This practical month-by-month calendar is designed to help you stay on top of the process of applying to college. For most students, the process begins in September of the junior year of high school and ends in June of the senior year. You may want to begin considering financial aid options, reviewing your academic schedule, and attending college fairs before your junior year.
* Check with your counselor to make sure your course credits will meet college requirements of the type of school you want to go to. (Your local community college, state university, liberal arts college, and prestigous private university will all have different entrance requirements.)
* Be sure you are involved in one or two extracurricular activities. Taking a leadership position in those activities is a plus.
* Begin building your personal list of colleges. Click here for a list of things to consider when choosing a college.
* Register for and take the PSAT. You can pick up the registration form in your guidance counselor’s office. If you do well on the PSAT it could lead to National Merit Scholarship money so get a practice book and do some studying!
* Strive to get the best grades you can. A serious effort will provide you with the most options during the application process.
* Get involved in a community service activity.
* Begin to read newspapers and a weekly news magazine. Being informed about current events will help you both with college admissions and scholarship essays and with college interviews.
* With your school counselor, decide when to take the ACT Assessment, SAT I, and SAT II Subject Tests (and which Subject Tests to take). If English is not your primary language and you are planning on attending a college in North America, decide when to take the TOEFL test.
* Keep your grades up!
* Check The National Association for College Admissions Counseling Website for schedules and locations of college fairs.
* Register and study for the standardized tests you’ve decided to take. You can register online for both the SAT and ACT. Sign up for an online or in person course and/or buy a comprehensive study guide. Online courses are relatively new, but can give you individualized instruction at your own pace and at a lower cost. Check out our practice questions for the SAT and ACT.
* Meet with your school counselor to discuss college choices. Review your transcript and test scores with your counselor to determine how competitive your range of choices should be.
* Click here to help you select which colleges to apply to.
* Develop a preliminary list of 15 to 20 colleges and universities and search for information on them.
* Start scheduling campus visits and interviews. When school is in session (but never during final exams) is the best time. Summers are OK, but will not show you what the college is really like. If possible, save your top college choices for the fall. Be aware, however, that fall is the busiest visit season, and you will need advance planning. Don’t forget to write thank-you letters to your interviewers.
* Plan a challenging schedule of classes for your senior year.
* Begin to record personal and academic information that can be later transferred to your college applications.
* Think about which teachers you will ask to write recommendations.
* Structure your summer plans to include advanced academic work, travel, volunteer work, or a job.
* Find out which of the colleges you’d like to apply to accept the Common Application . Write to any colleges on your list that do not accept the Common Application to request application forms or check out the school websites for online application options.
* Begin working on your application essays.
* Schedule campus visits and interviews for any college you’re interested in that you did not visit in the Spring. Fall is a great time to visit campuses, but you need to plan in advance because it is the busiest time.
* If you are going to re-take the ACT, SAT I, SAT II, and/or TOEFL tests, or you did not take them in the spring, register now. Sign up for an in person or online course and buy a comprehensive study guide. Check out our practice questions for the SAT and ACT.
* Check with your school counselor to see if any college representatives will be visiting your high school or your community this fall.
* Ask appropriate teachers if they would write recommendations for you. Make sure you give them all the proper forms with your portion of the forms completed. Also, give them addressed, stamped envelopes to send in the letters. Don’t forget to write thank-you letters to all teachers that write you recommendations!
* Meet with your counselor to compile your final list of colleges.
* Begin filling out college applications for your final list of colleges. Many colleges have online applications that you can access right from the college website. Take your time filling out the applications. This is the main snapshot the school gets of you, so take your time to make your application as high quality as possible. Check out our tips on how to make your application stand out.
* Write your college admissions essays. These can really differentiate you from the other applications. Check out our admission essay secrets!
* Photocopy or print extra copies of your applications to use as a backup.
* Be sure that you have requested your ACT Assessment and SAT scores be sent to your colleges of choice.
* Don’t be late! Keep track of all deadlines for transcripts, recommendations, financial aid, applications etc.
* Meet with your counselor to verify that all is in order and that transcripts are out to colleges.
* If you are applying for financial aid, prepare the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and PROFILE. Check out our FAFSA and PROFILE tips and Financial Aid Calendar. You can also get information on the FAFSA and fill out the form online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov or through your school counseling office. The sooner you apply for financial aid, the better your chances. You can start submitting the FAFSA after January 1 the year you will attend college.
* If applicable, let colleges know of any new honors or accomplishments that were not in your original application.
* Be sure you have received a FAFSA acknowledgment.
* Receive acceptance letters. Congratulations!
* Go back to visit one or two of your top-choice colleges.
* Review the financial aid offers you receive. Appeal to your top colleges if you require more financial aid or if your circumstances have changed.
* Notify your college of choice that you have accepted its offer (and send in a deposit by May 1).
* Notify the colleges you have chosen not to attend of your decision.
* Graduate! Congratulations and best of luck.