Image of a student

Wondering how to approach the admissions process? Looking for a list of things to do in advance of your senior fall, and insight on when to do them? You’re in luck! Please see below for general guidelines on the college application timeline.


  • Study for the SAT and PSAT all year. The content and timing are very similar.
  • Similarly, decide whether the SAT or ACT is better for you.
  • Figure out the NCAA Clearinghouse requirements if you want to play a Division I sport in college.



  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT
  • Take your first attempt at the SAT (hopefully your last, if you do well enough)
  • Start thinking about what you want from a college. Consider:
    • Size
    • Location
    • Areas of study
    • Cost and financial aid
  • Figure out whether these schools require SAT Subject Tests. If so, how many? Think about which subject tests you would like to take. If you’ve already taken the requisite courses you can register to take them at this point, or some point later.
  • Try to meet with your school guidance counselor to speak more about your plans for college applications. What schools or majors are you possibly interested in? Clarify with them what the school needs from you before starting the application process. Some schools do require questionnaires or request forms. Make a checklist of what these things are and when they are due well in advance.


  • Evaluate whether you should re-take the SAT. If that is the case, register for a test date that you could realistically target and study toward it.
  • Hopefully you’ve been actively thinking about schools. Mention your plans to the teachers who might write your recommendations.
  • Make a one-page resume. This is useful not only for summer jobs or internships that you may want to apply to, but also to give to recommendation-writing teachers.
  • Make a Common Application account. This could be useful if you want to take a look at applications from schools in which you’re interested.
  • Start looking at summer jobs or internships. Apply to these well in advance – winter break is a good time to utilize for this purpose.
  • Keep those SAT Subject Tests in mind.


  • Re-take the SAT, if applicable.
  • Start thinking about your personal statement for colleges. Look at our blog post on Crafting A Great Common App Personal Statement Essay for inspiration.
  • Officially ask the teachers from whom you would like recommendations. Send them your resume, list of colleges and deadlines. You can always edit or add to this list later, but be sure to give them a timeline.
  • Try and visit schools. Spring break is a great time to get this done.
  • Talk with guidance counselor about next year’s courses. Get their input on what would best prepare you for college.
  • Start deciding where you will apply Early Decision, Early Action or Regular. This will affect the prioritization of your applications.
  • Similarly, you should know where you are applying by the end of the school year. Though you can always add schools, be sure that you know the deadlines.
  • Take a look at the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA.) Maybe start filling it out so that there is less work for the next year!
  • Keep those SAT Subject Tests in mind.


  • Work bit by bit on your college applications. Summer breaks range from 8 to 12 weeks. You have all of that time to get this accomplished – prioritize your applications according to deadlines, and think about them each day.
  • Hopefully, you also have a summer job or internship to work on.
  • If you need to take the subject tests, and haven’t taken them yet, study for them!



  • If need be, take your final attempt at the SAT.
  • Apply to any Early Decision or Early Action schools. The deadline for that is generally November 1st, but make sure with the school’s guidelines.
  • Start researching any scholarships for which you may be eligible and make sure you have a checklist of deadlines for that.
  • Last call for any SAT Subject Tests.


  • Apply to any Regular Decision schools by their deadline. This would normally be January 1 but can be as late as April, depending on the school. Make sure you already know the dates for this.
  • Apply for FAFSA.
  • Continue applying to scholarships.


  • As you hear back from schools, make sure that you pay attention to the financial aid packages that they offer. See if you can negotiate with them, based on your needs.
  • Continue applying to scholarships.
  • Once the application and scholarship season is over, enjoy the rest of senior year. From prom to graduation, you won’t even realize how quickly it went by!