The College Application Timeline

As incoming college freshmen are packing up their childhood rooms and heading off to the great adventure that is their first year of college, high school seniors are embarking on an adventure of their own: college applications.

My own little sister is starting this process herself, and since I didn’t have anyone around to tell me how  to go about the application process, I thought I’d make a general timeline of what you should do to apply for college throughout the fall.

Applying for college can be overwhelming, that’s why it’s better to spread everything out and DO NOT PROCRASTINATE.  You don’t want to be writing an essay at 11:51 p.m. when your application is due at midnight. If you manage your time well, you can get all your applications done while still having an unforgettable senior year.


  • If you don’t have a solid list of the schools you want to go to, September is the month to do that. Spend the month researching different programs you’re interested in, how big of a school you want to go to, and where you want to be. By the end of the month, you should have a solid list of schools you want to apply to.
  • Sign up for your last SAT or ACT. You don’t want to wait too long because you need to make sure you have your scores in before applications are due.
  • STUDY for the SAT or ACT. Your high school teachers know that you’re getting ready to apply to schools, so the load shouldn’t be too heavy in hopes that you’re taking your free time to actually study.
  • Tour some local universities so you can get a feel for what kind of school you want or don’t want. Whether or not you want to stay local, you should at least tour the schools to get ideas about the different types of universities there are.
  • Start writing your personal statement. Nearly all applications require a personal statement, so you should have at least your first draft completed by the end of the month.


(& November)

These are going to be solid working months. If you’re applying early action or early decision, you should be done with everything by the end of October. If you’re applying regular decision, then these two months will be where the bulk of your progress is made.

  • Take the SAT or ACT. You’ll get the scores back within 6 weeks so you can give them to schools.
  • Finish your personal statement. Hopefully you’ll have completed a few drafts, and make sure to ask your teachers or counselors to proofread your essays. They’ve probably done it before and know what college admissions are looking for.
  • Talk to your parents about going to tour schools out of state during winter break. Winter is a busy traveling time so you want to plan in advance days that work best for both you and your parents


  • Put the finishing touches on all your applications before sending them in. You don’t want to spend the whole of your winter break freaking out about applications.
  • Chances are during the semester there wasn’t a lot of time to tour schools out of state, so winter break is the time to go with your parents to see schools out of state.

Applying to colleges can be stressful, but it’s also a really exciting point in your life. There’s so much possibility and you can literally apply anywhere.  Don’t let stress or fear of the unknown affect your productivity, because there are so many open doors right now that you will never have again!




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