College Admissions Timeline

Understanding what you need to do (and when) is critical to achieving your desired college outcomes. Below you will find a complete college admissions timeline of important tasks, focus areas and activities related to college planning from freshman to senior year of high school.

Freshman Year Getting started on the right foot in high school

  • Meet with your private or high school guidance counselor to discuss your interests and college goals
  • Get involved in school extracurricular activities 
  • Discuss your aptitudes and interests with a counselor
  • Talk to your parents about paying for college
  • Start a college savings plan
Begin to focus on your passions
  • Document your extracurricular activities and awards for later college applications
  • Start to more deeply focus on the extracurriculars that interest you 
  • Volunteer or get a job/internship
  • Use the summer to explore your interests with a summer enrichment program
Sophomore Year Begin test prep and expand your involvement

  • Develop a standardized test plan and timeline
  • Take a practice ACT/SAT
  • Take a major & career assessment and explore potential career opportunities
  • Begin to look into college requirements for admissions and what grades and test scores you need to reach your goals
  • Talk to your counselor about high school course planning and taking AP and honors courses
  • Work towards leadership positions in your extracurricular activities 
  • Get involved with your community and volunteer activities
Begin to explore colleges of interest
  • Attend college fairs
  • Visit local colleges to get a feel for what you like in a college campus
  • Take SAT subjects tests in May or June
  • Research and apply for summer programs
  • Volunteer, shadow your career interest,  get a job or attend a summer enrichment program
Junior Year Narrow down your focus on potential majors and begin thinking about a college list

  • Identify 2-3 careers and majors of interest for college
  • Take the PSAT in October to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship award
  • Talk with your family about what factors are important in your college choice
  • Establish your college budget parameters
  • Attend college informational sessions, talk to reps visiting your school and attend college fairs
  • Visit colleges of interest and begin demonstrating interest by signing up for events, following on social media etc..
  • Find out what type of financial aid you may qualify for by completing the FAFSA Forecaster 
  • Meet with your counselor to discuss ways to improve your college application portfolio
  • Define and document your important factors in choosing a college
  • Identify teachers who will write you letters of recommendation in the spring
Prep for standardized tests
  • Register for AP exams in May
  • Begin to research scholarships you may qualify and want to apply for
  • Prepare for the SAT and ACT with practice tests and test prep
  • Register for the ACT/SAT in the spring
Create a preliminary list of colleges
  • Create a preliminary list of 15-20 colleges 
  • Compare costs of each school that interests you and the student loan implications
  • Organize your college search online
  • Do research on colleges to identify admissions requirements
  • Continue ACT/SAT prep and practice exams and take the ACT and/or SAT
  • Develop a college application resume to highlight your activities, awards, volunteering and job experiences
  • Ask teachers to write you letters of recommendation
  • Start brainstorming ideas for your college essay
Improve your portfolio, explore colleges, and begin college essays over the summer
  • Participate in summer programs, shadow your career interest, get a job or volunteer 
  • Go on college visits
  • Attend virtual information sessions at colleges of interest 
  • Request admissions information and school catalogs
  • Begin writing drafts of your college essay
Senior Year Narrow your list of colleges and begin working on applications

  • Narrow down your list to 8-12 colleges
  • Check on letters of recommendation from your teachers 
  • Continue to challenge yourself during your senior year and stay focused on maintaining your GPA
  • Register for ACT/SAT exams 
  • Begin completing the Common Application
  • Research early decision, early action, regular decision deadlines
Get organized and develop your application strategy
  • Meet with your guidance counselor to develop a college admission strategy and financial aid application plan
  • Create a spreadsheet with admissions and financial aid deadlines 
  • Meet with school reps who visit your high school, participate in informational nights and college fairs
  • Attend college planning and/or financial aid information sessions
  • Ask for final letters of recommendation
  • Contact the schools' financial aid offices to determine which forms they require
  • Set up your student and parent FSA ID's and start gathering information so you can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as October 1
  • Complete your common application personal statement essay
  • Begin to work on supplemental essays and college specific applications
Finalize early applications
  • Take the SAT and/or ACT
  • Complete your FAFSA online and determine your financial aid eligibility
  • Take official visits to your top school choices
  • Follow up to ensure your teachers and guidance counselor send letters of recommendation
  • Finalize portfolios required for admission
  • Complete and submit early action or early decision applications by their deadlines
Ensure your scholarship plans are in order
  • Complete applications for college specific scholarships for which you may be eligible
  • Stay focused on your school work
Submit regular decision applications
  • Finalize and submit regular admission applications
  • Continue researching and applying for all types of scholarships
  • Watch your email for early admissions decisions
Work on scholarship applications and compare financial award offers
January through March
  • Negotiate financial awards and write appeal letters
  • Finish strong in your last semester of high school
  • Rank your top school choices based on acceptances
  • Research local and other scholarships and apply
  • Work on scholarship applications and make notes of the deadlines
  • Continue to watch for admissions decisions from colleges
  • Compare your financial aid award offers
  • Check with the financial aid offices to ensure your paperwork is complete
  • Narrow down to your final college choices and make any last campus visits
  • Research and apply for summer jobs
Negotiate financial aid offers and awards
  • Continue to negotiate financial awards and appeal as necessary
  • Make your final school decision and mail deposits
  • Notify the schools you have chosen not to attend
  • Note registration, orientation, and housing dates
Make your final decision
  • Sign up for summer orientation sessions at your college choice
  • Finalize your summer job plans
  • Prepare a student budget
  • Follow up with your high school to ensure the counselor forwards your final school transcripts to the college
  • Request college transcripts for any dual credit courses you took in high school to receive college credit
Prepare for college
June through July
  • Notify your counselors and teachers of your college selection and any scholarships received.  
  • Send "thank-you" notes to teachers who wrote you letters of recommendation
  • Accept or decline student loans by the school's deadline
  • Double check with the financial aid office to ensure all paperwork is complete
  • Attend or register to attend college orientation
  • Discuss the college transition with your parents and new responsibilities you will take on
  • Save money from your summer job
  • Register for the fall semester
  • Pat yourself on the back - you did it! 

Free College Planning Roadmap Session.

Designed to help your family map out the key activities and focus areas for college planning.

Review Your College Admissions Timeline with An Expert.


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