HS Seniors: College Timeline for High School

In the Fall and Winter

  • Stay on track to graduate — make sure to stay focused, and ask for help if you need it.
  • Take the SAT, ACT or SAT Subject Tests if necessary — see 2018-19 registration deadlines and test dates on the HS Juniors page.
  • Schedule visits to colleges that interest you. Narrow down your list to about five colleges that you plan to apply to.
  • On your list of colleges, write down each college’s application deadlines, requirements, and fees. Staying organized is key.
  • Ask teachers, counselors, and mentors for letters of recommendation for your college applications. Pay attention to how many recommendations you need, guidelines about who should write them, and the required format.
  • Attend financial aid workshops.
  • Begin to gather materials you’ll need to complete the FAFSA, which is critical to securing financial aid. You can fill out the FAFSA as early as Oct. 1. Most colleges recommend you complete it as soon as possible to maximize the amount of aid you receive. NYS students should include a college or university in the state on your list of colleges so you can begin to file the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) application at the end of the FAFSA.
  • Stay committed to your extracurricular activities.
  • Work on your college applications and on your financial aid applications. Be sure to keep track of all requirements and deadlines.
  • Complete your applications carefully, including the essay if required. Pay attention to details, proofread everything, and be sure to submit them on time.
  • Some colleges require a mid-year grade report — work with your school counselor to send that information to the colleges.
  • Look for your college acceptance notices and pay attention to important paperwork and deposit deadlines.

In the Spring

  • Plan for your summer job or internship.
  • If you’re taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses, the spring 2019 AP exams will be held May 6–17.
  • Stay focused — most college acceptances are contingent on students maintaining good standing in their senior year.
  • Review the financial aid packages you receive from colleges and calculate your net costs.
  • If you have questions, contact the colleges’ financial aid offices.
  • If possible, make any last college visits before you make a final decision.
  • Decision time: Choose the college you will attend, sign a letter of intent, accept or refuse financial aid, and send in the required deposits by May 1.
  • Follow up on your grants, scholarships, loans, and any other aid you received.
  • Celebrate! Don’t forget to send a thank-you note or email to everyone who helped you through your college search.