Kate Sundquist 6 min read Applying to College

Senior Year of High School Is Here! Now What?

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It’s senior year! You’ve got your school supplies packed and ready to go, you’ve prepped for fall sports and extracurriculars, and you’re excited to hit the ground running and get this finale started.


You also, no doubt, have college applications on your mind. There’s a lot to keep track of as your final year of high school gets rolling. You’ll need to juggle taking standardized tests, writing personal statements, gathering teacher recommendations, and meeting application deadlines. It sounds like a lot, and it is, but if you start the year with a clear picture of what needs to happen when, you’ll stay on track and might even get ahead of the game.


In this post, we’ll outline the most important things that need to happen during the first semester of senior year. From testing to hitting that all-important SEND button on your applications, we’ve got you covered. If you need an overview of what you have to get done this fall, don’t miss these tips.


We Know What You Did Last Summer (Or At Least We Hope We Do)

Yes, summer was a breeze, but there were still some things you could get started on to get ahead. First of all, you hopefully finalized your college list over the summer. If you started the school year with a clear idea of which colleges you’ll be applying to, you’re already ahead of the game.


Next, there was a late-August SAT administration date that you might have considered if you’re planning to apply Early Decision 1 (ED-1) to any schools and think that you may need to take two more SATs. If you missed it, don’t worry. There are more upcoming tests so you’ll get another shot.


Here are the calendars for important standardized tests that you may wish to schedule for the fall. The exact dates change each year, but the calendars are kept current on these websites.


Now is the time to get planning:



Your College App To-Do List for September

The school year is getting started. Spend some time settling in and getting a handle on all the academics and extracurriculars you have going on.


Also, take a look at your strategy for tackling standardized tests. There is an ACT date in September, and there are upcoming registration deadlines for the October ACT and SAT. If you aren’t sure which, if any, to take, talk with a guidance counselor or consider a CollegeVine Mentorship Program to help you plan the rest of your senior year.


Finally, now is the time to brainstorm topics for your personal statement and other application materials. If you’re planning to apply ED-1, you should begin writing the first draft of your essay and start to chip away at your common application, if applicable.


Your College App To-Do List for October

Now that the school year is truly up and running, things are about to kick into high gear. October is the month when the college application season really starts to get busy.

Some Things That All Seniors Need to Consider During October

All students should check with their guidance counselors by October 12 about completing the Naviance or guidance counselor brag sheet, if applicable. These tools help to guide your counselor as he or she writes about you. Preferences for these will vary by guidance counselor, so be sure to ask ahead of time. Also, now’s the time to schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor to pass along any notes you would like them to mention in their recommendation letter.


Continue to keep standardized test schedules in mind. Both the SAT and ACT have test dates in October, and registration deadlines are approaching for the November SAT. If you’re done taking your tests, you can send your scores to schools now.


Finally, if you’re going to be applying for financial aid, you’ll need to register for the CSS/Financial Aid profile by October 15.

Some Things That Students Applying ED-1 Need to Consider During October

If you’re applying ED-1 anywhere, you need to complete the first draft of your personal statement in early October. You should also confirm teacher recommendations with the teachers with whom you ideally spoke last spring about providing them.


By mid-October, you should be finishing up the second draft of your personal statement and making sure that your high school has everything it needs to send your transcript and records along with your applications. You should also go ahead and submit your standardized test scores, unless you are waiting for October or November scores.


If you aren’t sure which scores to send, check out these CollegeVine posts:



Finally, in the last week of October you’ll need to complete final edits to ED-1 applications, submit any art supplements to ED-1 schools (through Slideroom if using the common app), and confirm with teachers that ED-1 recommendation letters have been submitted.


You’re doing great, and you’re almost there!

Not sure how to get started with the Common App?

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Your College App To-Do List for November

By November, you’ll be deep into college application season. If you’re applying ED-1, you’re just about done with most things for that application, and if you’re applying ED-2 or regular decision, you’re going to take care of most remaining tasks this month.


For ED-2 and Regular Decision Applications, Take Care of These Things During November

If you need to take another standardized test, you’ll need to register for the December test administrations, so don’t miss the registration deadlines. These are your last chances for scores to reach schools in time for ED-2 and regular application deadlines.


By mid-November, you should complete the first draft of your personal statement and confirm teacher recommendations with the teacher with whom you spoke about them during the spring semester.


By the end of November, you should complete the second draft of your personal statement. Keep in mind that some schools, including UC schools, have November 30 or December 1 application deadlines. Be sure to check these well ahead of time so that you know what to expect.


For ED-1 Applicants, Consider These Things During November

Application deadlines are here! Most ED-1 applications are due November 1-15. Don’t miss these important dates.


If you took an October or November standardized test, you’ll need to rush these scores for ED-1 schools beginning around November 15.


And now? You sit back and wait for your decisions to come back!


Your College App To-Do List for December

By now, you’ve reached the home stretch. What seemed like so much to juggle at the beginning of the year is now finally all starting to fall into place.


If You Applied ED-1 Anywhere, You Can Expect Those Decisions Back by Mid-December.


For Students Applying ED-2 or Regular Decision, Here’s What Your December Should Include

During the first weeks of December, you should have your personal statement go through one final edit to catch any typos before you submit it. Also, consider the early December SAT and ACT dates if you’re still trying to get your scores up. This will be your last chance for scores to reach schools in time for ED-2 and regular decision deadlines.


In mid-December, confirm with your high school that your transcripts and records are being sent out to all regular decision and ED-2 schools. Also, send all standardized test scores and prepare for alumni interviews, if applicable.


By December 15, submit any art supplements for any remaining applications.


If you took December tests, you’ll need to rush those scores as soon as they’re released, usually around December 20.


Finally, know all of your application deadlines. Most ED-2 deadlines fall between December 15 and January 1, and most regular decision deadlines fall between January 1 and February 1 unless they are rolling admissions. Regardless of your application deadlines, if you’ve followed our handy CollegeVine guide to your first semester of senior year, you’ll have tied up your loose ends by January and you’re ready to sit back and cross your fingers until those decisions are released.


If you’re heading into your senior year and planning how you’re going to tackle college applications with grace, consider the benefits CollegeVine’s Applications Guidance service. Here, you’ll be paired with a personal admissions specialist who can provide step-by-step guidance through the entire application process, including how to perfect your approach to the personal essay.


To learn more about getting organized for college applications, check out these posts:


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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.