The College Admissions Timeline
From the nervous first class of freshman year to unsealing that acceptance letter to their dream college, your child's high school experience can feel like a lifetime. And when it comes to putting the pieces together into a college admissions puzzle, things can get a little bit confusing. This timeline serves as a roadmap to help parents support their children through the college admissions process.
This is the start of a four-year journey. While junior and senior year bring hard and fast deadlines for admissions, freshman year is simply about getting off on the right foot.
- Encourage your student to take a look at extracurricular activities. When in doubt, join something!
- Your student should introduce themself to their guidance counselor. This relationship will build throughout high school.
- Reinforce study habits/expectations that lead to academic success.
- Make a plan for the summer. Try to identify some of your child's budding extracurricular passions.
By the end of sophomore year your child will be ready to turn the corner into the second half of high school and tackle more of the aspects that contribute to a college application, including standardized testing.
- Help your student select rigorous classes that match his/her previous coursework.
- Register for the October PSAT.
- Help your student stay involved in his/her extracurricular activities.
- Consider beginning the test prep process. You're getting out ahead of the curve with this timeline.
Typically the most significant year in the eyes of an admissions officer, junior year tells the story of your child coming into his or her own — in the classroom, on the field, on the stage, on the job, and in every other arena. It’s the time to dial in on academics, extracurriculars, standardized testing and college admissions planning.
- Ensure that your child is registered to take the PSAT if his or her school administers it.
- Begin the test prep process if this timeline makes sense for your child.
- Consider taking AP classes in the fall.
- Getting started with ACT prep? Learn what parents can do to help their children conquer the test.
- Encourage your student to continue extracurricular activities that he or she enjoys and take a look at all the organizations and clubs offered at your child’s high school. Here’s a list of possible activities to spark inspiration.
- Is your child required to take either the SAT or ACT through your state-required exam? This is a great way to kill two birds with one stone; we recommend prepping for the state-administered test in April. Check to see whether your state requires the SAT, ACT or neither.
- Consider taking one or multiple SAT Subject Tests (in subjects that match your child’s coursework.)
- Register for AP exams if necessary.
- Have your student ask teachers for recommendations (from teachers who like her!)
Senior year is when the deadlines start to add up. Parents can truly support their children by helping manage the laundry list of to-do's on the way to college admissions.
- Review SAT/ACT scores and decide if your child needs to retake either in the fall. If yes, this is your last chance to start test prep. Here's a guide to assessing whether or not your child should take another test.
- Research colleges and universities. Identify schools your child likes that range from "safe" to "reach."
- Research scholarships and financial aid (including aid for National Merit).
- Review academic requirements for both high school graduation and college admission.
- Your child should meet with their guidance counselor. Encourage them to bring their college list and questions with them!
- Help your child decide if they're going to apply Early Admission (EA)/ Early Decision (ED). Early applications are oftentime due on November 1st.
- Create a deadline calendar. List all application and financial aid deadlines.
- Make sure your child gets recommendation requests out to all their teachers/coaches/etc.
- Get started on college essays.
- Have your child request all official transcripts be sent to the schools on their list.
- Research scholarships.
- Finish up all applications due in January. Proofread and then submit!
- Complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if required. If your child submitted the FAFSA, make sure they review their Student Aid Report (SAR) for accuracy.
- Admission decisions will start to roll in. Keep track of acceptances, rejections and waitlists. Make note of any critical deadlines.
- Review and compare financial aid packages.
- Make sure your child notifies schools of their decision to attend/not and/or remain on the waitlist.
- Have your child apply to any remaining scholarships.
- Request final transcript be sent to your chosen college.