There's a lot to do before you start school. This calendar shows you, month by month, how to stay on track.
Our planning-for-college calendar starts with your junior year. If you are a senior, scroll down to next September, but read the junior year lists to make sure you've done the groundwork.
September (junior year)
- Discuss college with your family: Talk about schools, finances, majors, your future.
- Review your courses with your school guidance counselor.
- List questions to ask school reps at college fairs.
- Register for the PSAT.
- Get and stay organized: Create files for applications and correspondence. Set up a calendar to track dates and deadlines.
- Get a professional-sounding email address: Use something based on your name or hobby; nothing cutesy or eyebrow-raising.
October–November (junior year)
December (junior year)
- Review your PSAT results with your counselor.
- Talk with your college friends about their schools.
- Take the SAT and ACT (at least once).
January (junior year)
February (junior year)
March (junior year)
- Plan campus visits.
- Generate a list of at least 10 institutions you could attend.
- Contact the financial aid office those schools to discuss payment options.
- Keep up college discussions with your family and counselors.
- Estimate how much various colleges will cost.
April–May (junior year)
- Select senior year classes. Check with your counselor to ensure your courses meet college requirements.
- Start visiting colleges.
- Take the SAT and/or ACT, if necessary.
- Take Advanced Placement (AP) tests, if necessary.
- Line up a summer job to earn extra money.
- Meet with your high school counselor if you are considering a military academy or an ROTC scholarship.
- Improve your reading and vocabulary skills.
- Continue searching for scholarships and ways to pay.
- Combine vacation plans with campus visits.
- Start working on your college application essays.
- Talk to people in interesting careers. See how they got there and what they do every day. Ask yourself if you would like to follow the same path.
- Decide who you’ll ask to write letters of recommendation.
- Talk with college friends home on break about their schools.
- Discuss your classes, college plans, and test scores with your high school counselor.
- Request college applications from the admissions office. Or use College Answer's Online Application Search to see if your school's form is online.
- Arrange campus visits.
- Register for the October SAT/ACT, if necessary.
- Continue to search for free money (scholarships and grants) and other ways to pay.
- Run Sallie Mae's free scholarship search.
- Submit a CSS/PROFILE, if required.
- File copies of your applications and correspondence. Keep your calendar up-to-date; track important dates and deadlines.
October (senior year)
- Review your transcripts to verify that the information is correct.
- Send transcripts to your selected schools. Ask your counselor if you need help.
- Find out the application-of-choice used by each college (customized, Common App, online, etc.).
- Ask for letters of recommendation. Most admissions and scholarship applications require these letters.
- Get some pointers on writing admissions essays and scholarship essays.
- View some sample essay questions.
- Attend college fairs and financial aid nights.
- Candidates for early admission (early decision, early action, early admission, etc.) should complete and submit their applications. Early decision deadlines are often November 1 or 15. Investigate the pros and cons of this decision and get familiar with the early admission timeline on our early admission page.
November (senior year)
- Continue completing your college applications.
- Determine which financial aid forms the colleges on your list require. When in doubt, contact the financial aid office.
- Investigate state college information and programs.
- Search for other ways to pay.
- Get a jump on things by estimating your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
December (senior year)
- Submit school applications ideally by December 1.
- Review the steps to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). (Don’t submit your FAFSA before January 1. It will be returned unprocessed.)
- Take SAT or Achievement tests.
- Stay organized. Continue to keep copies of everything and track important dates and deadlines on your calendar.
January (senior year)
- Submit your FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible. Some student aid programs award funds on a first-come, first-served basis. Waiting too long to submit your FAFSA can be costly.
- Fill out and submit required financial aid forms. Follow the instructions carefully and make copies.
- If you have financial aid questions, contact your financial aid office.
- Familiarize yourself with state financial aid deadlines. They can differ from federal and school deadlines.
- Take advantage of education tax deductions and credits.
February–March (senior year)
April (senior year)
- Carefully analyze your award letters: Use College Answer's Online Award Analyzer.
- Decide on a school and send your tuition deposit (most colleges require a response by May 1).
- Notify the other colleges that you won't be attending. (Other students will be happy to take your spot.)
- Register for Advanced Placement (AP) tests, if necessary.
- Carefully follow the instructions in your acceptance letter. Along with important deadlines, these letters provide specific instructions on housing, financial aid, orientation, and more.
- Continue to mark your calendar with important deadlines.
May (senior year)
- Mail your official transcripts.
- Respond quickly to requests and return necessary forms. When in doubt, contact the financial aid office.
- Notify your financial aid office of additional funding you’ll get for college (scholarships and loans, etc.).
- Learn about borrowing responsibly.
- Consider a cosigner to help you get your student loan.
- If you take out a student loan, borrow only what you absolutely need to cover the cost of your education. When it's time to repay, you'll have other financial obligations, too.
- Save some of your graduation money for school.
June (senior year)
- Respond to requests from the college you will be attending. Keep copies of everything you send.
- Read and be familiar with your college catalog, website, and class schedules.
- Ask friends who are home from college for advice.
- Make travel arrangements, if necessary.
- Send thank you notes or emails to those who helped you get into college.
- Confirm housing arrangements and meal plans.
- Finalize your college budget.
- Apply for private student loans if more funding is needed.
- Follow up and finalize private loan applications.
- Notify the financial aid office of all scholarships and loans you will receive.
- Consider taking out a renter's insurance policy.
- Keep tracking numbers of any boxes you are shipping to school.
- Open a bank account near campus.
- Review your cell phone plan to limit roaming charges.
- Contact your roommate and coordinate what to bring.
- Review College Answer's Getting college advice to pick up a few freshmen tips from people around the country.
- Attend orientation.
- Pack and get ready for college!