I want to make sure this point sinks in. If you are starting college applications in the Fall of Senior year, you’re already behind. Without a strong college application checklist and time to plan and execute, you’re setting yourself up for a messy, stressful, and sub-optimal Senior year.
One more time. Just so it’s clear:
If you’re starting your college application senior year, you’re making the #1 mistake students make. Here’s why.
The truth is, it is never too early to start thinking about college applications. Being mindful about your coursework and activities to challenge yourself is useful Freshman year of high school. That said, by Junior year, you should be actively preparing and planning for your applications.
College applications is NOT a singular event that happens senior year. It is a process, one that takes planning, preparation, and organization.
What’s There to Prepare?
Hopefully, you’re not a senior in high school yet (if you are, we still have some helpful tips for you later on). I want you to think about your current day-to-day. You’re likely spending a lot of time on your classes – honors, maybe AP or IB. You spend time on homework and projects from those classes. You’re studying for tests to keep your GPA up. You’re probably involved in school clubs, spending time planning meetings or running events. Maybe you’re an athlete, fitting in practices before and/or after school and traveling for meets or games. Perhaps you volunteer somewhere, dedicating 5-10 hours a week to your cause. You might play an instrument, spending time practicing alone, taking lessons, and performing with your band or orchestra.
Your schedule sounds pretty jam packed already.
If you’re starting college applications Senior year, you can take everything in that schedule and add researching colleges, filling out applications, summarizing extracurricular activities, studying and taking the SATs, SAT IIs, writing-editing-rewriting college essays, scheduling college visits, doing interviews, filling out financial aid forms …
That’s why you need to start earlier. Way earlier.
The College Application Checklist and Timeline
The college application process is a marathon juggling act. You’re planning around not only your time, but also testing schedules, college deadlines, interviewer schedules, etc. Planning ahead and having a good college application checklist helps:
- Ensure you have a well balanced list of colleges
- Prevent you from missing any critical deadlines or elements of the application
- Space out the work so you can focus on delivering high quality applications
Take the word of a fellow procrastinator. When it comes to college applications, procrastinating doesn’t work. All it does is compromise your senior year experience, your applications, and your chances of admission.
Here’s essentially what your experience will look like:
What Can I Do Now?
If you’re not yet a Junior in high school, congratulations. You’re ahead of the game. It’s still helpful to get an early peak at a college application checklist to see what’s coming up.
If you are a Junior, get started now. Get a college application checklist. Print it out. Discuss it with your family and support system. Tack it onto your fridge to keep you on track. And start cranking away at the month-to-month tasks. You’ll thank yourself Senior year.
If you are a Senior, I will be frank – you are starting late. And that is the last time I want you to think about that. Get a college application checklist now. You need to get organized and see where you are behind. Do an inventory of every checklist milestone you’ve missed so far and build a plan for how you can make these up ASAP. Focus on standardized tests first. Testing schedules aren’t flexible.
Finally, for those of you who are looking for a good college application checklist, we consulted our Ivy League college interviewer and application consultants to put together this Comprehensive College Application Checklist and Timeline. It includes a month by month breakdown of tasks and milestones and advice from our experts.
If you have questions about the checklist or the college application process, leave a note in the comments.