When Should You Start Your College Applications?

When you’re a freshman in high school, you know that college is somewhere far away on the horizon, but you don’t think about it too much. Then sophomore year comes and you get really involved in extracurricular activities and forming lasting friendships. Suddenly, junior year hits and you realize that it’s time to start thinking about life after high school. It can become really overwhelming. When should you start your college applications? What exactly do you need to do? All of the other juniors seem so in the know, while you just feel completely clueless. Here’s the ideal timeline of when to start working on applications if you want to stay organized and meet all of your deadlines.

Junior year spring



In the spring of your junior year, you should probably begin thinking about where you want to apply to college. Start researching schools and try to compile a list, narrowing it down over time. The spring is also a good time to visit colleges. Lastly, you should also get a few teacher recommendations.

Summer before senior year



In the summer before senior year, you’ll have plenty of time to work on your Common Application essay, one of the most important parts of your application. Spend plenty of time thinking of a great topic, writing thoughtfully, and editing several drafts. If you have even more time and dedication, you could try to finish all of your application materials over the summer. This would mean all of your supplements and the other requirements the colleges ask for. While doing this would make your life a whole lot easier, being this organized is pretty rare. Most students just try to work on their main Common App essay. You may also want to consider that if you finish your applications too early, you won’t be including any of your accomplishments from first semester of senior year.

Senior year fall



The fall of your senior year is when you really need to start grinding on those college applications. Try to complete all of your writing supplements, essays, and anything else you need to submit. To stay on top of everything, complete the essays with the earliest deadlines first.

Senior year winter



Don’t leave any regular decision applications until after you hear from early decision schools. Complete everything beforehand. If you don’t get in early, you don’t want to be stuck writing a bunch of applications over winter break to meet the January 1st deadline when you could have been enjoying the holidays. Also, if you leave your essays till the last minute, they simply won’t be as good. They’ll be rushed.

When everything is done, all that’s left to do is wait. This is the most nerve-wracking part.



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  • Nadira Berman

    As a Summer Marketing Intern, Nadira is excited to help high schoolers prepare for the SAT and ACT. As a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, she is considering studying economics. In her free time, she reports for the school newspaper and styles photo shoots for the school's fashion magazine. Besides fashion and journalism, her passions include bagels, smoothies and Netflix.

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