Applying for colleges can feel overwhelming to parents and students alike. There are numerous aspects to consider, such as college admissions deadlines, college application forms, financial aid applications, and standardized testing. College planning doesn’t have to be difficult. If you want to be successful, your best bet is to start on the application process well before any college applications are due.

There are a few major components that will be evaluated when it comes to your college applications. These include your transcript, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, your essay, and extracurricular activities. Keeping these main components in mind throughout your high school career can lead to better success when application time comes.

Freshman/Sophomore Years

There is no real reason to consider colleges before your junior year, but your entire high school experience will factor in your overall application, and your ability to succeed in admissions testing. The foundation of your GPA is built during these years. You’ll want to consider what classes you are taking, ensuring that you are challenging yourself each year. This is also the perfect time to start getting involved in extracurricular activities.

Junior Year

Once you enter your junior year, you’ll want to start considering your college pathway more seriously. This is the perfect time to start utilizing a college planner. A college planner can break everything down for you, and keep you on track with your numerous deadlines. According to Christine Chu, a college admissions counselor, “once you see it visually, the number of tasks and a schedule to do them, it simplifies a lot of things…it will take away a lot of the anxiety.” This is a great time to take your SAT/ACT for the first time, to be best prepared. You’ll also want to start researching your college options. There is no need to commit to anything yet, but you’ll start to get a better understanding of what you are looking for and what you need to do.

Senior Year

By the start of your senior year, you should be actively seeking letters of recommendation from teachers, employers, coaches, and other authority figures who know you. The sooner the better, as teachers, especially, get bombarded with these requests as application deadlines appear. You’ll want to finalize your list of colleges and ensure that you are familiar with the application requirements for each school. It is also recommended that you start on your college essays ASAP to ensure you have plenty of time to revise. If you need to retake any ACT/SATs, earlier in your senior year is best, especially if you are hoping to be able to take it one more time, if necessary.

For most colleges, the regular decision deadline for applications is January 1st. It is important to have a clear understanding of what their deadlines are since some schools have rolling admissions. Be sure that you have submitted all of the necessary application forms and score reports. Use your college planner to ensure that you have what each specific school needs.

Application Timeline

For many, this timeline will vary. This is an ideal guide to give you plenty of wiggle room. What matters most is finding a college that is going to be best for you. When it comes to solidifying your college plans, there are several workshops available to help set you up for success. The College Benefits Research Group believes in ensuring each student is as prepared as possible. Our workshops will provide you with all the tips and tools you need to better prepare for college.

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