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When is it a good time to start applying to colleges?

I'm a junior in highschool struggling to know if i should start applying this year or next year.

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Subject: Career question for you

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Doc’s Answer

Lily though most of your applications will be completed and submitted during your senior year of high school, your junior year is of utmost importance when it comes to the college process. During your junior year, most of your energy and attention should be devoted to your academics. The classes you take during your junior year are among the most important on your transcript—junior spring grades may be the last full semester that some colleges evaluate prior to making an admissions decision.

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 down to 10 or 12 colleges, including reach, match and safety schools.

Campus visits – Before you're loaded up with homework and extracurricular activities when your senior year starts, use these idle months of summer to visit some of the campuses on your list. Almost all college will be conducting tours throughout the summer.

SEPTEMBER YOUR SENIOR YEAR
Guidance counselor – 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 recommendation – 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 participate 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.

Request 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 for an early decision or early action.

College Essay – 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.

Grades and Extracurriculars – 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 YOUR SENIOR YEAR
Narrow your 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.

Work on applications – 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.

DECEMBER/JANUARY YOUR SENIOR YEAR
Submit 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 so good luck Lily

Hope this was helpful Lily
Thank you comment icon Thank You Niki. Every person can make a difference, and every person should try. Doc Frick
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Elizabeth (Betsy)’s Answer

Hello Lily,

Doc's advice on planning your college enrollment was spot-on. I'd like to suggest that you start pondering over potential subjects and areas you might want to study. It's perfectly fine to change your mind several times, but it's beneficial to start identifying your interests, strengths, and passions now.

Consider having some sticky notes or post-it notes handy to jot down your thoughts and ideas, then stick them on a board. As the year progresses, you may notice recurring themes in your thoughts, such as a fascination with animals, a knack for solving intricate puzzles, or something entirely different. These clusters of ideas can guide you towards various college majors and minors when the time comes to delve into college options.

Best of luck!
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Amalya’s Answer

It depends on the college you are applying for since different institutions have varying deadlines. But in many cases, it is recommended to apply 1 year in advance from your leaving the school.
All the best
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