College Application Timeline: Planning Ahead

Amanda Orbuch
Amanda Orbuch

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For many students, the sheer volume of work to be done throughout the “college application process” seems incredibly daunting. In this post, we will provide a rough roadmap. This sample college application timeline indicates when you might want to aim to have certain portions of the applications completed.

Of course, this is merely a suggestion. As such, it would need to be tailored to the needs of the particular student. Nonetheless, looking at an example can help get your gears turning.

Sample College App Timeline: Summer

Dates Activity


Begin touring potential colleges and making a rough list of colleges which you will be looking at

In this process of touring, researching, and list-making, you might find a school that particularly stands out to you. If so, mark it down as an ED/EA option


Begin preparing for any additional ACT or SAT tests, as well as any SAT IIs

Also, begin brainstorming primary college essay (Common Application, Coalition Application)


Begin drafting the Common Application essay (you may want to write a few potential drafts, unless you have a topic you’re set on); by the end of August, you should have settled comfortably on a topic and have some sense of the general arc of your essay. Feel free to step away from the essay for a bit at this point.

Finalize where you will be applying ED/EA (if you are applying ED/EA). True, the rest of the college list can be in flux, but you should have some sense at this point of (a) the type of schools you like, and (b) the factors that matter most to you in deciding which schools to apply

Additionally, begin working on supplemental essays for colleges you are definitely applying to, most importantly your ED/EA school

Sample College App Timeline: Fall Semester



Begin filling out FAFSA

Ask teachers for letters of recommendation. Remember, you will need to check in with them later to make sure they’re still on board and that they’ve submitted their letters!

Take remaining ACT and/or SAT tests, as well as SAT IIs

You should have a very strong draft (nearing final product) of your Common Application at this point

EA/ED supplements (if applicable) should be well underway, and other definite schools should have some drafts of supplemental essays done

Create a spreadsheet of safety/match/reach colleges


Complete and submit FAFSA

Finalize college list

If applicable, take remaining ACT and/or SAT tests, as well as SAT IIs

Request that College Board send SAT, ACT, SAT II, and/or AP scores to the colleges you’re applying to

Revise and finish Common Application essay, as well as ED/EA supplements

Beyond that, all supplements not yet started should be drafted at this point, and supplements that had already been worked on should be in their final stages

Submit ED/EA Applications


Write any UC/public university personal statements

Request high school transcript

Try to submit any finished applications so they are submitted with a November date stamp; this can signal interest (specifically, UC Applications are due 11/30)

Finish any remaining supplemental essays

If applicable, prepare your arts supplement for submission


Submit remaining applications (unless you applied ED and have yet to hear back!)

Apply for scholarships/grants

Keep grades up; mid-year scores matter!


In conclusion, this is just rough estimate of your college process. Again, this will likely look different for every student, depending on your typical routines! However, this can give you an idea of when you want to start thinking about the various components of your application. Beyond that, you can craft your own college application timeline for yourself!

For more help with and guidance on this process, visit the Empowerly college counseling community. For instance, you can book a consultation below!

Questions? Let us know!