Month by Month Plan for a Successful College Application Process

Congratulations on making it to senior year! There are a lot of aspects that are important to consider and it is great to plan ahead as well. There are a lot of deadlines and dates to keep track of so make sure to get organized with all of your different applications. I recommend keeping track of due dates on google calendar and for long-term deadlines to use an excel spreadsheet.

June—August: The summer before senior year- make sure to use it as a time to relax, but also accomplish some productive things so that you’re not overwhelmed in September.

  • Apply to fly-in programs. These are programs that you can apply to, as a senior or sometimes a junior, where school’s will cover all the costs of having you visit their campus. It’s a great way to get to see campuses across the country at no or greatly reduced costs.
  • Start considering which schools you want to apply to and make a list with your rationale for picking the different schools. Do not base your decision solely off of your friend or significant other applying to a certain school – a lot can happen after graduation so it’s important to do what is best for you.
  • Make sure to apply to “back up” schools and community colleges. Sometimes financial aid packages can make 4 year colleges far too expensive (or make you take out loans). Avoid loans for undergrad and break the stigma of attending a 2-year institution and then transferring!
  • Make sure to see if you qualify for any fee waivers! These will help you to determine how many schools you can apply to without breaking the bank. Application costs for schools usually are around $75-100 and once you register there are often added costs of $300-400. Make sure to budget for this!
  • Start thinking about your narrative. What kind of person are you and what kind of person do you want to become.

September—November: Early Application Crunch Time

  • Give your letter of recommendation writers ample time to compose their letters for you. If a teacher is reluctant about writing a letter of rec- ask someone else. It can be a huge detriment to your application if you have a neutral or even negative letter of recommendation.
  • Keep track of all the required paperwork for each school and make sure you submit everything by the deadline. Make reminders on your phone to keep on track!
  • Work on writing you supplementary essays and expand upon your character. Make sure to add to what your application already shows.

November 1st: Early Decision/Early Action deadline for most colleges

November—December: More Deadlines and Finals

  • Make sure to keep up with your schoolwork because you want your grades to stay as high as they were before senior year. It is rare, but students can get their admittance rescinded for a drop in grades.
  • Work on Regular Decision applications

Mid-December: Early Decision/Early Action decisions released

January 1stRegular Decision deadline

January—April Scholarship Search

Make sure to look for scholarships that will NOT impact your financial aid. Local scholarships are a great way to do that because they often present you with the check rather than mailing it to your institution.

  • Start locally. I know I started with clubs that I was involved in and local organizations I had volunteered at. I ended up receiving a scholarship from Key Club and from a local STEM company.
  • Look for national and reputable scholarships. These are very very competitive, but earning them will be a great accolade that you can list even for graduate school applications. These often also come with added benefits such as travel to an award conference, alumni connections or tutoring upon matriculation.
  • Keep track of scholarship deadlines and when the results are released in a spreadsheet. This will help you keep track of what you’ve applied to and what you still need to work on.

April—May: 

  • Compare the Cost of Attendance and your official financial aid award. Communicate with schools to see if they can offer you additional aid. Some will match offers from other institutions of a similar caliber.
  • At the end of the day, do NOT go into debt for an undergraduate degree. It is exceedingly more and more difficult to pay back student loans and you will likely need to take more substantially sized loans later on.
  • Weigh out the pros and cons of attending different schools you were accepted to. Be honest with yourself and with your finances.

May 1st: Make your final decision and submit an enrollment deposit to your school. Email or call to see if the deposit can be waived if this would be a financial burden.

June—August: Plan and Meet New People

  • Meet new friends and roommate(s) via Facebook Groups and instagram.
  • Make a list of what items you will need for your dorm and what will be provided.

Free College Application Mentoring :

  1. College Point
  2. Matriculate
  3. Strive For College

    People have mixed opinions on the efficiency of these different companies, and I personally did not have a good experience with the first two. I would recommend searching around for different organizations and especially for local organizations as they are more likely to give you personalized help.

Sources:

https://admissions.wustl.edu/Financial_Aid_Scholarships/First_Year_Academic_Scholarships

https://blog.prepscholar.com/colleges-with-full-ride-scholarships

Published by Magda Wojtara

Magda Wojtara is Junior at the LSA Honors College at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor on a pre-med track with a major in Neuroscience. In her free time, she write articles, volunteers at a chronic pain outpatient facility with UM Medicine, does research, competes in HOSA, and, of course, enjoys photography and singing. In her spare time she manages her own travel and lifestyle blog: @journeythedestiantion on instagram and journeythedestination.weebly.com

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