College Admissions 101: The Essential Application Timeline for Senior Year


Going into the admissions cycle with a plan will help you stay on track and prevent being overwhelmed. Rest assured, as daunting as it seems, the college admissions process is manageable and doable. We’re here to take the mystery out of the process and help you feel prepared for senior year.

Note that this is not the be all, end-all list. Every college has a different set of requirements and deadlines, so keep that in mind as you work through the checklist.

Summer before Senior Year Checklist

  • Create your Common App or Coalition App account.
    Believe it or not, even taking this small step early in the admissions game will help you stay ahead.

  • Read through the essay prompts.
    The earlier you read the essay prompts, the more time you’ll have to start brainstorming and coming up with ideas. See our guides for how to respond to the Common App Essays and Coalition App Essays for inspiration.

  • Check ACT/SAT testing dates.  

Keep an eye out on the available SAT or ACT test dates. Remember, many students end up taking the tests more than once, so plan accordingly. Try to have an idea of when you’d like to take the first one.

  • Start studying for the SAT/ACT.

If you haven’t already, start studying for the SAT/ACT. Take test prep courses, sign up for tutoring, and take advantage of all the free SAT/ACT prep resources online.

Photo by  Manasvita S  on  Unsplash

Photo by Manasvita S on Unsplash

Fall of Senior Year Checklist


  • Meet with your Guidance Counselor.

    You’ll want to set up a meeting with your guidance counselor so you can go over your college admissions plans.

  • Ask for letters of recommendation. If you haven’t already, find two teachers who would be willing to write letters of recommendation.

  • Register for the SAT/ACT.
    Take a look at the available SAT or ACT test dates, and select the time that works best for you.

  • Determine your deadlines.

    Write down the important dates and deadlines for each of your schools. Put them in the calendar in your phone or on your computer to make sure they’re easily accessible. If you need to, set alarms and reminders a day or week in advance to keep you on track.  

  • Outline your college essay.

    Select the essay you’d like to focus on and start a bullet point list of points you’d like to make. Now is a good time to do a rough draft to get all of your ideas out and start organizing your thoughts.

Photo by  Alex Geerts  on  Unsplash

Photo by Alex Geerts on Unsplash



  • Visit college fairs. Gone are the days of zoning out during homeroom or ignoring the flyers around your school. Pay attention to your school announcements about any local college fairs. You can also look up local college fairs online.

  • Complete your college essay.

    Your English course might include the college essay as one of your required writing assignments. Finish up another draft and make sure to have a few pairs of eyes take a look.

  • Apply for your early action/early decision colleges.

    Early Decision and Early Action deadlines tend to fall at the beginning of November. Complete application for the colleges you’re applying to early. Read more about early decision and early action at the Princeton Review.  

SeniorYear _Timeline _3.jpg


  • Continue submitting applications for schools with November deadlines.

  • Begin to research scholarship and financial aid options.

    You probably feel like you have enough to worry about at this point. However, November is a good time to get a head start on determining your financial aid options. Some scholarship deadlines might be earlier than others.

December & January

  • Submit regular decision applications.

    Make sure to look at deadlines for each individual school. Some might be January 1, others January 15, still others could be February.

Photo by  nick hidalgo  on  Unsplash

Photo by nick hidalgo on Unsplash


Stay focused

Throughout this process, it’s easy to get caught up in perfecting your essay and researching a hundred colleges, but don’t lose sight of what will get you there: staying engaged in your activities and extracurriculars. Focusing on college admissions doesn’t mean you can let your other responsibilities slip. The challenge that comes with senior year is learning how to manage your time so you can balance maintaining your grades and extracurriculars while applying to colleges.

To a lot of us, next fall feels like a year away. But, as these things go, it’ll be here before you know it. Managing your time and having a plan early on will help you stay focused and engaged.