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Navigating the College Application Timeline

Cue the applause: You aced the first week of school and are now (officially) a high school senior!

As you settle into new class schedules, new activities, and new routines, we know your college dreams now seem closer than ever. Whether you’re targeting the early application deadline or plan to aim for the standard deadline, consider this your unofficial guide to staying on track.

Early application deadline: November 1

Brisk November days may seem far off, but they’ll be here before you know it. If your sights are set on applying to college early, you’ll need to have all your materials — including test scores, letters of recommendation, and essays — submitted to the schools of your choice by November 1.

While it takes more focus and determination to apply early, we know you can do it! Applying to college early means you’ll also be notified of your admission decision early — typically by mid-December. Additionally, it’s a great way to highlight to the admissions committee your motivation, preparedness, and enthusiasm for the school.

Early action vs. early decision

Most schools you’ll apply to are probably “early action” schools, meaning that you’ll apply early and receive an admission decision early (accepted, denied, or deferred — more on that in a bit). Receiving an early acceptance to an early action school still gives you the flexibility to apply to other schools.

On the other hand, acceptance to an “early decision” school comes with a binding agreement to enroll there — plus the caveat that you must withdraw all your other college applications. You can only apply to one early decision school.

FYI: Common App has a step-by-step overview of early decision requirements and what’s needed from you, your parent/guardian, and your school counselor.

The bright side of “deferred”

We won’t sugarcoat it: Receiving an admission decision of “deferred” — especially to your dream school — can be a major bummer. But, it’s important to not let this get you down.

When your application is deferred, it means that it will be reviewed again in the spring. To bolster your chances and stand out from the crowd, try sending additional information (such as new letters of recommendation or mid-year grades) to prove to admissions staff why they need you at that school.

Standard application deadline: January 1

If a fall deadline feels overwhelming, don’t fret: The standard application deadline of January 1, 2023, gives you a few extra months to polish your materials.

Our recommendation? Make the most out of this time! There is plenty you can do to enhance your college applications between now and January.

  • Volunteer your time and talents to make a difference in your community. Not only will you feel good about helping others, but you’ll also meet new people and expand your network.

  • Explore career paths and ask to shadow professionals in various industries. (Your school’s career resource center is a good place to start here.) Who knows — you may learn a thing or two about yourself!

  • Get involved with extracurriculars. The best things in life happen when we step outside our comfort zones. Being active in your school community is sure to help you develop stronger teamwork, problem solving, and collaboration skills. It also gives you a valuable opportunity to connect with others going through the college application process.

There are a bunch of moving parts to navigate during this time of year. Do yourself a solid by mapping out the weeks leading up to January 1 and the tasks you need to accomplish in order to meet your goals. If 1:1 essay coaching is part of that to-do list, give us a shout; our team of seasoned communications pros is ready to help!

No matter if you’re applying by November or January, take a deep breath. You’ve got this — and we’re here to support you every step of the way.

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