There’s a lot of planning that goes into researching, visiting, and applying to different colleges. In the midst of all the excitement, it can be easy to overlook a small, but very crucial detail: deadlines. To prevent delays and missing out on opportunities completely, it’s important to be aware of the deadlines and to find out what those specific dates are from the colleges or programs you’re interested in.
Here are few deadlines to keep in mind during your college search:
Applications for Regular Admission
One of the most significant deadlines to keep track of is the deadline for college applications. Even for regular admission, take note of each school’s deadline and plan accordingly. This also means getting everything together that’s needed for your application well in advance, including test scores, recommendation letters, essays, and so on. Missing the application deadline can result in delays and could mean starting college later than you initially planned.
Applications for Early Admission
If you’re hoping for early acceptance, keep in mind that deadlines typically come sooner than regular admission. If you think this might be the route for you, start researching the requirements for your top college choices during your junior year of high school so you can be sure to give yourself plenty of time to apply.
If you’re submitting SAT or ACT scores with your college applications, you’ll want to keep testing deadlines in mind as well. This means finding local testing schedules and ensuring that you set aside enough time to study before taking the exams so that you can get the best scores possible. You’ll also need to factor in the time it will take to receive your exam scores back (typically three weeks) so that they can be submitted with your college applications.
The sooner you take tours of the campuses you’re considering, the better. You’ll want to thoughtfully consider everything you learned from each tour and ideally go on these tours before you even begin sending in applications. Each college will have its own dates and guidelines for campus tours, so you’ll want to confirm the timeline for each school you’re interested in seeing. Some may only be offered during certain hours or days of the week, and during specific times of the year. Others may require sign-ups in advance with limited availability, so you’ll want to reserve your spot as soon as possible. Finally, if you’ll need to travel overnight to the schools, consider the cost of the travel when picking your dates to go. Everything from plane tickets to hotel rooms can vary, and you’ll want to avoid high-priced time periods if possible.
Every student should fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) each year they are in school since aid. Keep in mind that while the FAFSA itself has deadlines, individual schools have separate due dates for when they expect you to complete the form; a school’s FAFSA due date is typically well ahead of the date the FAFSA technically closes. If you miss a school deadline for filing your FAFSA, you may not receive the money you need for an upcoming semester in time to avoid late fees, or worse, you may miss your chance to get in a class altogether.
Recent changes were made to the FAFSA to allow students to file sooner. Now students can begin filing for the upcoming year beginning on October 1st, rather than having to wait until the first of January. That means you should be filling out your FAFSA for freshman year in college during the fall of your senior year in high school. Remember, you don’t have to know exactly which colleges you’re applying to before you submit the FAFSA; you can list any colleges that you’re considering on the form.
While you can apply for some scholarships year-round, many scholarships have hard deadlines in place. Beyond meeting the application due date, some scholarships have requirements you’ll need to meet to qualify. It’s not too early to start looking for scholarship opportunities during your freshman and sophomore years in high school so that you give yourself the necessary time to complete requirements such as a minimum number of public service hours.
Remember, it’s never too soon to begin tracking the important dates and deadlines related to your college search. Find an organization method that works for you, and mark down the key dates to get started. When it comes to individual schools, be sure to check with each one since every school is different. Starting early and getting your calendar in order can help take some of the stress out of the hunt for your perfect college and help you focus on finding the best fit for you.