Parents can be a big help when it comes to keeping students on track when applying to colleges—though there is a fine line between lending a “helping hand” and becoming too involved.
This post will help you keep track of important dates and deadlines for your college applicant so you can check in with your son or daughter and make sure they’re checking items off their “to do” list when they should be.
Fall/Winter: Junior Year
- Take the PSATs.
This preliminary version of the SAT offers your student a chance to become familiar with the multiple-choice exam before the real thing.
- Start researching schools.
It’s never too soon to start exploring your options. Fall of junior year is a great time for your student to begin making a list of possible school choices.
Spring: Junior Year
- Narrow your list of schools.
As your student learns more about what he or she is looking for, begin narrowing the list down to top choices and “safety” schools.
- Set boundaries on what your family can afford.
Having the college cost talk early will help your student better understand his or her choices and what is and isn’t feasible for your family’s budget.
- Take the SAT (or ACT).
Now’s the time for the real deal. Encourage your student to take the SAT or ACT in the spring of his or her junior year—they’ll have plenty of time to retake it in the fall if they need to.
- Start visiting campuses.
Once the weather turns warm, take your son or daughter on a few trips to see the schools in person.
Fall/Winter: Senior Year
- Make a list of all the important deadlines.
Check important dates and deadlines for each of the schools on your son or daughter’s list—when application materials are due, when they must apply for scholarships, when the school must receive the FAFSA, and so on.
- Keep visiting campuses.
Continue to tour the schools on your list, and consider visiting some for a second time—visiting in the fall will give your son or daughter a first-hand look at what could be their near future.
- Retake the SAT or ACT if necessary.
If your child is unsatisfied with his or her SAT or ACT score, now’s the time to give it another shot.
- Start the applications.
College applications often have many components—a paper or digital application, personal essays or statements, letters of recommendation—so it’s a good idea to start these early.
- Apply for scholarships.
Do your homework and research every scholarship opportunity available to your son or daughter.
- Request school transcripts be sent to the colleges.
Don’t miss a deadline just because one piece of the application is missing! Transcripts can be sent directly from your child’s high school to the schools on his or her list.
- Request SAT and ACT scores be sent to colleges.
It’s easy to forget to send in the exam scores, especially if your child adds a school at the last minute, so make a note to yourself.
- Submit completed applications.
Triple check to ensure your child has submitted everything required by the college in order to be considered for acceptance—letters, transcripts, essays, exam scores, and so on.
Spring: Senior Year
- Fill out the FAFSA.
Most schools have a deadline of March 1, but it varies. Some states have much earlier deadlines to be considered for state-based aid, so be sure to look ahead.
- Stay positive.
The wait for an acceptance letter can be a long one. Do your best to stay positive and focused on what’s ahead.
- Officially accept an admission offer.
Schools usually have a deadline of May 1 to accept an offer of admission, but this can vary. Weigh your options, talk it over, and make a decision.
Looking for more resources on how to help your student stay on track during the college application process? Be sure to download the Ultimate College Decision Timeline to stay on top of every step along the way: