Niche Resources

The Ultimate College Application Timeline: From Search to Acceptance

The college application process can be incredibly stressful. From campus tours to letters of recommendation to essays, you have a lot to keep track of. With so much to do, it’s hard to know where or when to start!

To make sure you’re on the right path, we’ve created the ultimate college application timeline. Through junior and senior year, follow along with our comprehensive blog and printable timeline to make sure you successfully go from college search to acceptance!

Junior Year

A black and white illustration against a cream background. On the left is a scantron test with a pencil. On the right is a school with a flag that says "visit"

September – January

March – June

A blue and white illustration on a cream background. On the left is a boy looking through a telescope. In the middle are dollar bills. On the right is a calendar.


  • Get summer experience. Spend your summer wisely by volunteering, getting a job, job shadowing, or participating in a summer college program or camp. Your best bet to impress schools is to do something relevant to your interests, skills or goals.
  • Brainstorm ideas for your personal essay, AKA personal statement or Common App essay. This is your time to share something about yourself to your prospective universities. Get the creative juices flowing.
  • Talk with parents or guardians about who’s paying for college and how. It can be a touchy subject, but it’s best to hash out the financial responsibilities before you get too far along in your search. Work your way through our financial aid checklist for the most productive convos.
  • Start researching scholarships. A good place to get started? Niche’s list of college scholarships, of course.
  • Get your FSA ID. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines your eligibility for student financial aid. Even if you think your family won’t qualify, submit a FAFSA. Create a username and password (FSA ID) on the FAFSA website to get started. The first day you can file is Oct. 1.
  • Narrow down your list of colleges.


Senior Year

A blue and white illustration on a cream background. On the left is a computer form asking for name and DOB. Next is a computer sending an email into a file. Next is a girl sitting at a computer with the word "apply" on it. To the right is a phone and computer tab with the words "send" and "submit"


  • Follow up with recommenders. Follow our guide to reminding your recommenders and you’ll have your letters of recommendation in no time.
  • Continue narrowing down your list of colleges. Trim your list down to the 5-10 colleges that you love the most. Be strategic: Choose at least two safety schools, several target schools, and one or two reach schools.
  • Retake the SAT/ACT (if needed). If you weren’t happy with your previous SAT score, now is the time to take it again.
  • Complete your CSS Profile, if required by any of your schools. Here’s the most up-to-date list of schools that require a CSS profile. And here are all the ins and outs on how to create a CSS Profile—and why.
  • If applying to a University of California (UC) school, draft your early application. UC deadlines are earlier than most. All apps are due Nov. 30.
  • Keep researching and applying for scholarships. Explore 5 scholarships you can apply to right now. No joke.



  • If applying to a UC school, finalize your supplemental essay.
  • If applying to a UC school, submit your application. The deadline is Nov. 30.
  • Finalize college list. Hear a student’s perspective on how to tackle and trim down your college list.
  • Edit supplemental essays.
  • Search and apply for more scholarships. Consider this your friendly reminder!


A blue and black illustration on a cream background. On the left is a dollar bill with a smily face on it. In the middle is a letter that says "you're accepted!!!" On the right is a cat under a banner that says "finish"

January – February

March – April


  • Make a final decision by May 1. Yes! You did it. After you notify your school (and let the others know you’re heading elsewhere), it’s time to celebrate!
  • Notify your supporters of your decision—and thank them! They’ll be so happy for you. A note, a gift, a high five—just let them know you appreciate their support. Here’s a rundown of all the people you should be thanking.

Download The Ultimate College Application Timeline PDF!

Author: Lissett Bohannon

Lissett Bohannon earned her BS in Psychology from the University of Idaho and her Masters in Education from UT Austin. She has worked at every level of education from teaching first grade to working in higher ed at UT Austin. The majority of her experience and passion lies in her work as a high school counselor. In January 2020, she started a social media platform “ThatSchoolCounselor” to help students navigate their journey through high school and plan for their future. With over 120K followers on TikTok and over 97 million views on her hashtag #thatschoolcounselor, she reaches students at a national level. She is currently enjoying her role as the Niche School Counselor and resides with her family in Austin, TX