When to Start Planning for College Admissions

The college admissions process is one of the most important—and daunting!—aspects of a student’s high school experience. 

The journey begins with students thinking about where they might want to go to college and ends with deciding which school to attend—with many stops along the way. Tasks range from building a college list and submitting standardized test scores to writing a personal statement and filling out college applications. Understandably, many students feel overwhelmed by such a massive undertaking. 

Parents of college-bound students often ask us when they should start thinking about the college admissions process. It’s a great question—so let’s dive in! 

Getting the Timing Right for College Admissions 

While it’s technically never too early for high school students to begin thinking about college admissions, no specific actions are required until junior year. Ambitious freshmen and sophomores can certainly prepare for what’s to come, but getting started too early typically isn’t the best use of their time and effort—so much can change between freshman and junior years! 

Once students reach 11th grade, it’s time to get moving. Graduation day may seem far away, but it will be here before they know it. Getting a head start on college admissions allows students to maintain a steady pace and ensures that they don’t leave critical tasks until the last minute

College Admissions Timeline  

Students have many moving parts to keep track of during the college admissions journey. Some of the pieces overlap, while others must be completed sequentially. Here’s the general timeline most students follow:

Early Spring of Junior Year to Early Fall of Senior Year 

  • Research colleges and make a college list 
  • Decide on application time frames (standard vs early decision)
  • Prep and take standardized tests
  • Request and confirm recommendations 
  • Brainstorm, draft, and refine personal essay


Fall of Senior Year 

  • Develop supplemental essays 
  • Fill out basic applications 
  • Report academic information


Fall to Winter of Senior Year
 

  • Report extracurricular information 
  • Proofread and submit college applications 
  • Apply for financial aid 
  • Interview 
  • Decide between acceptances


We advise students to break down each piece into manageable chunks, setting clear deadlines for themselves to help them get each step done. 

College Admissions Support 

Many students benefit from one-on-one support during the college admissions process. At Signet, our experienced admissions consultants can help students navigate this journey from start to finish, providing invaluable guidance in key areas such as: 

  • College application planning, review, and feedback
  • Academic and extracurricular guidance 
  • School or program selection 
  • Personal essay development 
  • Interview preparation 
  • . . . and more!


For additional information on the college admissions process, check out our
Guide to College Admissions. Ready to start a conversation about college admissions consulting? Feel free to reach out!

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