College Application Timeline for High School Seniors


Can you believe that the time to apply to college has finally come? Even though it might seem like the days of pep rallies and prom will last forever, you’ll be off to somewhere new before you know it. Applying to college can be stressful, but staying on top of important dates and deadlines will make things a lot easier. Check out the timeline below to start off senior year and the college admissions process on the right foot!

If you’re assigned any papers during your senior year, you can count on EasyBib citing tools for help generating an MLA format citation, an APA format title page, or a Chicago citation.


The general dates below were true at the time this article was written. To obtain up-to-date and specific deadlines, be sure to visit the website of anything that interests you.

Late summer/early fall (Aug-Oct)

As you go into your senior year, you should have finalized a list of colleges that interest you. You might want to apply to schools that will likely accept you, as well as schools that have stricter admissions policies. It’s important that you’re mindful of all of the requirements of your preferred schools, including different standardized tests or recommendation letters.

Dates and deadlines:

  • August 1st: The Common Application opens, along with many other schools’ applications for admissions online.
  • End of September: Have at least two teachers or community members set to write you a letter of recommendation.
  • End of September/Early October: Retake any standardized tests to boost your scores, including the SAT, ACT, or SAT subject tests.
  • October 1st: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) opens, which allows you to apply for need-based financial aid for college.
  • Ask a school guidance counselor if you need financial help with applications and would like a fee waiver.

Mid-to-late fall (Oct-Nov)

After you’ve figured out what schools you like, it is a good idea to start working on your supplemental essays and overall application. If you like a particular school a lot, consider applying to an early action or early decision program that will let you know your admissions decision sooner. Most schools have scholarship programs for merit or need, too, so do a little investigating to see if you’re eligible and map out the dates in your planner.

Tip: Have a friend, parent, or teacher look through your essay and application before you send it off. Running your essay through a grammar or spell check can also you spot typos before it’s too late.

Dates and deadlines:

  • October: Start looking for university-specific scholarship programs.
  • October/November: Check out national scholarship programs like Coca-Cola Scholars, Gates Scholars, or Jack Kent Cooke that have deadlines in the fall.
  • November 1st: Most universities have early acceptance program deadlines on this day.
  • November: Start exploring community or field-specific scholarships and considering your financial needs. There are even apps like Scholly to help with this!

Winter (Jan-Feb)

Now that you’ve got most of your application material submitted, you can focus on finding external scholarships and sending any mid-year reports that your preferred schools require. Consider signing up for an alumni interview or doing a second tour if you find out that you have been accepted.

Dates and deadlines:

  • January 1st: Most universities have regular admissions deadlines on this day.
  • January/February: Schools that require a CSS profile have varying deadlines.

Spring (Mar-May)

At this point in your senior year, you’ve almost made it! You’ll be walking in your cap and gown in no time at all. Now, all that is left is to make your final decisions and tell your schools what you decide. You should feel a massive load off of your shoulders at this point. Chin up, though, and make it through senior year strong! Remember, colleges will look at your grades from your last semester of high school.

Dates and deadlines:

  • March/April: Most universities will release their admissions decisions.
  • March/April: Start preparing for AP, IB, or final examinations.
  • April: Send supplemental materials to any colleges that have waitlisted you.
  • May 1: Most schools have their decision deadline.

Give yourself a big pat on the back for making it this far! While this process of applying to colleges can feel full of emotions, keeping on a schedule and being organized will calm your nerves and make you feel like you’re on top of it. While the guidelines change from school to school, keep this as your general guide for the year— and best of luck!

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About the Author

Caleigh Propes

Caleigh is a junior at Yale University studying molecular biology. She is originally from Kentucky and enjoys all things related to health care policy, writing, traveling, and being outdoors.