Application Timeline

MONTHLY PLANNER…for the Rest of Your High School Life.
By Dr. Randall Hansen


  • Schedule meeting with your guidance counselor to discuss possible college choices.
  • Begin to focus on the key 10 to 15 colleges that are a good fit (based on your academics and career choice).
  • Stay focused on grades.


  • Develop (if you haven’t already) a file for each of the schools on your list.
  • Start learning about scholarships and grants.
  • Brainstorm and research rewarding summer jobs, internships, or scholarship opportunities.
  • Stay focused on grades.


  • Work with your guidance counselor to assure a challenging senior year of courses.
  • Register for the May and/or June SAT tests.
  • Consider visiting some of the colleges on your list.
  • Begin identifying teachers who may be willing to write recommendations letters for you.
  • Begin reviewing for SAT.


  • Take AP Placement Exams if you have taken AP courses.
  • Firm up your summer plans, including visits to other colleges on your list.
  • Push yourself hard to end the year with solid grades.


  • Take the SAT I and SAT II.
  • Continue contemplating various careers and colleges
  • Be sure to get the most out of your summer vacation
  • Ask for summer reading lists.
  • Visit colleges


  • If you have not held any leadership positions while in high school, now is the time to step up and assume leadership of one of those organizations.
  • Review college materials, college guidebooks, and other resources to narrow your college list.
  • Begin to finalize list of colleges with your family and guidance counselor.
  • Consider visits, overnight stays, and interviews at your top college choices. Visit (personally or virtually) any colleges you have not already seen.
  • Register for one last shot at the SAT or ACT if you haven’t taken one of them yet — or if you aren’t happy with earlier scores. And be sure to take the SAT II tests, if required.
  • Begin thinking about teachers who would be willing to write strong letters of recommendation on your behalf.
  • Begin brainstorming ideas for your college essays.
  • Request (or download from college’s Website) any applications that you do not have. Be sure to review each college’s application requirements carefully.
  • Attend college fairs for one final review of college choices.
  • Be sure your senior year mix of classes still includes challenging, college-prep courses
  • Stay focused on grades.


  • Finalize list of college choices to reasonable number, ideally with one or more “stretch” schools and one “safety” school.
  • Create a file for each of your college choices and keep all materials organized.
  • Consider creating a master schedule of all your application deadlines.
  • Begin working on drafts of your college essays.
  • Start working on college applications.
  • If you have a clear “first choice” college, consider applying for early decision.
  • Have standardized testing service send your scores to your list of colleges.
  • Stay focused on grades.


  • Finalize drafts of your college essays, but only after numerous edits, rewrites and reviews by people you trust (family, friends, teachers).
  • Complete college applications and put packets in the mail.
  • Be sure your guidance counselor knows your final list of colleges, as well as your preferences.
  • Request key financial aid and scholarship information from your list of colleges.
  • Stay focused on grades.


  • If you applied for early decision to a college, expect notification this month.
  • If not completed, finish and mail remainder of college applications.
  • Start detailed financial aid search, including outside sources for scholarships and loans.
  • Stay focused on grades.


  • If applying for financial aid, get started on preparations by obtaining a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
  • Stay focused on grades.


  • Complete the FAFSA, if possible. (You’ll need your family’s/guardian’s tax records.)
  • Keep track of your college applications; be sure all schools have received all your materials.
  • Stay focused on grades.


  • College decision letters begin arriving.
  • Celebrate your acceptances, decide about your wait lists, and deal positively with your rejections.
  • Finalize financial aid applications.
  • Continue searching and applying for scholarships and grants.
  • Stay focused on grades.


  • Make decision about college choice from among the colleges that accepted you.
  • Notify all colleges (that accepted you) of your final decision.
  • Submit tuition deposit to your college of choice.
  • Continue searching and applying for scholarships and grants.
  • Stay focused on grades.


  • Be sure to submit paperwork for room and board.
  • Continue searching and applying for scholarships and grants.
  • Stay focused on grades.


  • Celebrate your high school success!
  • Send thank you notes (if you haven’t already) to everyone who helped you this year.
  • Start planning for college.
  • Watch your college’s summer deadlines (orientations, housing options, registration, etc.) closely.


  • Register for fall courses at your college.
  • Begin preparing for your new adventure.

Dr. Randall Hansen is currently Webmaster of Quintessential Careers, as well as publisher of its electronic newsletter, QuintZine. He writes a biweekly career advice column under the name, The Career Doctor. He is also a tenured, associate professor of marketing in the School of Business Administration at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. He is a published career expert — and has been for the last ten years. He is co-author, with Katharine Hansen, of Dynamic Cover Letters. And he has been an employer and consultant dealing with hiring and firing decisions for the past fifteen years. He can be reached at