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collegerefs:

Hello class of 2015! It’s August, meaning the commonapp is open, your senior year is starting (or already has started), and things are about to get really stressful. However, I’m going to try and help you get through this application process with a helpful step-by-step guide to what you should do and when you should do it. 

  1. Around now you should have a list of schools you’re interested in: Most people will usually have one or two schools in mind by now, but it is recommended that you apply to around 6-10 schools. If you need help finding schools that fit you, I recommend using act.org/collegesearch or cappex.com. Here, you can fill in your intended major and preferred location, price range, and size of the school you want to attend, and they will give you loads of results to consider. You should have at least 2 safety schools, 2 match schools, and 1 or 2 reach schools. 
  2. August-November - Visit schools and apply early: Most schools require supplemental materials like recommendation letters, ACT scores, and your official transcripts. You will need time to either mail/email those and you don’t want to wait until the last second. Visit schools you’re interested in if possible, and apply to the schools you have the most interest in. Early application due dates are usually between November 15th-December 1st. Early application is a good idea if you really want to go somewhere, but aren’t sure if you will get in. With early application you will receive an answer faster than a normal application, so if you don’t get in, you have more time to apply elsewhere. **However, please be careful and read each schools guidelines with early application. Some school (particularly more prestigious schools) have a policy that if you apply early and are admitted, you are automatically enrolled.**
  3. December-March - Regular admission: During this time you can still be applying to schools. Most colleges stop accepting applications on March 1st. However, there are many schools that have an earlier deadline, and many schools that have a later deadline, so just keep an eye on the deadline for each of your applications. Apply to a lot of schools, even if you aren’t incredibly interested in them. I ended up choosing to go to one of the last schools I applied to, and I only applied because they offered to cover my application fee. Then I ended up loving the school. 
  4. January-March - Fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): Do NOT let anyone tell you that the FAFSA is pointless. Even if you think you aren’t eligible for any grants, just fill out the application to make sure, because at the very least you can receive federal loans. Do this as soon as possible. For example, the FAFSA opens on January first. This year when I applied, money had already run out before February in the state of Illinois (where I live), so please APPLY EARLY.
  5. May 1st - Deadline for accepting admission to most schools: Hopefully by April you have a good idea of where you want to go. Make sure you accept the offer of admission by the deadline, and also make sure you accept offers of any scholarships you may have been offered. 

That’s just a simplified guide to basic due dates for application. Your situation may be different if you are attending a community college first or a trade school. Below are a few other things you may need to consider:

  • Should I retake the ACT/SAT? - if you feel that your initial score does not reflect what you are capable of, it is a good idea to sign up for a retake as soon as possible so you have the scores in time for applying to school
  • Am I eligible for application fee waivers? - Many people are eligible to waive their application fees which is INCREDIBLY helpful considering many applications run between $30-$75. Your school counsellor is a good person to ask if you aren’t sure if you are eligible. 
  • Should I apply for scholarships now? - In short, yes. I wrote a post about it. 
  • Other questions? - You can ask us if you have any other questions! We’re always happy to help.
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