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Class of 2024? What you should be doing NOW

University applications are not a passive activity. They require a well thought out plan with mechanisms in place to keep the train on the tracks and on time. Our students have identified their two greatest regrets. Any guesses? 1. Not starting the application process early enough. 2. Waiting until the deadline to finish. These two combine to increase stress on the applicant, their family, and all the people needed to make a university application possible (think about the counselor, the registrar, the person writing your letter of recommendation and anyone else that has to deal with you when you are stressed out and not very nice to be around).

Here’s a timeline that will make sure you have the time and space in your brain to give your university application the attention it deserves.

March (Junior year): Begin building your college list by considering CLASS (Cost, Location, Academic Programs, Student Supports and Student Life). This list is a living document that should change as you learn more about the options out there. Your final list should have no more than 12 schools with a range of Likely, Target and Reach. Every school on your list should be one that you would be excited about attending.

May (Junior year): FAFSA time. Your parents have done their taxes for the year, now it’s time to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is open to all US citizens, even students living outside of the US and aid can be used at selected international universities. This form will need to be updated each year.

June (Junior year): Create a Common Application profile. Other application platforms include the Coalition App, University of California, UCAS in the UK. Schools may use one of these platforms or multiple platforms with overlap. Some schools use none of them and do their own thing (looking at you Georgetown). It is essential that you investigate which platforms the schools you are interested in use.

The next action is to decide about Early Action (EA). This is often confused with Early Decision (ED) but while both give you early responses from the universities, they are very different. ED is a binding agreement (contract) that means that you are committed to that school if you are accepted. Done deal, you are finished with the application process. On the other hand, EA is not binding and you are able to compare your offers before making a decision. You can keep you options open. With November deadlines for these application plans, keeping the train on the tracks and on time is more important than ever.

The rest of this timeline will assume that you have chosen to apply to one of these early application pathways and that your applications will need to be finalized by October 31. Happy Halloween!

July (Summer before Senior year): Not being in school gives you the time to begin your essays and personal statements. The Common App releases the essay choices a year in advance (check out the 2024 essays). These are great because they work for all the schools using the Common App platform. Many schools will have supplemental essays that are required in addition. It is essential that you understand what each school needs.

Starting these essays in the summer will give you time to edit, revise, start over, change topics and eventually develop a piece of writing that is worthy of a university application.

July/August (Summer before Senior year): Visit some campuses. There is no substitute for being on the campuses of the schools you are interested in. If you are unable to travel to the school or schools on your list then visit a nearby campus. This will help you get the feel for how a college works and how you might fit into that environment.

September (Senior year): School has started again and you're feeling all the stresses. Keep your eyes on the prize. It’s time to identify which teachers you will like to write your Letter of Recommendation. Start by having a conversation with them and ask politely and humbly. Don’t forget that writing a LOR is a lot of work and they don’t HAVE to do it. You’ll need to be prepared with talking points about why you are such a wonderful student and person, as well as provide them with some notes about things you’d like them to highlight. Letters of Recommendation are confidential, meaning you won’t be able to read them. It’s important to ask teachers who know you well as a learner and as a person so that they can highlight your strengths.

Request official and unofficial transcripts from your Registrar. If there are mistakes now is a good time to get them corrected. These will be sent directly from your high school to the University or the application platform, so don’t wait until the last minute to request these documents.

October (Senior Year): It’s time to bring the train into the station and revisit the essays and personal statements that you started in July. You did well to start and draft ideas when you had some brain space. Now you can look at your writing with fresh ideas and perspective. The editing and polishing gets done over the course of two weeks. Our Next Level Application counselors will work with you to help your writing represent you in the best possible light.

November (Senior Year): You are ready to apply to the universities on your list. You may decide to do all EA or wait until the Regular Decision deadline (January-February). Either way your work is done and you are free to enjoy your Senior Year! Congratulations!


  • Build a college list


  • Create Common App account

  • Visit Campuses

  • Begin Essays

  • Request Letters of Recommendation

  • Request Transcripts

  • Finish Essays

  • Submit your EA Application and enjoy the rest of your Senior Year!

Our experienced counselors have the experience and resources to help you and your family through the stressful application process. Check out the website at and reach out to schedule an appointment with a counselor at Look at the services we offer and how we can help you find your Best Fit University.

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