Ultimate College Application Timeline for High School Seniors

Mike Brown Updated on October 11, 2017

Senior year is a time of competing priorities. You naturally want to make the most of your senior year at high school, but you have to keep one eye on the future at the same time.

So listen, we want to make the college application process as easy as possible for you. That way, you can enjoy senior year while also ensuring that you don’t miss any important deadlines for college.


Hang it up in your locker or on your bathroom mirror. Check it out at the beginning of every month so you can stay on track all year.


Double-check your class schedule for senior year to make sure that you’re meeting all your graduation requirements. Schedule a meeting with your school counselor if you have any questions. Remember, most schools will still accommodate some last-minute class changes, so think about if you want to add another class that might boost your chances for college acceptance.

Start researching colleges. Do some online research, and then narrow your selections down to several schools that you’d like to apply to. Start gathering admission and financial aid info.

Schedule college visits before school starts

Apply for scholarships. Yes, NOW. It’s not too early. Find out why the founder of How2WinScholarships says that summer is the best time to apply.


Select the colleges you plan to apply to. Add their application and financial aid deadlines to your calendar.

Continue looking for scholarships. Make a monthly (or even bi-monthly) stop in your high school’s guidance office to make sure you’re aware of any scholarship opportunities. You can also check out our resources for financial aid by state.

Register for SAT, ACT, or SAT subject tests if you still need to take them

Don’t coast! Stay in extra-curricular activities or join new ones in your senior year. Schools look at your senior-year activities. Be sure to snag leadership opportunities when you can.

Get your FSA ID. (Wait … what is that? Glad you asked.) Your Federal Student Aid ID allows you to submit your federal financial aid applications online, and it can act as your legal signature when accepting federal student loans. Get yours here.


Start working on college applications—early decision applications are usually due in November. Regular admissions are usually due January 1.

Apply for FAFSA. FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and it’s important that you fill it out. Why? Because FAFSA automatically qualifies for you federal grants, federal loans, and some state grants and scholarships. You can even apply for FAFSA before you send in your college applications. The earlier you apply, the better. Some grants and scholarships have deadlines that you could miss out on if you wait. And psst … here’s an insider tip: October 1 is the first date you can apply so do it NOW. (Note: FAFSA is notorious for being difficult to fill out. Check out our question-by-question FAFSA guide for help.

Go over your Student Aid Report (SAR) after you fill out the FAFSA. The SAR is a document that gives you basic information about your financial aid eligibility. It also lists all of your answers from your FAFSA form, so carefully review your information to ensure you get all the aid you’re eligible for.

Use our free NitroScore tool to compare costs at different schools. You can even see post-college salaries for different majors, as well as a projection of future student loan costs.

Fill out the CSS Profile (otherwise known as the College Scholarship Service Profile), if you’re applying to schools other than state schools or other public institutions. Many private institutions use this in-depth financial form to determine financial aid.

Take or retake the SAT or ACT if you need to

Ask teachers for letters of recommendation. Be sure to give them stamped envelopes, along with your recommendation forms already filled out with your name, school name, and major.


If you haven’t applied for FAFSA, do it now. Again check out our question-by-question FAFSA guide for help.

Take SAT subject tests. (Do you need to take them? See this post from The College Board to find out more.)

Finish your college application essays. Need some help? Find out how to start a scholarship essay.

Arrange to have your high school transcripts sent to the colleges you’re applying to.

Send in college applications for schools that have November deadlines.


Before the holiday break, take a moment to wish your school counselor happy holidays. While you’re in his or her office, ask which scholarships you should apply for before the end of the year.

Take the SAT or ACT if you haven’t already. This is your final opportunity.

Send in those college applications! Many are due January 1.

January & February

That scholarship thing? Get on it! (Hey! Why not apply for ours? We award a $5,000 scholarship every few months. Learn more.)

Send in any remaining college applications

If the colleges you’re applying to require mid-year reports, arrange to have them sent in.


What’s the best way to get student aid? Say it with us: scholarships. Have you checked all of these scholarship resources?

Start looking for college acceptance letters and financial aid packages in the mail.

Get an apples-to-apples comparison of your costs for different schools by plugging your financial aid information directly into our college cost calculator.

Visit colleges that you’re considering.

Compare financial aid packages from different schools. Use our NitroScore tool to get a better sense of how the different financial aid offers will impact you in real-world dollars after graduation.


Still need college money? Tell your parents to apply for our Nitro Parent Scholarship. They could win $5,000 to put toward your college costs.

Notify the school you plan to attend and put down a deposit. Note: Many schools have a May 1 deadline for this notification.


If your financial aid wasn’t quite what you were expecting, find out to write a successful financial aid appeal letter.

Start applying for college loans. Remember to accept all grants and scholarships first, then federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans. If you still need college funds after that, check out our picks for the best banks for private student loans.


Congrats! You graduated! Do the happy dance

Complete the enrollment forms for the college you plan to attend

Continue to look for grants and scholarships to shore up funding


Still need college cash? Check out these tips for last-minute scholarship money.

Stay on top of deadlines for enrollment, course selection, and orientation

August & Everything After

Go rock your future!

Check back with us if you need more help with funding your college education

About the Author
Mike Brown

Mike is responsible for the editorial and marketing direction of Nitro. He has a history of helping people through his educational background—first as a teacher at the Pennsylvania State University and then through 15 years of development and marketing of education programs. Read more by Mike Brown

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