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Congratulations! You have made it through your junior year and soon will be going through the process of applying to colleges. It might seem a little bit intimidating, but if you plan ahead you will be able to apply to colleges without breaking a sweat! Here is a timeline of when you should start/finish doing various things from now through December.



Now is the time to start thinking about where you want to apply to (if you haven’t started already). You should first identify approximately how many schools you want to apply to (I personally applied to a ton, but you might want to only apply to a few, which is totally okay). Once you have identified this number, you should try and break into the categories of safety, match, and reach. For example, if you are applying to ten schools, you might have 2 safeties, 5 matches and 3 reaches.

While you are doing this, you should try and visit some schools to get a feel of what different types of schools are like. Even if you can’t afford to travel, you should try and visit local colleges of various sizes to get a basic feel for different types of schools.


Again, if possible, keep visiting colleges. I personally believe that visiting colleges is one of the best ways not only to realize what you want in a college, but also what you don’t want.

Now you should try and focus more on picking specific schools that you want to apply to. The best way to approach this is to determine characteristics you want in a school and then find schools that fit those characteristics. Maybe you want a large school that has at least 10,000 students or maybe you want a specific and not super common major (that happened to me with neuroscience) or maybe you can’t stand the idea of not living in a city. Try and come up with 2-3 criteria that are musts and more that you want but won’t be deal-breakers. From there you should start to research schools and to develop your list.


You will probably be going back to school either this month or not much later, so keep that in mind because soon you won’t have as much free time. Based on the research you have been doing, you should aim to have a rough draft of your final list by the end of the month. If during your research you found any rolling admission schools that you will be applying to, you will need to begin these applications next month. Similarly, if you are considering applying ED, REA, SEA, or EA, you will need to begin those applications soon.

If any of the types of admissions I just mentioned apply to you, you should begin to work on your supplemental essays for those schools (if they have supplements).

You should also write a draft of your Common Application (CA) essay this month if you will be using the CA. Also, begin to fill out the rest of the Common App.



Assuming you are using the CA, you should try and have the main portion of your application and your personal statement done by the end of the month. Ask a teacher whose feedback you value to look over your personal statement.

Kindly ask teachers and your counselor for recommendations. For most applications you need 2 recommendations from teachers who teach core subjects. You may also want to consider asking a third teacher (this one doesn’t have to be in a core subject) or a coach to write you a supplemental recommendation. Be sure to give them plenty of time to write the recommendation.

If you are going to apply to rolling schools, you should begin you application and if possible also submit the application this month.

You should also decide this month of you want to apply ED/EA/SCEA/REA and begin to look at any supplements you would need to write for your early schools


If you are applying early anywhere your deadline will either be the middle of this month or next month. Prioritize these applications and work to complete them in a timely manner. If your recommenders have not uploaded recommendations yet, you should probably check back in with your teachers.

If you are applying anywhere rolling and have not yet submitted all aspects of your applications, be sure to finish your applications this month.

If you will be using the CA and have not completed the main portion of the application, finish it this month.

Regardless of if you applied somewhere early, it is better to assume the worst (that you will get rejected) and to keep working on apps than to assume the best and find yourself rushing to do a lot of applications. Accordingly, you should look at the list of schools you will be applying to regular decision and see how many of them have supplements. Complete supplements for 1/3rd of the schools that you will need to submit supplements for.

If you have extra time you should also pursue outside scholarships.


Complete supplements for 1/3rd of the schools that you will need to submit supplements for.

Again, if you have extra time you should also pursue outside scholarships.


Around now you will be hearing back from any schools that you might have applied to early. If you got in and plan to attend that school, withdraw your applications from any other schools you applied to.

If not, complete supplements for the remaining 1/3rd of the schools that you will need to submit supplements for. Submit any applications that you have not yet submitted. Also make sure you take the time to also confirm that things like standardized test scores and transcripts have been sent.

Hopefully this timeline is helpful and good luck to all rising seniors!

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the author

Samantha Linder is a sophomore at Smith College where she is double majoring in neuroscience and art history. Samantha's favorite words include hippocampus, logorrhea, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

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