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Applying to College: Timeline



Here is a timeline to help you navigate the college application process. Of course, this is only a guide, and you should do your own research so that you are sure to submit all materials on time.

Please read our Application Strategies. It gives in-depth advice on how to approach your college applications.




Junior Year

Autumn

  • Begin the college search process.

Winter

  • Begin considering which of your teachers might be able to write you a strong letter of recommendation.
  • Research and apply to different summer enrichment programs.

read more

Spring

  • Register for and take standardized tests (SAT / SAT Subject Tests / ACT). Make sure you apply for test fee waivers (SAT / ACT).
  • Many students visit colleges at this time to experience the schools while they are in session. Sometimes, college admissions offices can help you find accommodation in the area, for instance with a current student. Contact the admissions office well in advance of your visit to see if such opportunities are available.
  • You may want to schedule an interview with an admissions officer during your college visit. Talking with him or her can help give you sense of what that particular college looks for in an application. Make sure you set up the interview in advance.

Summer

  • Consider attending a summer enrichment program.
  • Finalize your college list with a good balance of top tier schools, mid-range schools, and safety schools.
  • Consider whether to submit an early round application. Know the difference between an early action application (non-binding) and an early decision application (must attend the university if accepted). The QuestBridge National College Match program is binding.
  • Check for important dates.
  • Start brainstorming topics for your college essays.
 


Senior Year, Early Action/Decision:
September – December

Please see below if you only intend to apply for early action or early decision.

September

  • Request applications for each school and/or open online applications. Check deadlines and application costs, and preview the essay questions and general format.
  • Determine whether or not to apply early action / decision to any school.

read more

  • Make a master calendar and note deadlines for items such as:
    • College application due dates.
    • Your high school's deadlines for application requests, such as your transcript or secondary school report.
    • College due dates for recommendations, secondary school reports, transcripts, and test scores.
    • Deadlines for required financial aid applications and forms.
    • Scholarship application deadlines.
  • Write the first draft of your essays, and begin revisions.
  • If you need to take or re-take standardized tests (SAT/SAT Subject Tests/ACT), the October test date is the last one that will be considered for Early Action/Decision admissions. Registration for this test is in September.
  • If applicable, request an application fee waiver. You can get this from your high school’s guidance counselor. Also, most colleges participate in test fee waivers programs (SAT / ACT) that allow students who receive test fee waivers to also receive application fee waivers for up to four colleges/universities.

Early October

  • Request recommendation letters from your guidance counselor, teacher(s), or others who know you well. As a courtesy, make your requests a month or more before the letters are due. Recommendation writers often appreciate a packet of materials to make their task easier, including:
    • The college’s guidelines for recommendation letters and any required forms.
    • A list of your activities and achievements, and if possible, a solid draft of your essay.
    • A stamped envelope addressed to the proper college admissions office.
  • Continue revising your essays.
  • Request that your high school sends your transcript to the colleges.

Mid-October

  • Finalize your application essays.
  • Have your test scores sent to the schools to which you are applying.
  • Remind/confirm with your counselors and teachers that all requested materials are sent. It is your responsibility to make sure the letters are sent on time. Teachers are often busy, and appreciate gentle reminders. As soon as they submit your letters, write a thank-you note to each recommender.

November

  • Early Action / Decision application deadlines are typically on November 1st or in early November.
  • Complete the CSS Profile. Most schools will require this form in addition to the FAFSA. The College Board charges a small fee to fill out this form.

December

  • Decision notifications will be sent around mid-December.
  • If accepted, be sure to finish your senior year academically strong; colleges may rescind their decision based on your academic reports.



Senior Year, Regular Decision:
September – December

Please see below if you intend to apply Regular Decision to any schools.

September

  • Request applications for each school and/or open online applications. Check deadlines and application costs, and preview the essay questions and general format.
  • Research and draft a list of scholarship opportunities available to you.

read more

  • Make a master calendar that includes items such as:
    • College application due dates
    • Your high school's deadlines for application requests, such as your transcript or secondary school report
    • College due dates for recommendations, secondary school report, transcripts, and test scores
    • Deadlines for required financial aid applications and forms
    • Scholarship application deadlines
  • Write the first draft of the application essays, and begin revisions.
  • Depending on the admissions deadlines of the colleges to which you are applying, November may be the latest date you can re-take any standardized tests (SAT/SAT Subject Tests/ACT) and still have your scores considered by colleges. Registration for the November test is usually in late September or early October. Be sure to check whether colleges will accept scores from this test date. You might have to rush the sending of your scores to admissions offices.

Early October

  • Continue working on your essays.
  • Familiarize yourself with the essay prompts on all of your applications, and determine the extent to which you can use the same essays for different applications. Often, essays require some modification to fit a new prompt.

Mid-October

  • Request recommendation letters from your guidance counselor, teacher(s), or others who know you well. As a courtesy, make your requests a month or more before the letters are due. Recommendation writers often appreciate a packet of materials to make their task easier, including:
    • The college’s guidelines for recommendation letters and any required forms
    • A list of your activities and achievements, and if possible, a solid draft of your essay
    • A stamped envelope addressed to the proper recipient

November

  • Request a fee waiver from your high school’s guidance counselor.
  • Request that your high school send your transcript to the colleges.
  • Finalize your application essays.
  • Have your test scores sent to the schools to which you are applying.

December

  • Remind/confirm with your counselors and teachers that all requested materials are sent. It is your responsibility to make sure the letters are sent on time. Teachers are often busy, and appreciate gentle reminders. As soon as they submit your letters, write a thank-you note to each recommender.
  • You may want to submit your applications by December so that you don’t need to worry about them over winter break. However, if your essays could use additional editing, you should spend time polishing them. Just be sure to submit it by the deadline.
  • Depending on the admissions deadlines of the colleges to which you are applying, December may be the latest date you can re-take any standardized tests (SAT/SAT Subject Tests/ACT) and still have your scores considered by colleges. Be sure to check whether colleges will accept scores from this test date. You might have to rush the sending of your scores to admissions offices.
  • Complete the CSS Profile. Most schools will require this form in addition to the FAFSA. The College Board charges a small fee to fill out this form.
 


Senior Year: January - August

January

read more

April

  • Schools will notify you of their admissions decisions by mid-April.
  • They will also send financial aid offers around the same time. Compare financial aid packages before deciding on a school.
  • If you have not already visited the college you hope to attend, it is a good idea to visit before accepting. Most colleges will have an admit weekend for their prospective freshmen.

Early May

  • Notify the colleges to which you were accepted of your decision.

June

  • Ask your high school to send a final transcript to the college you will attend.
  • Get to know the college you have chosen by reading brochures, exploring the web site, and looking through course catalogs. Learn about options for housing and meal plans.
  • Fill out any forms your college sends to you. These might include requests for board and meal plan preferences, a roommate matching questionnaire, additional financial aid forms, course- or major-specific forms, and many others.
  • Enjoy your summer, and prepare for your college experience.

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Preparing for College
Applying for College
Paying for College

 

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