The deadlines associated with the college application process often sneak up on high school seniors and their parents. Take a little time to set up a spreadsheet or put deadlines (with appropriate reminders in the preceding weeks) in your planner to avoid spending your winter break either frantically trying to get everything done or regretting missed opportunities.
Here are several types of deadlines you should be aware of. Find out more about them at the colleges you plan to apply to and become friendly with them.
1. Standardized Testing and Reporting Dates
Most colleges and universities require SAT or ACT scores for admission and to determine eligibility for merit-based scholarships. Ensure you allow enough time for the scores to be reported to colleges by their deadlines.
If you list specific colleges to receive scores when you register for the test, expect scores to be reported in about two weeks for the ACT or in three to four weeks for the SAT. Score reports may, however, be delayed for various reasons and you cannot expedite the scoring.
2. Application Deadlines
Once you know where you will apply to college, understand the different types of application deadlines at each school and which ones fit your situation.
Early admissions: You may have the option to apply early for a quicker admissions decision. With certain schools, this type of application may give you an edge for admissions or scholarships over later applicants. But, be sure you understand what you are applying for. With early decision (ED) applications, you agree that you will accept an admissions offer. You may apply ED to only one school. You may complete more than one early action (EA) application and either accept an admission right away or delay until the spring. However, some elite colleges offer single choice early action (SCEA) applications. With SCEA, you are not allowed to apply to other colleges until you receive an acceptance or rejection from the SCEA school.
Regular admissions: With regular admissions, schools offer a single application deadline, usually between November and January, for all applicants. Each college sends out all its acceptance or rejection notifications at the same time.
Rolling admissions: Schools that offer rolling admissions will accept applications any time after the application opens, generally between September and November, and before the application closes in late spring or summer. Admission is granted on a first-come, first-served basis, and applicants are notified of their status as their documents are processed. If you plan to apply via rolling admission, be sure you submit your application in time to meet scholarship or other deadlines.
3. Institutional Scholarships, Honors and Programs
If you plan to apply for merit-based or financial-need scholarships, investigate requirements and deadlines for applications. You may need to submit your application for admission, letters of recommendation and other documents by a certain date (many times before you are aware of your admission status) to be considered. In addition, interviews, campus visits or other requirements may take some planning before the deadline.
Many institutions offer special honors or other programs for qualified candidates. If you hope to join an honors program beginning your freshman year, be aware of deadlines and requirements for any special applications or supplemental materials.
If you are planning to declare a popular or selective major, investigate whether you must complete a separate application process for admission to the college or to the specific major by a certain date.
4. Financial Aid
The Free Application for Financial Aid, or FAFSA, opened Oct. 1 this year. Colleges and universities set their own priority filing deadlines by which you must complete and submit the FAFSA to receive best consideration for the available funds for need-based grants, scholarships, work-study and federal and institutional student loans. You may list all the colleges you are considering on the FAFSA, so apply as early as possible to improve your chances of receiving aid.
Certain colleges and universities also require that you fill out and submit the CSS/Financial Aid Profile to receive nonfederal need-based aid from the institution. Again, check for deadlines set by the schools you’re applying to, but plan to submit the Profile as early as possible.
5. Outside Scholarships
Scholarships awarded by community organizations, businesses and other entities become available throughout the academic year and have varying deadlines. As you search for scholarships, make note of submission deadlines and manage them accordingly.
After you submit each college application, check for notifications frequently. Schools may notify you by mail, email or online portal regarding your admission status, missing documents or scores and other important requirements.
When you have been accepted, the school may also tell you whether and when you must respond to secure your spot on campus. Keep these deadlines in mind while you weigh your options and make your final decision.
7. Deposits and Other Commitments
Also watch for information on required deposits for housing or tuition. In some cases, a school may require a small deposit to reserve a spot to select housing before you have been officially accepted, so these deadlines can appear unexpectedly.
As you finalize your college choices, you will also see deadlines for orientation or other sessions for incoming freshmen. Your school or major may also require some online training or reading before you move to campus, so continue to check for deadlines throughout your senior year and the following summer.