Disclaimer – we’re not experts. Everything in this series will be from our personal experiences and points of view, so take it with a grain of salt.
Before we delve in topic by topic, let’s start with the big picture of college applications. When should you be doing each of the things we’re about to discuss, and how do they all fit together?
Below we’ve compiled a SUGGESTED timeline with general benchmarks and deadlines. Don’t understand one of the things we’re talking about? No worries! We’ll go through each of them one by one. This is mostly a reference for later. If you see something you’re concerned about that’s not on our short list (see Advice from KD #0), just leave a comment for us below.
Junior Year/Summer Before Senior Year
- Finish up taking any SATs/ACTs or SAT Subject Tests. Most Ivy League schools will want you to take 2 subject tests- we’d recommend taking the Math Level II as one of them, even if you’re not interested in STEM. If you don’t have the score you want, don’t fret! You can still take them senior year. However, don’t take the SAT/ACT more than 2-3 times, unless you think your score will really improve (some schools will ask you to turn in all of your scores). Personally, we both finished them junior year and felt that it took a lot of stress off during college application season because we didn’t have to worry about the SAT.
- Ask junior year teachers for recommendations. Be nice to your junior year teachers, and build up personal relationships with them (not just for college apps of course). Before you leave for the summer, ask them about writing you a recommendation letter so that you’re first on their list when everyone else starts asking. You’ll want to give them a resume, and some information about yourself.
- Finish your blue packet! This is specifically for Plano kids. Ask your counselor for your blue packet so that you can distribute it to teachers and start working on the essays – this packet is so that your counselor has information about you for their counselor recommendation.
- Finalize your college list. Put your colleges into a nice spreadsheet and start figuring out what each of them requires from their website (as well as deadlines)! If you plan on applying Early Action/Decision anywhere, finalize that decision as well.
- Start writing your Common App Essay. They release the prompts during the summer, and they’re usually the same as last year’s.
- Visit colleges if you haven’t yet. Summer isn’t the best time to visit colleges because there aren’t any classes in session and students aren’t there either, meaning you won’t really understand what the college is like. September is a good time to visit, especially if you’re stuck between two schools for Early Action/Decision.
- Create your Common Application and Apply Texas accounts. These are what you’ll use to apply for college. We’ll discuss them in depth later, but make them as soon as you can!
- Remind your teachers/counselor about the recommendations you asked them for junior year. They may have forgotten, but they’ll remember that you asked really early after you remind them.
- Send out transcript and recommendation requests via Naviance. This is also specifically for Plano kids. Send out those transcripts as soon as you can! It’s okay that they’re not being send with your application. Send things as you complete them, the college will collect and sort them.
- Send out your SAT/ACT and SAT Subject Scores. Each school has different requirements for what needs to be sent. Check the website. You send scores through College Board, which costs money unlike sending out transcripts. However, we’d recommend sending them out to all of your colleges (no one wants to pay a rush fee).
- Write your supplements! Each college has specific essays and short answers they want. Plan, plan, plan!
- Fill out the FAFSA (Federal Application For Student Aid). It comes out on October 1st, therefore complete it on October 1st. How early you fill this out matters for the amount of financial aid.
- Fill out the CSS Financial Aid Profile while you’re at it. This one isn’t time sensitive in that if you filling it out later equals less aid, but you’re using a lot of the same information from FAFSA…so it’s not a huge hassle to do it at the same time. Check if your college needs this first though.
- Send your FAFSA/CSS Profile to your Early Action/Decision college. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it does mean you’ll get a financial aid letter if you get in come December. If it’s your dream school and the financial aid is set, you won’t have to apply elsewhere! Because you have to pay for this, we’d only recommend sending it to other colleges if you don’t get in to your Early Action/Decision college. SAT scores I’d send to all, though.
- Upload financial documents to Early Action/Decision IDOC. After you’ve applied for the school and its financial aid, you’ll need to upload your tax returns (check which year the FAFSA uses and use those), as well as other financial documents like W-2s. Ask your parents for some help here. IDOC is run by the College Board, and you’ll want to upload these documents ASAP so you can get that financial aid letter when Early Action results come back.
- October 15th is the priority deadline for UT! Even if you have auto admission, turn in your UT app before the 15th through ApplyTexas. Also apply for an honors program by the same date. This is your second priority after your Early Action/Decision college. Do it.
- Finish your Early Action/Decision application, and turn it in if you’re ready! Obviously, make sure you’re turning in your best app. But keep in mind that some Ivies (ex. Harvard) have priority deadlines of October 15th if you want to get an interview. Others don’t, though. Check the website.
- Most Early Action/Decision applications will be due November 1st. Turn it in earlier if you can, but focus on doing your best. That’s most important.
- Check your Early Action/Decision portal to make sure everything’s gotten to the college. After you send in your application through the Common App, you’ll get an email in a couple of days with a login to that school’s application status portal. This is how you can check whether your recommendations, transcript, scores, etc. have arrived, and where you’ll most likely be checking for your decision!
- Polish up your resume. You’ll want to bring this to interviews, so have it ready!
- Check on those Early Action/Decision results. Most will come out around mid-December. You may want to wait until these come out so that you know if you want to apply for your Regular Decision colleges (and pay $70+ for each application). But still work on those applications just in case you do need/want to!
- Finish up all Regular Decision applications. Whether you get in or not, you may want to apply to more colleges. Most are due by January 1st (or a bit later), so get those apps in. Turning them in earlier means you can fix anything that goes wrong.
- Keep checking on your college portals to make sure everything’s made it to your colleges safe and sound! If not, call their Office of Undergraduate Admissions to sort things out.
- Upload financial documents to Regular Decision IDOC.
- Check your email just in case you get called for an interview. Some will automatically assign you one, while others allow requests. Don’t try emailing and requesting if they don’t, though. Don’t be that kid.
- RELAX. You’re done! Enjoy your senior year, and stop worrying about results. Have fun and relish your last year of high school. #SKA
Kat + Daniel