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Fall Checklist for Prospective College Students

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

There are many things to consider when entering the college application process. As a student, you more than likely have upcoming deadlines for scholarship applications and college applications, among other things. This is a time of change that can feel uncertain and overwhelming. Some things are not the same as last year, so there is a lot to look out for.

Applying to Colleges

There are many different types and levels of applications you can complete for each school. Some schools use the Common Application (aka Common App) or Coalition Application, and some do early action or early decision. Each deadline may vary depending on the school and the type of application. For each upcoming academic year, Common App opens for the following year’s applications on August 1st. For early decision, November 1st is the general date that the application is due. Early decision means that you will find out if you were accepted into that school before most people. If accepted, it is binding which means that you have to commit to that school. Early action has the same deadline as early decision, but the difference is you are not bound to go there. For most schools, regular decision applications are due around January 1st.

Talking to your Current Counselors

Normally, talking to your counselors isn’t a hard task, but because of the pandemic, it has become more difficult. If you are taking all virtual classes, make sure to send emails to your counselor with any questions you may have and request your letters of recommendation. Some schools require a letter of recommendation from counselors specifically, so it’s good to have a relationship with them, if possible. If you have in-person classes, find out if the counselor has office hours, so you can go and see them and ask any questions you may have.

What To Do When You Can't Tour In Person

Submitting Test Scores

Testing dates for the ACT and SAT are usually around February and March but may be different for the region where you live. This is another example of how COVID-19 has changed things. Because of the virus, many schools are now test-optional since it is difficult for students to take the test. The chances of getting into a school that is test-optional are roughly equal to the chances of getting into a school after having submitted your test scores. Schools don’t only look at your test scores, they also look at achievements, GPA, extracurriculars, recommendation letters, community service, work experience, and more. Overall, colleges and universities want to see if a student is well-rounded.

Applying for Scholarships

Many people need financial help to attend college. Scholarships are a great resource to help pay for college. You should start researching and completing scholarships before or during the application process. You should also keep track of the ones that you applied for or are going to apply for. 

Visiting Campus

Campus tours are yet another thing affected by COVID-19. You are most likely not going to be able to go to the campus for a visit but if you do, don’t be afraid to ask questions and take notes, so you can remember details later. You can also do virtual tours by going to their website and signing up, or on some occasions, you don’t have to sign up to take the tours. Regardless of the type of tour, be sure to pay attention, because the information they are giving you is useful.


In the end, make sure that you are aware of all due dates, so you won’t have to stress. When things become last minute, that’s when we start to get anxious, but as long as you have a plan, you’ll be just fine.

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Author: Erin White

Erin White is a high school senior who plans to major in Biology next year in College. She is a member of her school’s Principal’s Advisory Council, the Tri-M Music Honor Society, and will be serving as a peer tutor in biology. She spends her time playing the piano, singing with different choirs, and taking ballet lessons. She is also passionate about helping others, making friends, and meeting new people. Follow her on instagram @truly.erin.