With multiple steps and deadlines to keep track of, the college application process can be overwhelming, which is why we’ve created this timeline and checklist to help you stay on track and put your best foot forward when applying to your dream schools. This timeline begins the summer leading into your sophomore year of high school...
Download our one-page PDF outlining the steps you need to take, and when. Print it out and refer to it as you go through the college process!
- Think about what you're looking for in a college. Whether it is size, majors, activities, sports, or other considerations, you should start thinking about what's important to you in a college.
- Talk to your family. Your family is an important part of this process as well. Depending on your situation, your family's thoughts might influence where you go to college. How do they feel about you moving far away from home? Will they contribute to the cost of college?
- Create a list of colleges you’d like to learn more about. Research different colleges you may be interested in and get a feel for what jumps out to you. Utilize online resources and materials you may have been sent by different institutions.
- Start talking to your school counselor. Your school counselor is a great resource to help shape which colleges will be a good fit for you. It's also important for your counselor to get to know you. Most colleges ask for a counselor recommendation letter, and a letter that can speak personally about you will carry a lot more weight than a generic letter listing your accomplishments.
- If you didn't do this in sophomore year, start talking to your school counselor. Your school counselor is a great resource to help shape which colleges will be a good fit for you. It's also important for your counselor to get to know you. Most colleges ask for a counselor recommendation letter, and a letter that can speak personally about you will carry a lot more weight than a generic letter listing your accomplishments.
- Get connected. Start attending college fairs and/or college visits that occur at your high school or in your area. These are great opportunities to connect with universities and learn more about what they have to offer.
- Narrow down your college list. Once you have a good idea of what traits you want in a college, narrow your list down to those that satisfy what you're after. Start examining these schools closer–you'll want to figure out which colleges warrant visiting in person. Review their tuition rates, distance from home, admission requirements, and application deadlines.
- Take challenging courses. In order to prepare yourself for the transition into college, be sure to start taking courses that will push you to work hard and further your knowledge in subjects you are passionate about.
Get involved in your school and community. Colleges want to see that you are passionate about what you are involved in–whether it be theater, athletics, community service, robotics, or art. Find your favorite activities and get involved.
- Visit your top schools. Visiting campus gives you the chance to picture yourself as a student. Many visits can be booked online, and some schools even offer fly-in programs if you’re traveling in from a long distance.
- Reach out to your admissions counselor. Introducing yourself is a great way to show your interest in the school. Many colleges record all contact you have with them and may refer to this information during the application review process.
- Familiarize yourself with how to apply. Determine if the colleges you’ll be applying to are members of the Common Application (a website where you answer certain application questions once, and your answers are sent to all schools you’d like to apply to), or if they have a different application of their own. Check with your admissions counselor to see if you’re eligible for application fee waivers.
- Decide on your essay topic. The essay is your chance to tell your story, and give your admissions counselor a glimpse of something about yourself that they won’t see anywhere else in your application. Start brainstorming meaningful ideas that are authentically you.
- Stay focused in school. Senioritis is a real thing. As you start preparing for college, high school might seem less important, however, many schools will actually check in to ensure you’re maintaining strong grades during your senior year.
- Finish up your essay. The essay is an influential part of your application. Don’t wait until the night before to start working on it, and don’t overlook questions asking why you’re interested in attending a particular college.
- Fill out the FAFSA and CSS Profile. If you’re applying for financial aid, most schools require the FAFSA, and some require both the FAFSA and CSS profile. Both are available on October 1 (and if you apply by WPI’s November 1 Early Application deadline and have your financial aid documents submitted, you’ll receive your financial aid package months ahead of schedule).
- Apply to college. WPI offers several different options for how, and when, to apply. Early Action I and Early Decision I deadlines are November 1, while Early Action 2 and Early Decision 2 are January 5, and our Regular Decision deadline is February 1.
- Review mail from your colleges. All the emails, letters, and pamphlets can be overwhelming, but they offer valuable glimpses into the community you’ll be entering into and what the colleges prioritize in education.
- Check in on financial aid. If you have any questions about your aid package, your financial aid counselor is here to help.
- Attend Accepted Student Day. Many schools offer events specifically for accepted students. They’re a great way to get any last-minute questions answered, talk with current students, and meet potential new classmates.
- Make your decision. U.S. colleges and universities have a universal deposit deadline of May 1. Find out the amount required to enroll at your college, and send in your decision.
- Enjoy the rest of your senior year. After the deposit deadline, your college will be in touch with next steps on housing, dining, and class registration. Pat yourself on the back and get ready for the exciting journey ahead. Congratulations!