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When is it a good time to start applying to colleges? (I am a junior)


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John’s Answer

Zemira before you even begin to think about filling out college applications, you might want to narrow down your list of schools to around five that are the most appealing to you. Applying to many colleges and universities might mean you have to compromise the things you want most in the institution you end up attending. The colleges you apply to should be a good fit academically and socially. In addition, they should be in a location that appeals to you. Making sure your potential colleges are a good fit for you in all of these important areas increases the likelihood that you will stay for all four years.

SUMMER BEFORE SENIOR YEAR
• START YOUR COLLEGE LIST – This summer is a great time to work on your list of colleges. By the end of the summer, you should have narrowed your list of 20-25 schools down to 10 or 12, including reach, match and safety schools. Common Application – Many colleges and universities use the Common Application, which can be found online. You can register a Common Application account and get familiar with it during the summer. Know what is required, sketch out an application timeline and begin thinking about your essay, a critical component of any application.
• ACT – You can usually begin taking the ACT in September. Go online to confirm testing dates and register now. This will give you time to take the test again if you're not happy with your first score.
• CAMPUS VIST(S) – Before you're loaded up with homework and extracurricular activities, us the idle months of summer to visit some of the campuses on your list. Almost any college will be conducting tours throughout the summer.

SEPTEMBER
• GUIDANCE CONSOLER – Hopefully you've already talked about college with your guidance counselor during your junior year. Now that you've had the summer to explore your options, sit down again to review the whole process. Your counselor will give you valuable perspective about the schools on your list and help you chart out the application process. Also make sure that you're fulfilling all of your requirements for high school graduation.
• LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATIONS – As soon as you possibly can, ask two teachers to write you letters of recommendation. It is wise to ask teachers from your junior year, especially if you have a good relationship with them and participated in their class. If a teacher doesn't really know you or hasn't heard much from you in class discussions, they won't have much to write about.
• SAT – Register for the SAT, which is usually administered in October, November and December. You can also take SAT Subject exams, which is a good idea if there is a particular subject you excel in.
• REQUEST COLLEGE APPLICATIONS – It's time to start getting applications from the schools on your list. By now you want to have your list down to 8 or 10 schools, tops. With each application, write out a schedule of deadlines so you don't miss anything down the road. This is especially important if you're thinking of applying early decision or early action.
• COLLEGE ESSEY – Allow yourself plenty of time to formulate your essay. This is crucial. Students who have spent months reflecting on the essay will stand out. These essay questions can be very broad, and it can be a real challenge relating it to your life. Make sure you talk to others about how to approach the essay.
*Remember, don't let your grades sink. Admissions counselors will look at the first half of your senior year to see that you're still challenging yourself and succeeding. If you've already been active in extracurricular activities, explore leadership opportunities. This can mean being captain of a sports team, starting your own club or getting involved with student government. Senior year is your opportunity to transform from a young adult into a student leader.

OCTOBER
• NARROR YOUR COLLEGE LIST – By this point, your list should be whittled down to a handful of schools, and you'll probably have a favorite. Know whether or not your grades are in line with the academic standards of each school. This will help you break your list into three categories: reach, match and safety. With fewer schools to consider, you can now begin working on your applications in earnest. If you're using the Common Application, make sure each application is tailored to the school. Don't make the mistake of copying and pasting and forgetting to change the name of the college.
• COLLEGE FAIRS – Most colleges and universities host college fairs in the fall. This is an open recruiting forum where students and parents are invited to see the campus and learn more about academics and student life. These days, most schools also offer virtual fairs online. Find out the fair schedule of each school on your list and take advantage of this opportunity. It will reveal a lot about each school.
High school transcripts – Request your high school transcripts and verify that they are accurate. If anything is wrong or missing you'll need time to correct it. Reviewing your transcript is also a good reminder to maintain your grades through to the end.
• SAT TESTING – Around this time you should be taking your SAT and ACT exams. The sooner the better, as you may get a lower-than-expected score and will need time to take the exam again. This is common.
*If you are applying to a school through early decision or early action, you will need to complete your application in October. Deadlines for these admissions programs are usually the end of October or the beginning of November.

NOVEMBER
• APPLICATIONS – By now you should know what schools you're applying to-5 or 6 ideally. You've had a few months to look over the various applications and think long and hard about your essay. Give yourself ample time in November to complete all the applications and get feedback about your essay. Have parents, teachers and other adults in your life read your essay and try to keep an open mind to their constructive criticism.
• FINANCIAL AID / SCHOLARSHIPS – Deadlines for financial aid and scholarships are still further down the road, but the sooner you apply the better. Knowing what kind of aid packages are available will help you weigh the cost of different schools.
• SAT TESTING – November is still within the normal window to take your SAT and/or ACT, but December will probably be your last opportunity to do so. If you haven't taken or would like to retake either one, make sure you register now for the December test. Retaking in the spring will be too late!
* November is also a critical month for your high school classes. The semester will end in mid-December, so if you need to improve any grades, now is the time to get serious. Even if you are accepted to a school, the decision can be reversed if your grades take a nosedive.

DECEMBER AND JANUARY
• SUBMIT YOUR COLLEGE APPLICATIONS – Most colleges have regular application deadlines sometime in December. Make sure you've been keeping track of all deadlines; they can vary from school to school. Don't leave anything to the last minute. For most people, the month of December is always filled with extra holiday-related activities, not to mention the end of the fall semester. By now you've taken your exams, written your essays and secured your letters of recommendation. Confirm that your test scores have been officially submitted to every college to which you're applying. Also verify that any letters of recommendation have been mailed.
• SENIOR GRADES – As soon as possible, send your fall grades to every school to which you've applied. Even if this is after the application, admissions counselors will incorporate it into their decision. If your high school grades started out poor but steadily improved, your senior year transcript is a way for you to demonstrate this upward trend.
FINANCIAL AID – Most colleges require you to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Start exploring financial aid and scholarships at the colleges you applied to. By the time you start receiving acceptance letters, you're going to want to have a grasp of how much you can save, and aid packages can differ a great deal from school to school.
* Make sure you completely understand the timetable and all deadlines. It's also a great courtesy to notify the other schools you applied to. This will help them open up your seat to another applicants.

FEBRUARY AND MARCH
CONFIRM APPLICATIONS – Most colleges will send you a confirmation that your application has been received and is being processed. If you haven't gotten receipt confirmation on any of your applications, do so as soon as possible.
Financial aid – You submitted your FAFSA in December, and by now you should be receiving a Student Aid Report, or SAR. Review this carefully and verify that everything is accurate. Discrepancies on this form may result in the loss of thousands of dollars in financial aid.

Hope this was Helpful Zemira


Yes! Thank you for the timeline! Zemira M.

You are Welcome Zemira, It was my Pleasure. One thing at a time, all things in succession. That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures. John Frick

Thank you Rithwik. “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” — William Shakespeare John Frick

Thank You Aslon. “The broadest, and maybe the most meaningful definition of volunteering: Doing more than you have to because you want to, in a cause you consider good. ” – Ivan Scheier John Frick

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Candice’s Answer

It depends on whether you will apply for Early Decision or Early Action as those college applications are due in November typically. I highly recommend researching schools during your junior year and narrowing down your list by the end of that school year. If you are able to visit the campuses somehow, that is great but if not, most schools have virtual tours and information sessions right that you can register for easily.

Once you narrow your list, you should look at the application requirements of the schools...I would do this during the summer before senior year. For most schools, you can do the common application and submit 1 primary essay but many schools have supplemental essays which also take time. So once you have your list and do an inventory of the essays that are needed, you can create a timeline as some applications are due in December or January. Good luck!

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Melody’s Answer

At the very start of the second semester of your senior year.

Thank you! Zemira M.

Hi Melody, could you provide the student some more context as to why this is a good time to apply? Are there other times she could apply, or is this the only one? Is there anything she could be doing *now* to better prepare for the application period? Zemira - I am a recent college graduate, and many of the colleges my friends and I applied to had deadlines of January 1st. You may not want to wait until your second semester, as this might limit the number of places you can submit applications!! Alexandra C.

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Marica’s Answer

Start your senior year and work closely with you school counselor on best places to apply!

Thank you! Zemira M.

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