The road to college is long – and
sometimes confusing. To help keep you on track, here's a
timeline of what college and
service academy applicants should be doing, and
Don't Forget: November 1 is the
Early Decision/Early Action
application deadline at many selective colleges and universities.
Our consultants can explain the differences
among early admission policies and help you understand how EA,
ED, and SCEA applications might affect your admission
chances and financial aid outcomes.
Click here to learn more about our services.
October and November provide your
next-to-last chance to take the SAT I, SAT II, and/or
the ACT in time for scores to be considered for next
Register now for the SAT Reasoning Test or the
ACT if you haven't already
taken a test or if you're unhappy with your previous score. Visit our
SAT and ACT Test
Preparation page for more information.
It is now feasible for most high
school students to take either the SAT or the ACT.
Based upon your unique profile, you may be better
off taking one test over the other – so don't
just arbitrarily choose to take the test that your
peers take. This is your future at stake. We've
worked with applicants who were admitted to
higher-tier schools precisely because they proactively
determined which test better suited their learning
Register for the SAT IIs if
you need to take subject tests.
Fall is the time for juniors to start thinking seriously about school selection.
Seniors should have already finalized their school choices.
Aim for a list of 8 to 12 schools that you
would be happy attending. Include a mix of reach
schools, 'good matches,' and safety schools. But remember –
apply only to as many schools as you can submit
well-prepared applications for. You'll
get better results by applying to 6 schools with
applications that reflect 100 per cent of your best
effort than you will by applying to 12 schools with
applications that each reflect 50 per cent of your
If you visit campuses in the
fall, try to avoid hectic periods like mid-terms and
finals. You'll get a better idea of campus life if
you time your visit for a quieter period.
If there's a college or university you're especially interested in, find out whether
a student ambassador or other school representative might be visiting your area
over the holidays.
Select coursework that will challenge and stimulate
you, but not overwhelm you.
look for applicants who stretched themselves in high
school. You'll be a stronger college applicant if
you take challenging classes. This will be even more
important to your admissions outcomes if your high
school is one of the many that no longer name
valedictorians or report class standing.
"Community service should clearly come from the heart
and not appear to have been motivated just by a desire to
'add another bullet point to the resume.'"
– Admissions Consultant Jessica Vertman. Jessica served on the admissions committee at Yale University.
Enjoy extracurricular activities that appeal to your
interests – but don't overdo it. Admissions
committees can sniff out applicants who only became
involved in the community in order to enhance their
college candidacies. Selective colleges will be more
impressed with evidence of a substantive
commitment to one or two activities than by a
long list of superficial memberships.
Extracurricular activities can be a great way to
show there's more to you than simply good grades and test
scores. With the proper strategizing, your
after-school activities could produce the 'wow'
factors you need to be successful at the very
competitive schools where the vast majority of
applicants clear the high academic qualifications
If you want to play sports in college, sign
up for appropriate NCAA-approved sports teams this
If you're applying to college this year, you should
begin formulating your story themes and identifying your 'wow' factors right away. Good ideas and
deep introspections cannot be rushed!
college admissions committees will be taking a hard, critical look at
your profile. You must do the same thing first. Only by understanding your candidacy from their perspective can
your weaknesses, highlight your strengths, frame your fit, and employ the 'wow'
factors that will differentiate yourself from the
many other highly qualified applicants in your demographic.
Your weaknesses. Sometimes it is best not to bring
attention to a weakness. Other times, it must be mitigated. Weaknesses can be
mitigated in the personal statement, addendum, or letters of reference.
Your strengths. You need to become a self promoter
without coming across as arrogant. You also need to prioritize your strengths as
you will not likely be able to highlight all of them in adequate detail within
Your story themes and 'wow' factors. What are the
most important points you need to make about your background, values, beliefs,
and experiences? Have you adequately
prioritized these points? If you attempt to convey too many different points,
you risk coming across as unfocused. You also risk not covering any of your points in adequate
detail to successfully distinguish your candidacy. Ask yourself what makes you unique in a
way that is going to make any admissions officer just really want to recruit you
to their school?
Your fit. Why are you a match made in heaven for the
specific school being targeted? Why will you be a better fit and contribute
more to the program and community than the other applicants? Does your
application convincingly argue that, if admitted, you will gladly attend the
If you are a freshman, sophomore, or junior, now is a good
take a critical inventory of your college candidacy. Will you clear the academic
qualification hurdles at the schools you are targeting? Would you benefit from
taking a summer enrichment program? Should you find some additional extracurricular
activities to improve your candidacy? (Remember, though, that you want to avoid
giving the admissions
committees the impression that you only got involved in these activities for
reasons of expediency).
Apply for admission to a service
academy between April of your junior year in high school
and not later than January of your senior year.
(Rolling admissions process)
You must also request a service academy
nomination from your respective Congressman and both
Senators in early spring of your junior year or as soon
thereafter. The Vice Presidential nomination deadline is
November 1st of the year prior to graduation.
Since many offices begin their processing in the summer
and early fall, the earlier you apply the better.
Decide now whether you want to apply to any schools
Early Action or Early Decision programs. Make sure you understand the
conditions and deadlines that each school sets. That
includes understanding whether EA/ED acceptances are binding, and
what, if any,
ramifications breaking such a commitment would have.
Maintain a set of folders with the
information you need for your applications. This
includes activity lists as well as notes about
extracurricular activities, paid employment and
volunteer service, and summer study. It's also a
good place to keep a list of which schools you
applied to, when, with reminders about what you still
need to do to complete your applications.
If you're applying to a school that accepts the
Common Application, consider whether a Common Application
submission could present you in a better light
than the school-specific application would. Also make sure
you understand whether you're also expected to
submit school-specific supplemental forms to the
Start working on your college
admission essays now. Begin
selecting essay topics that convey your optimal
story themes. View these essays the way the
admissions committees will – holistically, and as
part of your overall application, rather
a vacuum. Your topics should highlight your
strengths, mitigate any weaknesses you need to draw
attention to, and ensure that your candidacy doesn't look
like everyone else's. Don't worry about grammar in
the first drafts or you'll risk losing your focus.
Good ideas and deep introspections cannot be rushed, so don't wait any
longer to get to work! Our consultants can help you select your
content and carefully scrutinize each essay for
opportunities to advance your case to admissions
Think about who you want to write your letters of
recommendation. Smart applicants will make sure
their recommendations highlight their key strengths,
mitigate any weaknesses they need to address, and
substantiate their stories as necessary. Write up
the points that you want your recommenders to
discuss. Make sure
your recommenders understand where they need to send their
letters to, and by what date.
Our College Admissions Timeline page
will be updated on November 1.
Do you have questions about any of
the items you see here? Please call us at 1.800.809.0800
(+1 703.242.5885 outside the US and Canada)
us if you do. Our consultants can help you with school
selection, application strategies, application and
interview preparation, and all other aspects of the
college admissions process.