Senior Timeline

Written by Lisa Bleich.

Back to school is a busy time for everyone, especially Seniors who are applying to college. Keep a close eye on deadlines as each college and program has their own unique set of requirements.

The time is now…get organized and finalize your plans.


Register for fall SATs and ACTs.  

The fall is the last testing date that will get in for early applications, so whether you want to improve your scores one more time or you need some additional subject tests, it is a good idea to register now.

SAT Test dates

ACT Test dates

Register for the Common Application.

Register for the Common Application and Coalition.

Set up an account and add the schools to which you will be applying.

Common Application

Coalition Application

Write, rewrite, and finalize your Main Personal Statement.

Your main essay is called your personal statement. It should be between 250-650 words. This will be cut and pasted directly into the Common Application.

Visit Schools.

The Jewish holidays, Columbus Day and Teachers’ Convention (for NJ students) are great opportunities to visit schools. If possible, schedule an interview.

Finish Your College List.

Identify your final list of schools and decide if you want to apply somewhere Early Decision, which is binding. Prioritize your applications by interest and difficulty of the application. Your goal is to have:

1-2  reach schools

1-2 possible schools

3-4  likely schools

1-2 safety schools

Register for National Portfolio Day, if you are submitting an art portfolio. This offers you an opportunity to have your portfolio reviewed by numerous art schools at the same time and get feedback to improve your portfolio before a final submission. National Portfolio Day Link.

Request letters of recommendation from teachers.

Find out how many you need for your list of schools. Many schools only require one, but will accept more. Ask your teachers to write you a letter of recommendation at the beginning of the school year. Many teachers limit the number of students for whom they write letters, so it is best to get on their list early. Follow your high school’s specific instructions on how to request and send letters.

Schedule an interview, if appropriate for your schools.

Schedule an Audition (if applicable). The deadline for this varies by school.

Fill out your Financial Aid Forms.

If you are applying to private colleges, you can submit the CSS profile as early as September with an estimated income tax form.

CSS Profile (Private School Financial Aid Form)

For the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you will need to wait until Jan. 1.

FAFSA (Federal Student Aid) 


Start applications for state and other applications that are not on the Common App. Many state schools do not participate in the Common Application, so you will need to set up a separate account for each school. Do not despair, though, because you can often use the same personal statement that you write for the Common Application schools.

Identify and start working on your supplements to the Common Application.

In addition to the main personal statement (essay), many schools require supplemental essays or forms.

Take Last-Minute SAT Subject Tests or SAT/ACT Tests.

Yes, if you take the October ACT or SAT it will count toward an early decision application. (But please check your individual school’s requirements to be sure about the October ACT.) The ACT also offers a test in September.

Request SAT and ACT Scores. 

Allow four weeks before your application is due to avoid a late fee. (You can still send your scores if you miss this deadline for an additional fee.) 

Send SAT Scores

Send ACT Scores 


Finish Applications for Early Decision or Early Action.

This is the time to get all your supplements completed, including not only essays, but also links to performing arts talent or an art portfolio.

Visit Colleges.

It is not too late to visit colleges if you are still undecided.  If you’re thinking of applying ED somewhere, try to visit your top 2-3 schools for an overnight to help you decide where to apply.

Read here for 5 tips on planning a college visit. 

Request Transcripts.

Allow at least four weeks before your application is due.  Check with your high school for the specific requirements.

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