Deadline Guide

Follow this schedule to keep your college search on track
By College Factual

Choosing a college can be overwhelming, and once you’ve started your search there are a few key deadlines to keep in mind. Here are priorities for your checklist and calendar:

ADVANCE PLANNING

JUNIOR YEAR

Fall:

  • If you have not already done so, compile a list of colleges that interest you. It may seem obvious, but be sure that each school offers the degree program(s) you are interested in pursuing.
  • Schedule trips to visit each campus. While the summer may be more convenient for you to do this, the optimal time is during the college school year so that you can get a better feel for the campus culture.

Winter/Spring:

  • If you plan to take the SAT, take the PSAT first in October. If you’re taking the ACT route, look into the PreACT to help you prepare. SAT and ACT tests are offered multiple times throughout the year. Take either test once as a junior; then, retake it in the fall of your senior year, if necessary, to improve your score.
  • Narrow your initial list of colleges to the ones you are more interested in attending.
  • Research scholarship opportunities.

It’s important to stay on top of deadlines because you will need to juggle studying for tests (high school and standardized) with completing applications for colleges and scholarships.


SENIOR YEAR:

Fall:

  • Meet with your guidance counselor, who will help you stay on track and ensure you create a calendar that helps you keep track of deadlines.
  • By September, you should have a final list of colleges to which to apply. The number may vary, depending on how much you want to spend on application fees (the average fee in 2019 was $43 per school). Your list should include two safety schools, two or three good-fit schools and one or two reach schools.
  • Request letters of recommendation and work on your essays for colleges and scholarships.
  • If you are retaking the SAT or ACT, do so no later than December. Have your scores sent directly to the colleges you want to attend. Applications for scholarships are also due around this time.
  • File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as Oct. 1. The earlier date allows you more time to prepare your finances and gives colleges more time to prepare financial aid packages.

Winter/Spring:

  • Most regular-admission applications are due in December or January.
  • College acceptance letters and financial aid offers generally arrive in April. Review and compare financial aid offers with your parents or guardians to determine which school is offering the best deal. If you’ve done your research, there shouldn’t be too many surprises in the financial aid packages.
  • Most schools have enrollment deadlines of May 1. Let the college you’ve chosen know you’re coming and make any necessary deposits

College Factual (collegefactual.com) is a website that helps guide students through the college-selection process.

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