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Wherever you are in your high school journey, we commend you for making it this far. By following these steps, you’ll be set to tackle your college applications efficiently and effectively.

The Complete Guide to College Application Prep for Juniors and Seniors

College App Timeline

The Complete Guide to College Application Prep for Juniors and Seniors

College App Timeline

Wherever you are in your high school journey, we commend you for making it this far. By following these steps, you’ll be set to tackle your college applications efficiently and effectively.

For many high school students, the college application process can be incredibly demanding and overwhelming. But if you’re looking to jump into that process for the first time, there’s no need to worry: much—if not all—of what contributes to those unfavorable experiences can be mitigated or avoided altogether by following the right steps at the right time.

In many cases, the reason students dread writing their next supplemental essay or are left scrambling for letters of recommendation a week before a deadline is that they unknowingly miss the most optimal times to complete each component. At Command Education, we pride ourselves in having a deep understanding of when to do what and how to do it best.

This guide’s aim is to provide a timeline and general guidelines ideal for every high school student applying or getting ready to apply to college. We’re aware that every student’s circumstances, commitments and capacities are unique, and so the steps we’ve outlined below are flexible. Lastly, we hope this guide offers useful tips on matters that overlap with the college application process, such as time management!

Ready? Let’s get started.

Junior Spring
Junior Summer
Senior Fall
Junior Spring start planning for college applications

Junior Spring

Strengthen grades and extracurriculars, take standardized tests, research colleges, and plan out your summer.

Junior year is arguably the most crucial year of your high school career, and the spring will be dedicated to maintaining academic excellence, obtaining leadership positions, developing your passion project, preparing for standardized tests and finalizing summer plans. Naturally, your Junior Spring will also be an opportune time to begin researching schools, and attending information sessions to start drafting your college list.

Junior summer is essential at prepping for your college application

Junior Summer

Visit colleges, write personal statement and activities list, finalize college list.

With school no longer in session, summer presents the perfect opportunity to write your personal statement, activities and awards list, and schedule college visits or take standardized tests you’ll need in order to finalize your college list. Be sure to account for vacation time or family commitments too!

 

In the Senior Fall you complete your college applications

Senior Fall

Create a detailed application schedule, write and submit supplemental essays and additional application materials, schedule interviews.

Fall can be a particularly stressful time for many seniors, but with proper planning, you’ll be well on your way to submitting great college applications with strong supplemental essays and additional required materials, such as portfolios and optional videos. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to decide which schools you want to apply to early decision, early action, and regular decision.

 

Step-By-Step Guide to Junior Spring

Your main priorities this spring should include: earning the highest grade point average possible, taking on leadership roles in your clubs, growing your passion project, preparing for standardized testing, starting your college list, and finalizing your summer plans. Now, this may seem like a lot all at once, but by following the right steps, you’ll find yourself more collected and less scrambled through the process. Let’s get to it.

Understand Your Priorities and Personal Capacity

Since you’re likely to have a lot on your plate during this time, it’s important to take an honest look at which areas you need to prioritize and determine whether you have the capacity to take on any additional commitments. For instance, if you need to focus on a particular class and bring up your overall GPA, it’s best to hold off on SAT/ACT prep until your study schedule is a bit more manageable. If obtaining a leadership position doesn’t seem viable, then lightening your commitment in that club to free up more time to work on your passion project might be the wisest choice. What matters is that you’re dedicating the right amount of time to the right commitments and approaching the spring with a strategy that works best for you. Below are some details to help you plan your course accordingly.

SAT/ACT

Junior Spring is a great time to study for and take either the SAT or ACT. Reaching your target scores early will allow you to get a sense of which schools you should consider to be reaches, matches and safeties, and provide you with ample buffer room if you need to retake a test later in the year. Although many colleges have adopted test-optional policies, scoring well on the SAT or ACT is critical to standing out from other high-achieving students. While it’s never too early to prepare for either the SAT or ACT, we recommend giving yourself at least 3 months to study before your test date. If you haven’t already, consider taking diagnostic tests over a weekend to get a feel for which test you’re best suited for, as well as which areas you might need to focus on and receive tutoring in. We advise using an official test from the College Board or the ACT, which you can find here (SAT) and here (ACT). Also, be sure to register well in advance; registration closes about a month before each test date!

AP EXAMS

It’s important to note that AP Exams generally take place in May, so be sure your SAT/ACT prep doesn’t take away from the requisite time you need to score well on your APs, especially if you’re looking to receive college credit. You can always look to take the SAT/ACT over the summer if you find that the majority of your time needs to be devoted to preparing for other standardized tests.

GRADES

Since junior year is your last opportunity to demonstrate a full year’s worth of academic achievement, your Junior Spring should be devoted to maintaining the best grades possible and developing great relationships with your teachers, (which will come in handy when you start compiling letters of recommendation). Determine which classes you’ll need the most help in, and consider forming a study group, attending office hours with your teachers or receiving tutoring in those subjects.

EXTRACURRICULARS

Whether it’s through a club at school or a commitment outside of school, you’ll want to take every opportunity to show leadership and consistent involvement in ways that go beyond the norm. For example, rather than organizing a fun school-wide event through your robotics club, find ways to market it for even broader reach and consider implementing a fundraising component that contributes to robotics programs in your region. As the president of your science club, consider starting a new science initiative for young kids and establishing chapters around your school district or state. Think big! If you haven’t already started volunteering, check out our article on Sourcing Volunteer Opportunities to not only bolster your college application but demonstrate a genuine passion for making a difference in the world.

Understand Your Priorities and Personal Capacity

Since you’re likely to have a lot on your plate during this time, it’s important to take an honest look at which areas you need to prioritize and determine whether you have the capacity to take on any additional commitments. For instance, if you need to focus on a particular class and bring up your overall GPA, it’s best to hold off on SAT/ACT prep until your study schedule is a bit more manageable. If obtaining a leadership position doesn’t seem viable, then lightening your commitment in that club to free up more time to work on your passion project might be the wisest choice. What matters is that you’re dedicating the right amount of time to the right commitments and approaching the spring with a strategy that works best for you. Below are some details to help you plan your course accordingly.

SAT/ACT

Junior Spring is a great time to study for and take either the SAT or ACT. Reaching your target scores early will allow you to get a sense of which schools you should consider to be reaches, matches and safeties, and provide you with ample buffer room if you need to retake a test later in the year. Although many colleges have adopted test-optional policies, scoring well on the SAT or ACT is critical to standing out from other high-achieving students. While it’s never too early to prepare for either the SAT or ACT, we recommend giving yourself at least 3 months to study before your test date. If you haven’t already, consider taking diagnostic tests over a weekend to get a feel for which test you’re best suited for, as well as which areas you might need to focus on and receive tutoring in. We advise using an official test from the College Board or the ACT, which you can find here (SAT) and here (ACT). Also, be sure to register well in advance; registration closes about a month before each test date!

AP EXAMS

It’s important to note that AP Exams generally take place in May, so be sure your SAT/ACT prep doesn’t take away from the requisite time you need to score well on your APs, especially if you’re looking to receive college credit. You can always look to take the SAT/ACT over the summer if you find that the majority of your time needs to be devoted to preparing for other standardized tests.

GRADES

Since junior year is your last opportunity to demonstrate a full year’s worth of academic achievement, your Junior Spring should be devoted to maintaining the best grades possible and developing great relationships with your teachers, (which will come in handy when you start compiling letters of recommendation). Determine which classes you’ll need the most help in, and consider forming a study group, attending office hours with your teachers or receiving tutoring in those subjects.

EXTRACURRICULARS

Whether it’s through a club at school or a commitment outside of school, you’ll want to take every opportunity to show leadership and consistent involvement in ways that go beyond the norm. For example, rather than organizing a fun school-wide event through your robotics club, find ways to market it for even broader reach and consider implementing a fundraising component that contributes to robotics programs in your region. As the president of your science club, consider starting a new science initiative for young kids and establishing chapters around your school district or state. Think big! If you haven’t already started volunteering, check out our article on Sourcing Volunteer Opportunities to not only bolster your college application but demonstrate a genuine passion for making a difference in the world.

Begin college research and draft a college list

Now that you have a game plan for your curricular and extracurricular involvements, you’ll want to work in some time to put together a list of roughly three safety, five to seven match, and five to seven reach schools. Since these categories are defined in terms of where your test scores and GPA sit relative to a school’s average, taking the SAT/ACT before the summer will prevent you from having to completely remake your college list later on. The criteria you’ll want to base your list off of cover a lot of ground, so we’ve compiled guides to top colleges and universities to guide you through every part of this process. Consider reaching out to your guidance counselor, your family members and friends to begin a discussion about colleges, and start perusing different schools’ websites to get an understanding of what each has to offer.

Finalize summer plans

Summer is a great time to take advantage of opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have access to during the school year or at your high school. It’s also an opportune time to demonstrate ambition and interest in a field or subject matter, and to develop professional or academic skills.

While some summer programs set their application deadlines through Junior Fall or Winter, there are still more than enough programs, internships, and research opportunities for you to look into and apply to during the spring. You can read Command Education’s guide to summer opportunities here. Start by researching opportunities through the lens of your intended course of study or profession, and compile a list of opportunities that you would realistically want to participate in. Write down all of their deadlines, and plan to finish each application about a week early in case you need to make last-minute edits before submitting.

If you’re interested in interning in a specific field but can’t find too many official internship programs to apply to, you can seek an opportunity on websites like LinkedIn and AngelList, or by networking, hosting informational interviews, and sending cold emails. In the event that none of these work out, there are plenty of volunteering opportunities and online courses to look into that will show colleges you’ve been proactive during your summer.

Ask for letters of recommendation

Spring of junior year is also a great time to ask for letters of recommendation for your college applications. For tips and tricks about who and when to ask for letters of recommendation and how to get these conversations started, whether with a teacher, supervisor, coach or advisor, check out our Common App 101: Letters of Recommendation resource, complete with email templates and a step-by-step guide.

JUNIOR SPRING CHECKLIST

N
Take diagnostic SAT and ACT
N
Arrange standardized testing tutoring as needed
N
Take AP/IB exams
N
Research colleges & draft a college list
N
Ask for letters of recommendation
N
Finalize summer plans

Step-By-Step Guide to Junior Summer

Your main priorities this summer will consist of excelling in your summer internship or program of choice, refining your college list through research and visits, finishing standardized testing, and working on your college essay and supplements. This might sound like a lot all at once, so let’s take it step by step!

Schedule Standardized Tests and Other Summer Commitments

Working on your college applications when you’re not devoting time to your other summer commitments will be your most optimal move during the summer preceding senior year. Start by making sure you’ve secured a seat for any standardized tests you plan on taking over the summer. It’s critical to know where your scores fall relative to the schools’ averages in order to make amendments to your college list as needed, or determine whether or not you’ll have to test again in the fall.

Research and Visit Colleges

A great way to continue (or start) your research is by checking out our How to Research Colleges page and College Planning Worksheet. In your college search, you’ll also want to learn about individual programs, majors, or unique opportunities offered by different schools.

Next, schedule any visits to colleges you’d be curious to see in person and think you might want to add to your college list. If being physically present isn’t feasible, don’t fret! Campus Reel is a fantastic resource that provides virtual campus tours, day-in-the-life reels, and plenty of other informational bits shared by actual, current students. Make sure you’re all up to speed with How To Make the Most of a Virtual College Tour. Additionally, you can register for live information sessions on colleges’ admissions websites. If you can’t attend a live session, you can likely find a pre-recorded session on the school’s website or on YouTube. You can also find out about important events by signing up for schools’ newsletters or adding yourself to their contact lists. Since there are several colleges that track demonstrated interest, it’s best to stay in the loop with opportunities where you can show face while also learning more about whether the school’s a good fit for you.

Lastly, you’ll want to make sure you set aside time for any in-person visits. Visiting schools in person is a great way to get a sense of what the campus and its surroundings are like, as well as take advantage of the opportunity to speak to current students. Most schools have registration for campus tours publicly available on their admissions website, but calling the school’s admissions office directly is a great way to discuss any special requests or questions you might have.

Write your Activities Lists

If you haven’t done so already, a sure-fire way to get ahead of the game is to centralize a list of your activities and awards with their corresponding descriptions. Perhaps you already have a resume that you’ve made to apply to summer programs or a master list buried somewhere in your Google Drive. In any case, it’s best to start summarizing your extracurricular leadership roles and accomplishments. If you’re applying to any of the 9 schools in the University of California system, start by writing the activities descriptions for their application first. The UC application allows 350-character descriptions of your activities—significantly more space than the Common and Coalition Applications, which offer only 150 and 255 characters to describe your activities, respectively.

Write your Personal Statement

Now that you have your application materials organized, it’s time to get writing! But before we jump in, it’s worth noting that writing your personal statement can be incredibly time-consuming and can drag into the fall if not written in a timely and intentional manner. Below, we’ve outlined some guidelines for how to streamline this process and get one of the most important components of your college application finished before senior year even begins.

BRAINSTORM

Your personal statement gives you the opportunity to showcase your personality, passions, and story in no more than 650 words. This is the most unique component of your application, as it gives you the opportunity to show colleges who you truly are beyond the list of activities and test scores that so easily typecast students into a set of stats. If you’re a bit unsure about whether or not you have anything interesting to write about, no need to worry—here are a few suggestions about how to write a good college essay to get those creative cogs turning. As a bonus, check out our guides about How to Answer Each Common App Prompt and Personal Statement Do’s and Don’ts.

j

WRITE

Sometimes, the hardest part of writing is simply getting started. If you’re at a loss for words after the brainstorming process, start by writing ideas in small chunks or bullet form, or start from the middle and determine your introduction and conclusion later. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, which is exactly why we offer an exclusive online College Application Booster Camp, where students get to complete both their personal statement and activities list in just five days. During this time, each student works with a Senior Mentor through a specialized process of ideation, writing, and editing to craft a personal statement and activities list that fit their hook and communicate an outstanding story.

It’s highly important that these components of your college application are finished before your Senior Fall, so that by the time school starts, you’ll have ample time to focus on college-specific supplements as well as your senior year coursework. Having an established understanding of the story you tell through your personal statement will also serve to inform what you should and shouldn’t write about in your supplemental essays, and it may even inform which colleges to remove from your final list and which ones to add. Maybe you’ll come to realize that you’re not as interested in biology as you’d previously thought, or that applying to schools in rural areas doesn’t make the most sense for you if your personal statement is about how much your urban upbringing has developed your love for international relations. In any case, take the summer to truly understand yourself in the context of the schools you’ll be applying to, and have a nearly finalized college list before things pick up again in the fall.

Write your Personal Statement

Now that you have your application materials organized, it’s time to get writing! But before we jump in, it’s worth noting that writing your personal statement can be incredibly time-consuming and can drag into the fall if not written in a timely and intentional manner. Below, we’ve outlined some guidelines for how to streamline this process and get one of the most important components of your college application finished before senior year even begins.

BRAINSTORM

Your personal statement gives you the opportunity to showcase your personality, passions, and story in no more than 650 words. This is the most unique component of your application, as it gives you the opportunity to show colleges who you truly are beyond the list of activities and test scores that so easily typecast students into a set of stats. If you’re a bit unsure about whether or not you have anything interesting to write about, no need to worry—here are a few suggestions about how to write a good college essay to get those creative cogs turning. As a bonus, check out our guides about How to Answer Each Common App Prompt and Personal Statement Do’s and Don’ts.

j

WRITE

Sometimes, the hardest part of writing is simply getting started. If you’re at a loss for words after the brainstorming process, start by writing ideas in small chunks or bullet form, or start from the middle and determine your introduction and conclusion later. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, which is exactly why we offer an exclusive online College Application Booster Camp, where students get to complete both their personal statement and activities list in just five days. During this time, each student works with a Senior Mentor through a specialized process of ideation, writing, and editing to craft a personal statement and activities list that fit their hook and communicate an outstanding story.

It’s highly important that these components of your college application are finished before your Senior Fall, so that by the time school starts, you’ll have ample time to focus on college-specific supplements as well as your senior year coursework. Having an established understanding of the story you tell through your personal statement will also serve to inform what you should and shouldn’t write about in your supplemental essays, and it may even inform which colleges to remove from your final list and which ones to add. Maybe you’ll come to realize that you’re not as interested in biology as you’d previously thought, or that applying to schools in rural areas doesn’t make the most sense for you if your personal statement is about how much your urban upbringing has developed your love for international relations. In any case, take the summer to truly understand yourself in the context of the schools you’ll be applying to, and have a nearly finalized college list before things pick up again in the fall.

JUNIOR SUMMER CHECKLIST

N
Create master schedule of summer commitments
N
Retake the SAT or ACT
N
Write your Activities List and Personal Statement
N
Visit colleges and finalize your college list

Step-By-Step Guide to Senior Fall

Your main focus will be to keep yourself well-organized as you create a comprehensive schedule and checklist, and complete all of the requirements set forth by each of the schools to which you are applying.

Get Organized and Make a Plan

This is the final stretch! In the fall of your senior year, prioritize making a schedule for completing each college’s application materials, including supplemental essays, scholarship applications, and unique additional application materials. To make sure you stay on track, your schedule should be detailed and realistic, and take your school work, activities and any life events that you’ll need to attend to in the coming months into account. Here are a few steps you can take to make this process as organized as possible:

COMMITMENTS

Gauge your school commitments. During your senior year, you may be at the peak of your club leadership, or you might be taking a class you’ve been waiting to take your entire high school career. Establish which school commitments need to be a priority, which don’t, and plan to allot time each day to work on your college applications as if they are your most important class or extracurricular of the semester.

COLLEGE LIST

Decide which school(s) you’re going to apply to early. Start by determining which schools you’ll be applying to ED I, EA, REA, or SCEA. Keep in mind that some schools have very restrictive early decision or restrictive early action policies that prevent students from applying to other schools. Take note of which schools have earlier deadlines or unique deadlines for special programs. If you’re unsure of whether or not to apply early, we’ve discussed both sides in our article, Is Early Decision Right For Me? Next, confirm the deadlines for all of your other regular decision schools, including any scholarship or program deadlines.

APPLICATION LIST

Make a list of application materials required for each school. This will help you estimate the time it will take to complete each application. While some schools may only have one 250-word supplement, schools like Yale and Princeton often ask their students to answer eight questions ranging from 150-character short responses to 250-word essays. If you plan on applying to The University of Chicago, you also might want to allot a bit more time to the brainstorming process, as they’re known for having some pretty experimental writing prompts.

Additionally, in response to COVID-19, many universities have adopted test-optional policies and have begun considering additional application materials to allow applicants to provide a more holistic picture of themselves. You’ll want to determine which of the schools you are applying to are maintaining test optional policies, and decide whether or not you want to submit your standardized test scores to each of the schools on your list. We recommend making that decision based on where your scores fall relative to the schools’ average test scores, which are often published on their respective admissions websites.

You’ll want to identify any unique materials you may need such as art portfolios, music or theatrical auditions, peer recommendations, honors college applications, pre-recorded virtual interviews, videos, or additional essays for dual- or combined degree programs, freshman study abroad opportunities, and more.

SCHEDULE

Create monthly and weekly schedules. We recommend prioritizing applications for schools with the earliest deadlines. This includes allotting time for writing all of the school’s supplements, finishing your other application materials, sending your application to a parent, guidance counselor, or other trusted advisor for feedback, revising your application, and submitting it a few days before the deadline. A good rule of thumb is to aim to finish the supplemental essays for 1-2 schools each week.

Get Organized and Make a Plan

This is the final stretch! In the fall of your senior year, prioritize making a schedule for completing each college’s application materials, including supplemental essays, scholarship applications, and unique additional application materials. To make sure you stay on track, your schedule should be detailed and realistic, and take your school work, activities and any life events that you’ll need to attend to in the coming months into account. Here are a few steps you can take to make this process as organized as possible:

COMMITMENTS

Gauge your school commitments. During your senior year, you may be at the peak of your club leadership, or you might be taking a class you’ve been waiting to take your entire high school career. Establish which school commitments need to be a priority, which don’t, and plan to allot time each day to work on your college applications as if they are your most important class or extracurricular of the semester.

COLLEGE LIST

Decide which school(s) you’re going to apply to early. Start by determining which schools you’ll be applying to ED I, EA, REA, or SCEA. Keep in mind that some schools have very restrictive early decision or restrictive early action policies that prevent students from applying to other schools. Take note of which schools have earlier deadlines or unique deadlines for special programs. If you’re unsure of whether or not to apply early, we’ve discussed both sides in our article, Is Early Decision Right For Me? Next, confirm the deadlines for all of your other regular decision schools, including any scholarship or program deadlines.

APPLICATION LIST

Make a list of application materials required for each school. This will help you estimate the time it will take to complete each application. While some schools may only have one 250-word supplement, schools like Yale and Princeton often ask their students to answer eight questions ranging from 150-character short responses to 250-word essays. If you plan on applying to The University of Chicago, you also might want to allot a bit more time to the brainstorming process, as they’re known for having some pretty experimental writing prompts.

Additionally, in response to COVID-19, many universities have adopted test-optional policies and have begun considering additional application materials to allow applicants to provide a more holistic picture of themselves. You’ll want to determine which of the schools you are applying to are maintaining test optional policies, and decide whether or not you want to submit your standardized test scores to each of the schools on your list. We recommend making that decision based on where your scores fall relative to the schools’ average test scores, which are often published on their respective admissions websites.

You’ll want to identify any unique materials you may need such as art portfolios, music or theatrical auditions, peer recommendations, honors college applications, pre-recorded virtual interviews, videos, or additional essays for dual- or combined degree programs, freshman study abroad opportunities, and more.

SCHEDULE

Create monthly and weekly schedules. We recommend prioritizing applications for schools with the earliest deadlines. This includes allotting time for writing all of the school’s supplements, finishing your other application materials, sending your application to a parent, guidance counselor, or other trusted advisor for feedback, revising your application, and submitting it a few days before the deadline. A good rule of thumb is to aim to finish the supplemental essays for 1-2 schools each week.

Write Your Supplemental Essays and Other Materials

One of the benefits of writing so many essays is that the process gets easier with each supplement you write. Many schools ask very similar questions using different words, so by the time you get through a few schools, chances are you’ll already know how to approach the essays for the remaining schools. We’ve outlined how to answer some of the most common supplemental essay prompts each on our How to write college supplements page.

Here are some of our top tips for writing supplements:

1. Avoid repetition in the same application.

It can be tempting to echo part of your personal statement in your supplemental essays, but that doesn’t allow admissions officers to learn more about you, and thus isn’t an effective use of space.

2. Show off your personality.

Admissions officers will get to see your accomplishments through your activities list, transcript, and awards/honors sections. Use your supplemental essays to demonstrate what you’re passionate about, what kind of student you’ll be on campus, and how you can enrich your future community!

3. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

Many colleges ask similar questions, and you don’t need to come up with completely novel responses to every version of “Why do you want to pursue your major of interest?” Instead, reuse versions of these more general essays, but make sure you’re adapting them to be specific to each school by including research you’ve done on the school’s academic or social offerings. Always make sure you’re answering the whole question, and double-check that you have the right school’s name in your essay!

For more advice on how to write supplemental essays for top schools, check out our College Application Supplement Guides.

Review and Revise

As you finish drafting your supplemental essays, it’s important to ask a second reader to make sure everything looks good. Send them along to parents, guidance counselors, teachers, mentors or other trusted adults—whoever they are, they should be people who know you well and who will give you honest feedback about your essays.

Submit

Do your best to have each application ready for submission a few days before the deadline. In the event you’ll need to make some last-minute edits or tweaks, having a few days to spare offers a useful safety net and some breathing room. Also, application portals and websites are known to crash almost every year, so submitting early will help you avoid this altogether.

Interviews

As your application materials circulate through the review process throughout the fall, you may hear back from colleges that either highly encourage or require applicants to sit for interviews, either with an admissions representative on campus or with an alumnus in the applicant’s local area. However, some schools, such as Swarthmore, will expect you to contact them to set up an interview. In the latter case, simply contact the school’s admissions office or register on the school’s website if there’s an option to do so.

An interview is another opportunity to show what you have to offer while taking the time to ask questions about the school. For some tips and tricks on acing the interview, read through our guide on Best Practices for Virtual College Interviews as well as our post answering the question, What should I expect from a college admissions interview? As always, make sure to thank your interviewer via email no more than 24 hours after the interview.

What to do When You Hear Back from your ED school

If you’re waiting to hear back from the schools you applied to early, you might want to check out our article, Help! Early Decision results are almost here and I’m freaking out.

Most colleges and universities release their EA and ED decisions around mid-December, though some EA decisions come out in January or February. As we previously discussed, EA decisions are non-binding, so you will only be obligated to make a final college decision in the spring. However, if you’ve been accepted into a school ED (congratulations!), here’s a quick to-do list:

Accept the offer.

Complete any admissions forms either online or by mail, and pay your deposit. This reserves your official seat in the entering class.

Withdraw other applications.

Whether it’s by rescinding your applications online or sending each school a brief email about your withdrawal, withdrawing your other applications will free up a seat for another deserving student at each of these schools.

Send ‘thank you’ letters.

It’s important to make sure you send thank you letters, whether physically or electronically, to those who have helped you along your journey. Teachers or other references who wrote your letters of recommendation, college counselors who have helped you determine your college list, coaches, and other key players should be updated about your college decisions so they can all celebrate with you.

If you’ve been deferred to the regular decision application round, you’ll want to send the schools a letter of continued interest to let them know that you’re still considering them as one of your top choices. You can read our guide about How to Write a Letter of Continued Interest.

Early Application Responses

Whether you’ve been deferred, accepted through early action or rejected through early action or early decision, it’s crucial that you keep working hard on your regular decision applications.

SENIOR FALL CHECKLIST

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Determine early application strategy
N
Write supplemental essays
N
Finish additional/unique application materials
N
Send applications to a second reader for review
N
Revise as needed
N
Submit applications
N
Interview
N
Receive EA/ED decisions
N
Write letters of continued interest, if necessary
N
Complete RD applications

Conclusion

The best feeling throughout the entire college admissions process will be making it to the end knowing you’ve given it your all, regardless of the outcome. The steps outlined in this guide, alone, are not enough to bring you to where you’re aiming to be. It’ll require your best effort every step of the way. 

Below are some additional resources for you to check out as you work your way through the college application process!

Pick out a college for your list

Compare Best-Fit Colleges

The Schools Hub

Supplements for your college application

Writing Application Supplements

The Supplement Hub

Submit letters of recommendation for your college application

Letters of Recommendation

The Complete Guide