College Preparation & Application Timeline
Your grades through your junior year of high school will be what the colleges/universities see when you apply. If you wait until you have your first semester grades from your senior year to apply for college, you are way behind in the application process.
The goal is to apply for college by the end of October at the beginning of your senior year in high school.
The following is a universal Timeline that works for all colleges and universities. The application process for Military Academies has a life of its own (see "Service Academies" for those details). ROTC Scholarships and other scholarships have their own timelines and requirements (see "ROTC Programs & Scholarships" and "College Planning Websites" over to the left).
Here is a Timeline That Works:
1. First Semester Junior Year -- Take the PSAT and go to College Fairs. (If your PSAT score is low, take a SAT Prep course -- see "College Planning Websites" over to the left)
2. Second Semester Junior Year -- Take the SAT TWO TIMES and go visit colleges and universities you believe will accept you.
3. Summer Between Junior and Senior Year -- Fill out your applications.
4. August - October of Senior Year -- Mail out applications or apply online at the college's web page. Go through high school guidance counselors to get official transcripts forwarded to the colleges. Expect responses, possibly acceptances, in one or two months.
5. August to November of Senior Year -- Take SAT one last time. Have the results sent to the colleges/universities to which you've applied. Note: Applications, transcripts, and SAT/ACT results DO NOT have to be sent at the same time. Admissions offices build a file on you and add documents as they arrive.
6. January of Senior Year -- Fill out and mail Financial Aid Forms. FAFSA is available January 1st and can be filed through February 15th (see "College Planning Websites" over to the left).
7. February - March of Senior Year -- Get in touch with Financial Aid offices at the colleges that accepted you to see if they've received required information from you.
8. April of Senior Year -- You should hear from the schools to which you submitted regular decision applications. Compare the acceptance letters and financial aid offers. Go visit the colleges that accepted you and make your decision by the applicable deadline - many colleges/universities require a letter postmarked 1 May.
9. Don't get SENIORITIS -- Don't mess up your grades or reputation because the acceptances you've received can vanish in a heart beat.
10. And finally -- Don't procrastinate on any part of the process.