The longest journey begins with a single step. And the journey to college is no exception. This college admission timeline will help you see what comes first, next—and last.
To improve your chances of getting into your top schools, you need to take steps and meet milestones during each year of high school. Scan this calendar for an overview of key steps in the college admission process, then use it each year to make sure you are on track. Read down each column to see tasks.
- Get to know your counselor. Together, map out a plan to take challenging courses all four years of high school.
- Talk with your family about your ideas for college, including saving/financing plans.
- Get involved outside class; explore your interests.
- Notice what you enjoy studying or doing.
- Visit a few local colleges or visit campuses while on vacation.
- Stay in touch with your counselor.
- Take challenging courses and do as well as you can.
- Visit different types of colleges while they are in session.
- Select an interest or two to pursue outside class.
- Visit college fairs.
- Take spring SAT Subject Tests in subjects just studied.
- Do well in challenging academic courses.
- Show commitment and initiative in an interest outside class.
- Visit college fairs and attend college presentations. Connect with admissions reps.
- Calculate admission chances and net price for each college of interest.
- Review college saving/financing plans with your parents. Determine target net price.
- Continue to do well in challenging academic courses.
- Continue to pursue and show initiative in your outside interest.
- Research and submit scholarship applications.
- Continue to calculate chances and net price for each college of interest.
- Confirm college financing plans with parents. Confirm target net price.
- Show interest in colleges via college rep contact and campus visits.
- Visit colleges during summer sessions.
- Create activity resume to document your commitment to your interests.
- Research colleges online and start college list.
- Read—it's proven to help students succeed in college.
- Start application essay.
- Register with the Common App.
- Register for fall testing if needed.
- Refine college list.
- Decide if you will apply early to any colleges.
- Update activities resume.
- Meet with your counselor to discuss college planning.
- Register for the PSAT through your high school. Take the PSAT in October, and take sample ACT tests.
- Use test results to plan test prep.
- Make preliminary college list.
- Meet with counselor and parents to review college list.
- Set up calendar for admissions and financial aid applications deadlines.
- Take SAT/ACT if you need to improve scores.
- Arrange for recommendation letters to be sent.
- Complete and submit any early applications.
- Sign up for spring testing if needed.
- Intensify and refine college search.
- Register for spring SAT, ACT, and AP tests.
- Select senior courses at high academic level.
- Prep for SAT and/or ACT.
- Early admission notifications arrive. Accept or decline any early decision offers.
- Submit remaining admissions applications.
- Submit financial aid applications, including new FAFSA after Jan 1.
- Send fall grades to your colleges.
- Schedule and attend college interviews.
- Make a first pass at a final college list which includes a range of admission chances and colleges likely to be affordable.
- Apply for summer programs related to your extracurricular interest.
- Visit colleges of interest.
- Learn about the financial aid process.
- Take SAT/ACT, Subject, and AP Tests.
- Choose teachers to write recommendation letters.
- Check that applications and materials are received by colleges.
- Admissions decisions arrive by April 1. Decide if you will accept any waitlist offers.
- Attend April college open houses and accepted student programs.
- Aid offers arrive by May 1. Compare offers and decide whether to appeal for more aid.
- Accept one college and send deposit by May 1. Inform other colleges of your decision.
- Thank everyone who helped you!