College Application Timeline

The school year is well under way, and high school seniors who are applying to college have a busy few months coming up. Keeping track of requirements and deadlines is crucial to having a smooth college application process.

If you haven’t finalized your list of colleges yet, it’s time to get serious about researching potential schools. Admissions officers from many colleges will be visiting high schools in the next few months, and these are valuable opportunities to ask questions about colleges you’re considering.

A number of Southern California colleges, including USC, Pitzer College and Chapman University, have open house days for prospective students in October and November. These programs often include meetings with students and faculty, as well as tours and presentations about life on campus.

If you want an interview with an admissions officer, it’s a good idea to call in the next few weeks since interview slots may fill up at schools like USC. Some highly selective colleges offer alumni interviews, and those are often scheduled after an application has been submitted to the admissions office.

Once you know where you’ll be applying, make a chart with the application requirements for each school. To make sure you stay on track, get a calendar and note every deadline date. You might include a reminder to yourself two weeks before each deadline, so that you don’t face a last minute crunch.

The SAT is offered the first Saturday in October, November and December. Registration deadlines are about five weeks before the test date, and late registration is available for a couple weeks after that, for an additional fee. If you’re applying to colleges under an early action or early decision plan with a November deadline, the October test is safest, though some schools will also accept November scores. The ACT is offered in October and December. For regular decision applications, December tests are usually the last test acceptable date.

If you are applying to colleges that require teacher recommendations, be considerate and give your teacher at least four weeks notice. Some teachers are asked to write recommendations for 20 or more students, and this is a time-consuming task that they do on their own time.

At schools that use rolling admission, the earlier you submit your application, the better. You’ll have a decision within 4-8 weeks and may get priority consideration for housing.

California State University accepts applications from October 1 through November 30. Since there are no essays for this application, you can easily complete it in an afternoon. The window for applying for admission to University of California is November 1 -30, but the system opens August 1, so you can start working on it. The application will be saved until you’re ready to submit it.

Ideally, you start working on essays at least six weeks before the application deadline. That gives you time to do several drafts. When you’re rushing to finish three applications in two days, it’s impossible to do a really thorough job on any of them. You want to tailor your application to each school, and that takes time.

What you don’t want to do is procrastinate until a week before an application deadline. In addition to being terribly stressful, last minute applications look thrown together and communicate to the college that you don’t care enough to put in the effort. Not a message you want to send.

When you think about all the things you have to do, especially if you’re applying to more than three or four colleges, it can feel overwhelming. But if you make a schedule, and spread out the workload with a few tasks each week, it will be manageable. This is a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself for the best results.

Success Stories

  • Arielle S., Oak Park
    "I got into…UC BERKELEY!! I am ecstatic! I cannot thank you enough for all of your help during the application process."
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