Why Is A College Timeline Important?

February 15, 2023
By AdmissionSight

Why Is A College Timeline Important?

College is a significant milestone in many people’s lives, and for good reason. A college education can provide many opportunities for personal and professional growth, as well as pave the way for a successful career. However, navigating the college admissions process can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to get lost in the sea of deadlines and requirements. That’s why it’s essential to create a college timeline to stay on track and make sure you’re hitting all the necessary milestones.

What is a college timeline?

What is a college timeline? A college timeline is a plan that outlines the steps and deadlines involved in the college admissions process. The timeline typically starts in a student’s junior year of high school and includes key milestones such as researching colleges, taking standardized tests, submitting applications, and making decisions about which college to attend.

The purpose of a timeline is to help students stay organized and on track throughout the college admissions process, as it can be a complex and overwhelming process with numerous deadlines and requirements. By breaking down the process into manageable steps, a timeline can help students prioritize tasks and ensure they are completing the necessary components of their applications on time.

College student looking away from the camera.

A timeline can also help students avoid last-minute stress and ensure they have enough time to make informed decisions about which schools to apply to and which offer to accept. Overall, a timeline is an effective tool to help students manage the college admissions process and achieve their goals.

Why is it important to have a college timeline?

Why is it important to have a college timeline? It is important because it helps students stay organized and on track throughout the college admissions process. Applying to college can be a complex and overwhelming process with numerous deadlines and requirements, and a timeline can help break down the process into manageable steps.

A timeline can help students prioritize tasks and ensure they are completing the necessary components of their applications on time, such as taking standardized tests, requesting letters of recommendation, and submitting applications. It can also help students avoid last-minute stress and ensure they have enough time to make informed decisions about which schools to apply to and which offer to accept.

What is the ideal timeline for the college application process?

What is the ideal timeline for the college application process? We have prepared a sample guide you can follow to prepare for your academic journey:

Sophomore Year

It’s never too early to start thinking about college. During your sophomore year, you should begin to research potential colleges and universities, including their academic programs, extracurricular activities, and campus culture. You should also start preparing for standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT, by taking practice exams and identifying areas where you need to improve.

Junior Year

Junior year is when the college admissions process really kicks into high gear. During this year, you should take the necessary standardized tests, finalize your college list, and start visiting campuses. You should also start working on your college essays and refining your resume. It’s also a good idea to start thinking about who you might want to ask for letters of recommendation.

September – January

  • Draft a college timeline. This way you’ll know what you need to do to be successful in your application and land your dream school.
  • Go to fairs for colleges. College fairs, whether online or in person, can be a great place to get used to the college search process. Here is how to get the most out of college fairs.
  • Start studying for the PSAT and take it. Now is the time to take it if you haven’t already. College Board, which runs the PSATs, has everything you need to prepare.
  • Register for SAT/ACT. No one knows what will happen to the SAT and ACT tests in the future. Some universities have already stopped giving them (in part due to COVID-19). But for now, they are still a big part of getting into college.

March – June

Young woman using a laptop in a library.

  • Put together a list of colleges. Start with 15-20 schools, including safety, target, and reach schools, and then narrow them down later. Before you start adding colleges to your list, think about where they are, how much they cost, their reputation, and size, how selective they are, and if they have a good program for your planned major (if you know it yet).
  • Visit campuses and/or attend information sessions. On paper, college can look like a dream, but it’s not always like that when you get there. When you visit, check out the classes, the layout of the campus, the dining options, the dorms, and the social scene. Plan your trips well to get the most out of them. If you can’t go in person, look into options for a virtual visit. This would make a really good college timeline.
  • Explore possible majors. Some people think this is easy to do. For others, it just makes them nervous. When choosing a major, there are many things to think about.
  • Prepare for the SAT/ACT and take it. Before the test, you should know all the tips and tricks. We have a lot of good ideas for how to study for tests so that you can get the score you want.
  • Keep your grades up (or bring them up). College admissions teams pay the most attention to grades from the junior year. Put in that extra work so you can show off your best academic self.
  • Ask for letters of recommendation from your teacher or counselor. Ask your junior-year teachers or, if you already know what you want to major in, a teacher who teaches a subject related to your major. We also have some tips on how to get counselor recommendations. Ask weeks or even months in advance.


  • Get summer experience. Spend your summer wisely by doing things like volunteering, getting a job, job shadowing, or going to a college summer program or camp. The best thing you can do to stand out to colleges is to do something that fits your interests, skills, or goals.
  • Come up with ideas for your personal essay, also called a personal statement or a Common Application essay. This is your chance to tell the schools you want to go to something about yourself. Start thinking outside the box.
  • Talk to your parents or guardians about how and who will pay for college. It can be a sensitive subject, but it’s best to talk about finances before you get too far in your search. Use our financial aid checklist to help you have the best conversations.
  • Start looking into college scholarships.
  • Get your FSA ID. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) lets the government know if you are eligible for financial aid for college. Send in a FAFSA even if you think your family won’t qualify. Start by making an FSA ID, which is a username and password, on the FAFSA website. Oct. 1 is the first day you can file. This should always be included in your college timeline.
  • Cut down the number of colleges on your list.


  • Make a list of activities and honors. A high school resume will help you a lot when you start to fill out college and scholarship applications. List the things you’ve done, things you’ve accomplished, awards you’ve won, volunteer work you’ve done, and jobs you’ve had since ninth grade. List the things you did, the skills you learned, and/or the positions of leadership you held. Making a “brag sheet” can help you get ready for your personal essay, scholarship applications, alumni interviews, and more.
  • Write your essay about yourself. It goes without saying that it can be hard to write an essay.
  • Set up the necessary accounts for applications (Ex: Common App, Coalition App, ApplyTexas, UC Application). Each application account is used by a different college, so you’ll need to do some research to find out which application your potential colleges will accept.
  • Find out what kinds of deadlines you’ll have to meet. How you apply depends a lot on the types of admissions and the deadlines. Find out if you want to apply early action, early decision limited early action, or regular decision (most common).

Senior Year


Two students walking in front of a building.

  • Contact the people who gave you good reviews. Follow our guide on how to remind your recommenders, and you’ll have your letters of recommendation in no time.
  • Keep eliminating schools from your list. Cut your list down to the five to ten colleges you like best. Be strategic: Choose at least two safe schools, a few schools to aim for, and one or two schools to reach.
  • Try the SAT or ACT (if needed). If you didn’t like how you did on the SAT the first time, now is the time to try again.
  • If any of your schools ask you to, fill out your CSS Profile.
  • If you want to go to a University of California (UC) school, get your application ready as soon as possible. Most deadlines are later than the ones at UC. All apps are due Nov. 30. Take note of this when you are drafting your college timeline.
  • Don’t stop looking for scholarships and applying for them.


    • Fill out your FAFSA and send it in. Send in your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as close to October 1 as you can. You’ll need a lot of financial documents, and in our full FAFSA guide, we tell you everything you need to know.
  • Complete your personal essay and list of things you want to do.
  • Write extra essays that are tailored to the college.
  • Finish your early decision or early action applications now.
  • Send in early applications or early decisions. Most deadlines for early applications and early decisions are November 1 or 15. Most of the time, the early decision deadline for the Common Application is November 1.
  • Get your transcripts from your school counselor. Each high school has its own rules, but you should ask for them at least two weeks before they are due.


  • Finish your supplemental essay if you are applying to a UC school.
  • Send in your application if you want to go to a UC school. Nov. 30 is the last day.
  • Finalize college list.
  • Edit supplemental essays.
  • Look for more scholarships and apply for them. This is just a friendly reminder!
  • Revisit your college timeline. It’s best to check if you missed anything!


  • Send your schools the results of your tests. You can choose who will get your score before or after the test. Here are the steps to sending in your SAT scores.
  • Look over letters of acceptance for early decision or early action. Celebrate if you’ve been accepted! If your application is put off, send a letter to show that you are still interested. If your application is turned down, look over your application and essay and decide if you want to make changes for future applications.
  • Finalize your supplemental essays.
  • Submit your regular decision applications. Before you do: Read our last-minute reminders. Most decisions have to be made by January 1 or January 15. Usually, the deadline for the Common Application is on January 1.

January and February

  • Send in mid-year reports on your grades. Some colleges ask for midyear or second-semester grade reports. If so, make sure your counselor has the right paperwork.
  • Prepare for alumni/admissions interviews and do them.
  • Try to get more grants. Most of the time, the internet is your friend.

March and April

  • Look over letters of acceptance.
  • If you were deferred or put on a waiting list, reach out and write a letter to show that you are still interested.
  • Send a letter of appeal if you get turned down.
  • Check out the packages of financial aid. If you like what they have to offer, that’s great! If not, you might want to ask for a better deal.
  • Choose your best schools.
  • Prepare for and take the AP tests. It could help you get ahead on your college credits.
  • Try to get more grants.


  • Make up your mind by May 1. Yes! You did it. Once you’ve told your school and everyone else that you’re going somewhere else, it’s time to party!
  • Tell your backers about your choice, and thank them. They will be thrilled for you. Tell them you appreciate their help with a note, a gift, or a high five.

Group of students talking while walking in the campus.

The college timeline is a critical component of a student’s academic journey. It outlines the necessary steps and milestones for students to successfully navigate their way through college, from the application process to graduation. A well-structured timeline can help students stay organized, manage their time effectively, and achieve their academic goals.

However, it is important to remember that every student’s journey is unique, and their timeline may vary based on individual circumstances and goals. Ultimately, a student’s dedication, hard work, and perseverance will play a crucial role in their success in college and beyond.

Learn more about how to best prepare for college by consulting with college admissions specialists like the ones found here in AdmissionSight. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process to get accepted to the top universities in the world. Feel free to set up an appointment today to book your initial consultation.




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