College Application Timeline: 12th Grade
Want to know if you’re on track in the college application process? This checklist shows you what you should be doing, and when.
- Narrow your list of colleges to between five and 10. Meet with a counselor about your college choices and, if you haven’t done so yet, download college applications and financial aid forms. Plan to visit as many of these colleges as possible.
- Create a master list or calendar that includes:
- Tests you’ll take and their fees, dates, and registration deadlines
- College application due dates
- Required financial aid application forms and their deadlines (aid applications may be due before college applications)
- Other materials you’ll need (recommendations, transcripts, etc.)
- Your high school’s application processing deadlines
- Ask a counselor to help you request a fee waiver if you can’t afford application or test fees.
- Take the SAT® one more time: Many seniors retake the SAT in the fall. Additional course work since your last test could help you boost your performance. Plus you already know what to expect on test day.
- Be sure to have your SAT scores sent to the colleges you’re applying to.
- Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): To apply for most financial aid, you’ll need to complete the FAFSA. Oct. 1 is the first day you can file the FAFSA.
- Complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE®: PROFILE is an online application used by certain colleges and scholarship programs to determine eligibility for their aid dollars.
- Prepare early decision/early action or rolling admission applications as soon as possible. Colleges may require test scores and applications between Nov. 1 and Nov. 15 for early decision admission.
- Ask a counselor or teacher for recommendations if you need them. Give each teacher or counselor an outline of your academic record and your extracurricular activities. For each recommendation, provide a stamped, addressed envelope and any college forms required.
- Write first drafts and ask teachers and others to read them if you’re submitting essays. If you’re applying for early decision, finish the essays for that application now.
- Complete at least one college application by Thanksgiving.
- Ask counselors to send your transcripts to colleges. Give counselors the proper forms at least two weeks before the colleges require them.
- Keep photocopies as you finish and send your applications and essays.
- Have your high school send a transcript — it is sent separately by mail to colleges if you apply online to colleges.
- Give the correct form to your counselor if the college wants to see second-semester grades.
- Keep active in school. If you are waitlisted, the college will want to know what you have accomplished between the time you applied and the time you learned of its decision.
- Visit your final college before accepting. You should receive acceptance letters and financial aid offers by mid-April. Notify your counselor of your choice. If you have questions about housing offers, talk to your counselor or call the college.
- Inform every college of your acceptance or rejection of the offer of admission and/or financial aid by May 1. Colleges cannot require your deposit or your commitment to attend before May 1. Talk to your counselor or adviser if you have questions.
- Send your deposit to one college only.
- Take any AP® Exams. Show what you’ve learned in your AP classes. A successful score could even earn you credit, advanced placement, or both in college.
- Waitlisted by a college? If you intend to enroll if you are accepted, tell the admission director your intent and ask how to strengthen your application. Need financial aid? Ask whether funds will be available if you’re accepted.
- Work with a counselor to resolve any admission or financial aid problems.
- Ask your high school to send a final transcript to your college.
- Review your financial aid awards: Not all financial aid awards are the same, so it’s important to choose the aid package that’s best for you and your family. Be sure to note what you have to do to continue receiving financial aid from year to year, and how your aid might change in future years.