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When to Start Applying for College

Grades K-12 are all preparation for a greater calling: college. But many students are so busy trying to survive the years of preparation that they don’t know when it is time to start applying for that next big step. How early is too early? How long can you put it off? We break it down below.

The ideal time to start your college applications is the summer before your senior year. Each college has its own unique set of deadlines, but most schools have an early deadline sometime around the month of November. Meeting this deadline allows you to find out whether or not you’ve been accepted earlier. Most schools also give you the option to submit your application at some point in January. In this case, you’ll typically find out your admission decision in April. (Read more about college application deadlines here.)

No matter what deadline you want to follow, getting things started during the summer before senior year gives you time to really prepare things. You have time to work and rework any essays or assignments, change your mind about your college selections, or take care of any surprises you find along the way.

Three months of school-free prep time will give you peace of mind when it comes to college applications. When the deadlines come, you’ll have everything taken care of, instead of rushing to get everything done at the last minute. When it comes to college applications, the last thing you want to do is run out of time. Putting your best foot forward is crucial. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to work on your applications.

How to Prepare for College Applications

Before you start applying, make sure you’ve taken care of everything that needs to be included with your applications. You should have your SAT or ACT test scores, any letters of recommendation, and, if possible, campus visits completed (or at least lined up). You should also have a list of several reach, match, and safety schools that you’re planning on applying to.

It’s recommended that you should start seriously looking at colleges during your junior year so you have time to prepare for and take the SAT or ACT and visit any schools you’re interested in. But if you still haven’t done these things when senior year starts, don’t stress! You still have time to get everything done by the time college applications are due.

So, when should you start applying for college? Ideally, the summer before senior year. This gives you enough time to refine your college applications and get all the supplemental materials – like essays and letters of recommendation – nailed down before deadlines are here.

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