I’ve worked with dozens of students throughout their application processes. Having done it so many years, I’ve noticed patterns for who feels the most confident and assured, and who feels stressed and uncertain. All of this has to do with planning properly and developing time management skills to make sure all the components of the application have time and space to develop. I created my ideal timeline to allow students to see how each item unfolds and when it should be prioritized. When students stick to it, they are able to spread their work out over many weeks and avoid a sudden overwhelm of items to get done. They are the ones who consistently do the best work and feel more confident.
One of the tricks is starting early. Doing as much as you can in the summer months frees your fall, when you will also have plenty of things to get done for school. Admittedly, the summer months can be incredibly busy as well, but sticking as closely to the timeline as possible will help to guide you through the application process. Here is my ideal timeline from start to finish of the application cycle:
Work on the Common Application Personal Statement essay
Why? This is one of the pillars of your application that will go to all universities you apply to. It can take time to make sure you’re writing on the right topic and taking the best approach, and then writing and editing it to your finished project. It’s ideal to have this completed before you start school so you have a major item completed.
Why? It is okay if you are still narrowing down your absolute final list, but over the summer, if not sooner, you should begin to research which colleges and universities you might allow to. You might ask yourself broader questions about your preferences, like what size, geographic location, majors, activities, types of university, etc., so you can narrow you’re your list as well. Knowing where you might apply will also allow you to visit schools or attend virtual information sessions, which is vital to show interest to your universities. You will also need to know their individual deadlines for supplemental essays and applications.
Why? The activities are another pillar of the application. Getting them done early ensures you’ve given them attention to be sure they are descriptive and done properly. I
Fill Out the Common Application
Why? The Common Application asks you to fill out basic information about yourself. To save time later in the application cycle, fill this out early to get it done. As your activities and personal statement are completed, you can also add them. Once you complete the basics and submit it, additional requirements per your universities will appear, like supplemental essays, that you can then begin to work on.
Finalize school list
Why? The sooner this is done, the better. I’ve found that students who postpone this process into October or later begin to feel stressed about looming deadlines and a sudden time crunch. It can also minimize your chances of visiting or attending information sessions.
Focus on EA and ED applications and essays
Why? If you’re deciding on applying EA or ED, these applications will have deadlines in October or November depending on the school. I recommend making a document or spreadsheet with deadlines, requirements, and prompts so that you can easily track this. Because these applications can creep up quickly, it’s important to prioritize your time accordingly. Taking advantage of EA and ED options when available can also enhance your chances for admissions, so you don’t want to miss these deadlines.
*What’s the difference between EA and ED?
EA: Early Action: Essentially, this means that you are completing your application early. You’re telling the university, hey! I’ve made up my mind early and I really want to attend your school! Look at me, getting things in early! If a school offers EA, there’s really no reason not to apply with this option.
ED: Early Decision: This is the binding option, where you are telling a university, hey! You are my absolutely top choice school and if you admit me, I’ll definitely enroll! This tends to be a more self-selective pool because if you get it, you’re attending. This can be an excellent option for more competitive universities and your dream school.
Complete supplemental essays
Why? Regular Decision applications will generally be due sometime in January. Some will have rolling deadlines, and some will even extend into February! Keep track of your deadlines in your document or spreadsheet and prioritize them by which deadline will be due the soonest. Even if deadlines are all the way in January, there’s no reason not to get them done a little early! The holiday break is also an excellent time to get them finished.
This timeline, of course, can be flexible to your schedule. If you know that you have a big sporting event in October, then try to frontload your EA and ED essays in September so they get the attention they need. And even if you perhaps didn’t start doing too much heavy research over the summer or writing your application, that’s okay too! At the heart of my ideal timeline is prioritizing what must get done for all universities (personal statement, activities, Common App information) and then breaking it down by their individual deadlines. I hope it serves as a helpful guide to see how the application timeline unfolds and where you are in that process. Good luck!
I’ve helped many students manage their time and essays! Reach out for a free consultation for one-on-one guidance.