I published a College Admissions Calendar in early May and asked for suggestions of any missed items. Here’s the calendar, updated with suggestions [credited below]. I’ve added a couple of notes at the end for recommended parent-student discussions. Those are always fun.
For college admissions May 1st marks the New Year — the end of one college admissions year and the beginning of the next. This is a great time to look at what happens throughout the year for anyone on a path toward college.
- May 1 is the deadline for students to accept an offer from, and pay a deposit to, the college of their choice. Most, but not all colleges, that is. Here’s why (and no, it’s not for the benefit of the students): Random thoughts on May 1.
- First two full weeks of May: AP exams. All HS students taking AP courses take the exams at the same time.
- First three weeks of May: IB exams. All HS students taking IB courses take the exams at the same time. More information via the International Baccalaureate website, here.
- SAT & SAT Subject tests (aka SAT IIs) offered. Typically SATs are offered every month except April, July, August, and September. SAT Subject tests are offered every time SATs are offered except March, but not all subjects are offered each time. Specific details on APs, SATS, and SAT Subject tests can be found at the College Board’s website, Big Future.
- Parents and college counselors urge HS juniors to request recommendation letters from teachers before school lets out. (Note: typically teachers write the letters in the fall and upload them to the Common App interface after the student has specified his or her colleges. However, many teachers appreciate the advance notice and the opportunity to prep for the letters during the summer.)
- Also, before school lets out, rising seniors should find out how to get a transcript sent from the school during the summer. Some colleges will offer targeted students incentives, such as recommendation waivers, application fee waivers or even small scholarship offers, if they get the completed application to the college in early September.
- ACT tests are offered in June, September, October, December, February, and April. Specific details can be found at the ACT website.
- Orientation for new college students begins, this usually includes help with registration. Parents are usually invited and are offered their own orientation track.
- Parents of HS students may want to visit campuses while on summer road-trips.
- The summer before senior year brings opening day for coach/athlete communications. This NCAA pdf provides a calendar for 2012-13. Athletic recruitment adds an algorithmic level of complexity.
- AP scores are sent to exam-takers; exams are scored on a scale of 1 [low] to 5; 3 is considered a passing score. The more selective the college, the higher score required for credit. Some colleges do not provide credit, but may use the scores for placement. See college websites for each college’s AP credit policy. Here’s what UVa accepts in the College of Arts & Sciences.
- Parents and college counselors urge rising seniors to start drafting essays. Some students do. Read: How to Write a College Essay (in 10 Steps).
- Another summer task for rising seniors: investigate scholarship opportunities since many have fall or early winter deadlines. From a HS counselor, “This should start even in middle school. … It is NEVER too early to start searching for scholarships.”
- The Common App goes live for the new application season. Some students actually apply in August. (Nobody I know.) Bookmark this site: Common Questions for the Common App.
- For new college students: first tuition payment is required!
- Many HS guidance counselors provide detailed information to seniors, including how much time is required for transcript requests, recommendation letters, etc.
- Many HS guidance counselors will also provide guidelines on scholarship applications.
- Freshmen, sophomores and juniors may want to start thinking about community service opportunities, if they haven’t already. Many honor societies and scholarships require service time.
- Seniors should consider college visits. Many colleges have autumn visit days and may offer overnight stays.
- Earliest Early Admission and Early Decision deadlines occur. (Note: the 2012-13 Common App listed October 30 as the earliest application deadline. However, many college counselors will advise students to submit at least two weeks prior to the published deadline.)
- Many high schools offer PSAT/NMSQTs to sophomores (mostly for practice) and juniors (for National Merit Scholarship qualification).
- The October SAT date is typically the latest that will get scores reported to colleges for Early deadlines.
- Parents need to check financial aid requirements for early applications. Some will require an application in the fall. The CSS Financial Aid Profile, via College Board and required by most private universities, goes live October 1 for the following school year.
- Early application reading season for admissions, extends into January.
- Early applicants should prepare for the possibility of college interviews, either with admission officers or local alumni.
- Parents and college counselors may urge seniors to finish essays over Thanksgiving break. Some students do.
- The December SAT date is typically the latest that will get scores reported for regular deadlines.
- Early decisions start to be received in December. Some HS students face rejection for the first time. (Deal with it and move on.)
- Important: many college decisions will be provided via the college’s SIS, requiring the student to log-in. Keep a file of the log-in IDs used for different colleges.
- Important: now is when HS seniors need to check email regularly. See Calling All Texters: Read Your Email!
- December 31 is the deadline for the majority of regular admission applications.
- The new FAFSA goes live January 1st. Some families actually submit that day. (Nobody I know.) Read: Catch-22: How and When to Complete the FAFSA and Your Tax Returns.
- Regular application reading season for admissions officers, extends through March.
- Regular season applicants should prepare for the possibility of college interviews, either with admission officers or local alumni.
- Sophomores and juniors receive PSAT scores. Approximately three hours later they start to receive emails and marketing mailers from colleges.
- HS course registration may begin for the next school year.
- Summer enrichment opportunities often require applications by January or February. See a very long list our local school division provides here.
- Many colleges require the FAFSA submission by the end of February. Parents need to prepare preliminary, or draft, tax returns in order to submit the FAFSA. Bookmark this site: FAFSA FAQs.
- Regular admission decisions should be received by the end of March.
- Once parents file finished tax returns, they must update the FAFSA and/or link it to the return via the FAFSA/IRS interface.
- HS juniors may want to spend their spring break visiting campuses. Setting up appointments with professors can help them learn more about each school. Read: Sending emails to strangers. At colleges. Asking for appointments.
- HS seniors may want to attend admitted day programs for specific questions, to help aid their final decisions. Read: Who should attend an admitted student event?
- Many communities hold college fairs, bringing a large number of campus reps to one location.
- Financial aid letters, in all their confusing glory, may be received through the month of April.
- HS juniors who have qualified for National Merit recognition are notified.
- Last two weeks of April: many HS students put life on hold to prep for AP exams in early May. Except for Prom, spring sports, part-time jobs, and, like, hanging out with friends.
- Last two weeks of April: many HS senior families square up to the college decision.
Important discussions for families about the college list:
- Finances. Each family will make their own decisions on this. My recommendation: have a frank and open discussion early on–at least by spring of junior year–about how finances may impact college decisions, so the student and the parents are on the same track. Families with substantial resources for college may still balk at paying a quarter of a million dollars for an undergraduate degree. Other families may be adamant about limiting student debt. Still, others may happily pay full freight (and the colleges would like to know who you are!). Does your child know what you are willing to pay? Have both parents discussed this yet? Opinions may vary widely, especially if the parents had very different experiences paying for their own college costs.
- Career Services. How good is each college at providing career services and providing them early on? As Patricia Krahnke, President of Global College Search suggested, “One thing that might be interesting to add is analyzing and comparing degree program curricula and career services/academic advising for each college choice. … We find that this is an area families avoid, often because they haven’t a clue about how to do it. But it can go a very long way towards making the application process, essay writing, and interview prep process less confusing and the college choices more confident and realistic.”
Additions made with thanks to Patricia L. Krahnke, Bob Gilvey, Whitney Castillo, Christel Milak-Parker, Anne Lepesant, J B Jones, Shayne Swift, and Chuck Self.
What did I miss? Write in comments below. Thanks!