College Plan Timeline:


Sometimes day-of reminders will be too late. Don’t hesitate to set calendar reminders for a few days or a few weeks ahead of the deadline.

Application deadlines are quickly approaching, so you'll need to decide on early action and letters of recommendation.

Since you’re now a big time senior, you’re going to have to keep track of a ton of deadlines. Application deadlines, financial aid timelines, scholarship turn-ins, letters of recommendation, essay deadlines, and test dates are all looming in your near future.

How can you manage all of these crucial deadlines?

Your Deadline Calendar

If it were 1989, your parents and counselors would be begging you to keep all of your important deadlines in a weekly planner or wall calendar. While these methods still work for millions of kids worldwide, we now have access to computer and phone programs that easily input and remind us of important deadlines. As a student in the technology age, these methods are probably your best bet in tackling your senior year of important dates and times.

Additionally, there's no need to start a new calendar if you still have your date calendar from sophomore year. Whether you build on your old calendar, choose a wall calendar, your phone’s calendar application, or a computer program like iCal, you’ll want to include these types of dates:

  • Test dates, fees, and deadlines
  • College application due dates
  • Transcript deadlines
  • Important high school deadlines (eg. application requests)
  • College visits
  • Important events (eg. graduation)

And of course you can use this same calendar to remember important academic timings like homework, tests, and senior projects.

As we proceed, we will reference and continue to add to your deadline calendar. For example, you might need to think about…

Early decision or early action?

If you’re applying for early decision (ED) or early action (EA), you’ve got to have test scores, transcripts, and complete application sent on to colleges early (obviously). Most are due by mid November.

But what are early decisions and early actions?

Basically, early decision and early action options are for students who know they want to attend one particular school. A student using these options applies early, can get accepted earlier, and sometimes have a better chance of getting admitted.

The downside however, is that the early decision plans are binding. If you make an early decision, you must attend that college if you’re accepted.

Early action plans are similar, except you can wait until spring to commit if you so choose. Both plans allow you to apply to other schools just in case you don’t get accepted to your first choice.

For a complete rundown on all your admissions choices, explore our Guide to College Admissions Options. But no matter which option you choose, don’t forget to update your calendar!

Letters of Recommendation

We briefly touched on beating the letter of recommendation rush in the spring of your junior year, but most students wait until senior year to ask teachers, administrators, counselors, or coaches for letters of recommendation. If you didn’t get to it back then, now’s the time to beat down some doors for your recommendation letters.

Now that it’s your senior year and everyone is asking for recommendations, you might need to change your strategy:

  • Make a strong connection with a teacher or counselor before asking for a recommendation letter. Their letter will be more compelling if they know and like you as a student and a person.
  • Fill out your name and address, and the school name on each form before handing them out to teachers.
  • Coaches and community leaders can make excellent recommendation writers.
  • Remember to provide all required forms, and a stamped, addressed envelope.
  • Always follow up with a thank-you note. These teachers are helping you out of the goodness of their hearts.

And don’t forget to update your calendar and set reminders so you don’t miss important recommendation letter deadlines!

Planning ahead or a little behind?
There's a section for you!

Related Tools and Checklists

High School Junior Timeline and Checklist
High School Senior Timeline and Checklist

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

SAT and ACT Test Dates and Deadlines: 2013-2014
The Admissions Process: What Are Colleges Looking For?
Organize Your College Application Process
See All College Applications and the Admissions Process Articles


Visit Our Student Center

Get on track!

Visit our Student Center

And find out everything you need to know about planning for college.