A Simple College Planning Timeline

The timeline below is a general college planning guide. It does not apply to all colleges.

Before you begin the college application process, please consult with your guidance counselor, visit each college’s website directly, and/or check with each college’s admissions office for more specific requirements and deadlines.

High School Freshmen & Sophomores

  • Start talking to your parents about college
  • Get involved with extracurricular activities and begin to take on leadership positions
  • Develop your time management and study skills
  • Take courses that will prepare you for college

High School Juniors

  • Start researching colleges
  • Meet with your high school guidance counselor
  • Go on campus visits
  • Learn about the financial aid process
  • Take the PSAT in the Fall
  • Register for SAT or ACT prep courses
  • Take the SAT or ACT in the Spring
  • Start thinking about potential college majors
  • Call the college admissions office if you have questions/concerns

High School Seniors


  • Expect college brochures and applications in the mail
  • Visit colleges that interest you (if you haven’t already)


  • Touch base with your high school guidance counselor to discuss college plans
  • Begin writing and revising your college admissions essay or personal statement


  • Take the ACT or SAT
  • Begin submitting college applications (check early action and early decision deadlines)
  • Complete CSS Financial Aid Profile (if applying for early admission)
  • Coordinate with teachers to get any required letters of recommendations


  • Early action and early decision applicants are notified


  • Complete CSS Financial Aid Profile (regular admissions)
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Reply deadline for admitted early action and early decision students


  • Regular admission decisions are mailed to applications
  • Notification of financial aid awards
  • Wrap up any remaining college admissions tasks
  • Attend on-campus programs for newly admitted students


  • Reply deadline for admitted regular decision students
  • Send “thank you” letters to everyone who wrote letters of recommendations


  • Attend freshman orientation
  • Finalize your on-campus housing plans
  • Shop for dorm supplies and any other items needed for college
  • Meet with your academic advisor and register for first-semester courses

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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