junior Year: 

  • Focus on finishing college and scholarship essays
  • Create a regular format and expanded resume
  • Estimate costs for attending colleges, both with and without scholarships and other aid  

Senior Year

Fall of Senior Year 

  • Revise and finalize college/scholarship essays
  • Wrap up any SAT/ACT testing if needed – try to finish this by the end of September
  • Request recommendation letters as soon as the year starts, and give your teachers any supplements they need to write and submit your letters
  • Gather your application materials!
    • This includes your essays, test scores, transcript, resumes, and any other materials required by each specific application 
    • Make sure to send in test scores to your colleges well before the application deadlines
  • Submit early decision applications (deadlines are usually in October-November)
  • Submit your FAFSA application if desired
    • FAFSA applications open October 1st
    • Submit as soon as possible so you have greater chances of receiving more financial aid
  • Some universities will relay decisions towards the end of the fall semester, especially if it’s an early application  
    • Even if your top university sends an acceptance letter in the fall semester, you should hold off on accepting since there may be other universities and scholarships that could sway your decision 
    • Keep track of all documents that may be mailed to your during this process 
  • Attend any college interviews required
  • Remember that many college portals open in August – if your application is ready by then, you can go ahead and submit! 

Spring of Senior Year

  •  Continue submitting applications for regular admissions, Honors programs, and other scholarships – this process can even continue into late March of the spring semester
  • Continue to attend interviews if required
  • Continue to receive decisions from schools 
  • You may want to submit housing or enrollment deposits during this time in order to hold your place at a university
  • Compare financial aid packages  
      • You can attempt to request more aid at a particular university if the financial award doesn’t meet your needs 
      • Make sure to take all scholarships, federal aid, and other costs into account 
  • Consider work-study programs
  • Go through all the colleges you’ve been accepted to, and decide on a final university to attend!
    • Most enrollment deposits are due May 1
  • Take AP Exams and any remaining exams!

Summer After Senior Year 

  •  Continue paperwork for your accepted college – you’ll need to submit housing applications, register for orientation and classes, buy meal plans, etc. 
    • Keep track of ALL documents in this process, and make sure to send documentation well before the deadline  
    • Keep track of links and passwords to your university portals!
  • Begin shopping and preparing for move-in!
    • Get in touch with your future roommates if possible  
    • Try to meet people through your university’s class page! 
    • Some universities have summer coursework or online orientations to complete before the year begins, so make sure to check for and complete those requirements  

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