High school can get crazy busy in your junior and senior years, especially when you are preparing for the college pathway. Not only are these years tough, but you’ll also have standardized tests to take, extracurricular activities to pursue, recommendation letters to secure, and college applications to write. You’re also busy trying to make the most of your time in high school, attending prom, and other related activities.
If college is your pathway, there are several steps you need to take before you begin, and you really need to start your junior year. This college application timeline will help you stay organized and stress-free. You should change this timeline to suit your own deadlines and those of your intended schools.
College Pathway Timeline
- Start attending college fairs.
- Think about the qualities you are looking for (or aren’t!) for colleges. Consider things like location, tuition, and size. Use this list in your research.
- Research college websites and meet with your school’s college counselor to ensure you’re on track to meet all academic and testing requirements.
- Create your college list.
- Make sure you are prepared for your AP exams in May.
- Start scheduling ACT or SAT testing to ensure you have the score you want by the end of the summer. The SAT is offered March-June and October-December. The ACT is offered February-December.
- Start making college visits.
- Keep your grades up!
- It is time to take your AP exams. Remember to get a good night’s rest, a healthy breakfast, and to stay hydrated.
- Start studying for your ACT/SAT.
- Request letters of recommendation from trusted teachers.
- Finalize any college visit details. It is easiest to plan longer visits over the summer or other extended school breaks.
- Start planning out your college essay. You will want plenty of time to finish it so it will really stand out.
- Create a “high school resume.” List your activities, accomplishments, volunteer work and actual work experience from ninth grade until senior year. This will help you with your college essay. Let ScholarPath help you!
Summer between your junior and senior years
- Start taking the ACT/SAT. You can take these multiple times to get the score you want. Plan for this.
- Register a Common Application account and get familiar with it during the summer. This way, you will know what is required from each school you are applying to and can change your timeline accordingly.
- If you’re planning an extracurricular capstone project, finish it now so it is ready when you start applying.
- Complete your college visits.
- Narrow your school list down to 8-10 colleges.
- Finalize your essay and ask for feedback from trusted teachers.
- Make your school list final.
- All scores from standardized tests (e.g., ACT, AP, SAT) should be sent to the schools you have selected.
- Make a choice regarding how you wish to apply to colleges – early action, early decision, or regular decision.
- Request your college applications. With each application, write out deadlines and other important details to know for the different colleges.
- Keep in touch with the writers of recommendation letters to find out how their letters are going.
A Note On College Application Deadlines
Application deadlines for colleges vary from school to school and are usually in the fall or winter. Make sure to check with each school you are looking at for application deadlines.
- Complete all application essays.
- If you are applying through early decision, complete and submit applications.
- Finalize and submit applications.
- If you’re using the Common Application, make sure you tailor each application to the school. Don’t copy and paste and forget to change the college name.
- Get serious about your grades. The last semester to get grades into schools is your first semester of senior year, so do any necessary work to ensure they are great.
- If you still haven’t gotten the ACT/SAT score you’d like, this is the last time to take it.
- Start planning your applications for scholarships and other financial aid. They are not due til later in the year, but it is good to get them out of the way earlier rather than later. Some scholarships require additional application essays, so prepare for that.
- Submit your FAFSA
- Send your fall grades as soon as possible to every school you’ve applied to.
- They usually send early acceptances letters in December. Make sure you understand all deadlines. If you have decided to go to a college that has accepted you early, it is nice to notify the other colleges you applied to so they can open your seat for other applicants.
- Take part in admissions interviews whenever they are offered.
- Apply for scholarships for college.
- Acceptance, rejection and waitlist letters will start arriving soon. You should consider regular decision acceptances at this time.
- Take part in second look weekends and weekends for admitted students.
- Review your acceptance letters.
- If they have placed you on a waitlist at a school, submit a waitlist letter to them.
- Send appeal letters to schools that rejected you.
- If you haven’t yet, you must complete your FAFSA application soon. It is due by June 30 of the school year you will need aid.
- Decide where you will attend and submit your deposits.
- Notify your supporters about the outcomes of your applications and thank them for their support!
- Graduate, celebrate, and prepare for the next step in your life!