College Application Timeline

An Extensive College Application Timeline

This time last year, I was a senior in high school stressed about all the things I needed to do to apply to college. And here I am. I start classes on Monday. (Still can’t believe it.) Since hindsight it 20/20, I can think of all the time management mistakes I made while writing college applications last year. So with that thought in mind, I decided to write a college application timeline for you. I hope it helps.


//Take SAT/ACT Tests

You should have been studying for these tests or taking them during your Junior Year, but most take them the summer before their senior year. I recommend you take both. You never know which one you’ll do better on. I did really well on the ACT, so that’s the one I sent to colleges, but it depends on what grade is better for you.

//Tour Colleges

This isn’t a requirement, but it is helpful. It’ll give you an idea of what the campus is like and what to expect if you go there. It’s also a fun thing to do that will get you excited about college.

//Research Application Requirements

Different colleges have different requirements. Some require two letters of recommendation. Some don’t require an essay. Early Decision and Regular Decision have different requirements, so look into that.


//Start on Common App

Common App opens August 1, so start it immediately. There is so much to do and getting the tedious stuff early will save you a lot of stress in the long run. You don’t want to worry about submitting your citizenship and proof of residence when you have senior projects and events to tend do later on, so try to get a head start.

(Same goes for colleges that don’t go through Common App and have their own separate website)

Related: The Soon To Be Senior’s Guide To Senior Year

//Note Deadlines and Registration Fees

Make sure to put all your deadlines in your planner. There are a LOT. There are separate shorter essays for each college, plus one long one that you send to all of them. Make sure to make a plan to finish all of them in time.

Also, it costs money to register for college, so make sure you know how much you’re in for. If your fee can be waivered, make sure you get all the paperwork in.

//Decide Which Teachers To Ask For Recommendations

This is a really hard decision to make, so make sure you start thinking about it early. It needs to be a teacher you have a great connection with who taught a class you did well in.

//Start College Application Essays

Start outlining and creating drafts for the essays you have to write. You’re English teacher will most likely have office hours for you to go in and have them look over your essay.

//Register for SAT/ACT Tests

I urge you to take the SATs or ACTs again. I took them in my Junior year, but taking them again in Senior year was a great decision because my grades improved by a lot, so make sure to register and study for them because taking these tests one more time may make a difference for you.

//Start Applying For Scholarships

I shouldn’t need to tell you that college is expensive, so make sure to apply for a lot of scholarship. This was a mistake I made because I didn’t spend as much time on scholarships as I should have. It worked out, but I could have been in a worse situation. Don’t make the mistake I made. Apply for one every week.


//Ask Teachers For Recommendations

After you decide who to ask, ask immediately. You need to give them time to write it for you. There is also a possibility for them to say no, so make sure you have back ups.

Remember to bring your resume and maybe a mini-essay on some notable things you did in college.

Your recommender needs things to write about and they probably don’t know everything about you. In my high school, they were called “brag sheets” so this is the time to brag about yourself.

//Finish First Draft of All College Essays

Or at least the main one and the ones for early decision. These are just the first drafts, so they don’t have to be perfect. Make sure to have someone proof read them like your parents or a teacher. It’s good to get an outside perspective.

//Attend College Faires

These are good places to get useful information. If you already have a slew off colleges to apply to and have all the information you need, you don’t have to, but there are people who are still confused on where to apply. If you are one of them, you ought to attend one of these.


//Finish Typing In Basic Information on Common App

Things like how long you have owned your car, when your parents bought your house, how many people live with you… you know what I’m talking about.

//Take SAT or ACT Again and/or Subject Tests

Some colleges require SAT Subject Tests, so try to have them done by now.

//Edit Final Draft For Early Decision Essays

Early Decision applications are due this month, so make sure you have gone through your essays multiple times before then.

//Submit Early Decision Application

Go through your application one last time before you submit it to whatever schools you’re applying to. Also, make sure you have enough money to pay the registration fee.


//Send SAT/ACT Scores to Colleges If You Don’t Plan On Taking It Again

You have to send these to the colleges you are applying for separate from your application. You do this through the College Board website.

//Request High School Transcript

You have to request this from your school counselor. There is usually a form you need to form out before a certain due date, so get on it. This is VERY important.

//Edit and write the Final Draft of your Essay

Yep. There are still essays left. They are the ones you need to do for Regular Decision. Most of them are due in December, but my advice is to finish ALL of them and apply in December so that you won’t have to worry about them during winter break or second semester.


//You Should Receive The Early Decision This Month

This month, you will find out whether or not you got into the college you applied to early. If you got in, you will have a security blanket for the rest of the year, if not, you will lie in the fetal position for a few minutes then move on and create a game plan.

If you don’t get in, you will either get denied or deferred. If you are deferred, you will have to finish the Regular Decision application and wait for that decision. This means that you do still have a chance at getting in. They just want more information on you.

//Submit Regular Decision Applications

Like I said before, submit everything in December, so that you won’t have to worry about it later on. Even if you have an application due in February, submit it now to prevent any extra stress.

//Continue Applying For Scholarships

I had mentioned this before, but I thought I should mention it again. This is VERY important. It will save you so much money.


//Submit Any Leftover Regular Decision of Rolling Admission Applications

I know some of you won’t listen to me. I still think you should submit everything in December, but I understand that life and finals will get in the way. Just make sure to submit your application on time.

//Work on FAFSA

Aah…another paperwork thing we seniors have to do. For all you boys reading, you can’t fill out FAFSA until you register for the draft. Since most of you readers are girls, I won’t get into that.

(FAFSA is federal student aid for those who don’t know.)

//February + March

//All Applications Should Be Completed and Sent In By Now

This is pretty self-explanatory, so I’ll leave it at that.

//Review FAFSA Report

This will give you an idea of how much scholarship and/or loans you need to pay for college.

//Compare Financial Aid Packages

Different colleges give different offers, so make sure you have a good idea of what you are getting out of your college and whether it’s worth it. (Out of State tuition is expensive y’all)

//Visit Colleges You Are Considering

This can make or break your decision. Seeing the campus will give you a good idea of what you should expect for the next four years, so don’t take this step lightly.

I have a friend who HATES the city. She didn’t even bother to apply to any schools in Atlanta (except for one safety school) because she knew she wouldn’t enjoy it. This may be a factor for you too.

//April + May

//Compare Offers From Other Colleges

Some of you may KNOW exactly what you want to do, while ot

//Notify Your College By May 1st

May 1st is decision day for colleges in the U.S, so make sure you notify them by then. Make sure to get a confirmation, otherwise you may run into problems in the future about whether or not you are a student. (That actually happened to someone I know).

//Make Sure Your Counselor Sent In Your Transcript and AP Credits

This is important. Otherwise, you won’t be able to register for the classes you want early. My registration was in June, but my AP credits hadn’t been sent in yet, so I wasn’t able to register for all the classes I needed until…today actually. That’s actually good timing considering this post. I couldn’t register for one class because my credits hadn’t been sent in yet.

Related: The Soon-To-Be College Student’s Guide to Freshman Orientation

//Enjoy Graduation and Senior Events

You are FINALLY done! Congratulations! Now you can finally enjoy Graduation and fun Senior Events without the fear of the unknown hanging over your neck. I hope this post helped you and I’ll see ya next time. (Write ya next time? Never mind.)

Are you applying to college this year? What are you nervous or stressed about? If you are already in college, what advice would you give to current seniors about applications?

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