College Planning Calendar

It’s time to get ready for college! If you’re a senior in high school or their parent, use this College Planning Calendar to stay on track as you navigate each step of the process. From applications to financial aid to making your final college choice, we have you covered.

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December

Welcome Student!

College Planning Calendar

August Checklist August

  • Now’s a great time to plan for college visits—remote or in person, if possible. 

  • Don’t forget to include at least one safety school (somewhere you have a high chance of acceptance) and one affordable school that can serve as a financial safety.

  • Start brainstorming topics for college essays and jotting down notes for early drafts.

  • The Common App is accepted at over 1,000 schools (although some schools require supplemental admissions materials). You can create an account and get started on August 1.

  • If you’re planning on submitting test scores with your applications, there are upcoming tests in October you can start studying for. Be sure to register for tests as early as possible to secure your spot.

  • It’s never too soon to start applying for scholarships so you can get free money for college.

September Checklist September

  • Start tracking your college list, application deadlines and requirements in a spreadsheet.

  • Still looking to improve your scores? Register now to grab a test date in October.

  • Ensure you are on track to meet all your requirements for graduation and ask for input on your college list.

  • Ask teachers and other mentors for letters of recommendation for college. Pick adults that have an intimate knowledge of your work and can write with specificity.

  • Find out which admissions reps are visiting your high school or holding remote sessions and set up time to meet with the colleges you’re interested in.

  • Sign up for any college admissions planning or financial aid workshops your school offers. Have a parent attend, if you can, or take notes and review with them.

  • Research as many scholarships as you can, and start keeping track of deadlines in a spreadsheet. 

  • The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens October 1. Work with your family to begin gathering tax information, asset records, SSNs and federal school codes.

October Checklist October

  • The FAFSA opens October 1. No matter your financial situation, you should fill it out. It can help you get grants, scholarships, work-study, and federal student loans. Some financial aid is first-come, first-served, so it pays to fill it out early.

  • After you complete your FAFSA, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report (SAR). Review it carefully to make sure all the information from your FAFSA is correct.

  • In addition to the FAFSA, you may be required to complete the CSS Profile. Around 240 colleges use the CSS to determine eligibility for non-federal financial aid, so check with the schools on your list.

  • You’ve done all the research. Now it’s time to determine where you’ll be applying and start tackling applications. If you’re applying early action or early decision, be sure to check due dates (typically either November 1 or 15).

  • Ask your school to send your official transcripts to each college you’re applying to. Colleges accept physical or electronic copies depending on their process. Make sure to request your transcripts as soon as possible as this may take several weeks.

  • You should be finishing up your college application essays. Once you’ve written your final drafts, give them to trusted mentors for feedback.

November Checklist November

  • If you’re planning to apply Early Action or Early Decision, the deadlines are typically November 1 or 15, but may be open through December 1. Make sure to get those in!

  • December is your last chance to retake the ACT or SAT exams this year. The registration deadlines are in early November, so sign up now if you’re planning to submit test scores with your applications.

  • Some regular decision applications have December due dates (though some can be as early as November). Even if your applications aren’t due until January, it’s a good goal to finish them up before the holidays.

  • If you haven’t already, fill out the FAFSA, so you don’t miss out on scholarships, grants, or federal loans.

  • It’s National Scholarship Month! If you need help finding available scholarships, try the free scholarship search tool from Discover® Student Loans.

  • Double-check that your transcripts have been sent to any colleges you applied to.

December Checklist December

  • If you’re planning to send test scores to schools, this is your last chance to take the SAT and ACT exams before applications are due.

  • If you applied early decision, you might start to hear back. If you got in, make sure to withdraw applications from other colleges you applied to.

  • Start planning next semester. There’s still time to impress colleges with challenging classes and activities.

  • Found some scholarships that seem like a good fit? Send in your applications, and keep the scholarship search going.

  • Some college applications are due this month or early January. If you’ve fallen behind, make sure you get them in ASAP. 

January Checklist January

  • Submit enrollment deposits for early decision admissions.

  • There’s still time to uncover new scholarships. Try searching by interest or background. If you need help finding available scholarships, try the free scholarship search tool from Discover® Student Loans.

  • Make sure all the schools on your current list have your FAFSA. You can add and delete schools from your list as your college list evolves.

  • The winter can be a good time to think ahead to the summer. Some summer programs begin recruiting and hiring in January. It can also be a good time to research gap year programs if you’re considering deferring admission for a year.

February Checklist February

  • If you haven’t heard back within a few weeks, follow up on any applications you’ve submitted online. If the admissions office is missing materials, send them through ASAP.

  • Are you taking Advanced Placement® exams? Look at previous exams online to get a feel for which ones you’ll be good at.

  • It’s not too late to apply for scholarships. Keep searching. Any scholarship you get is free money to help pay for college.

  • Send thank you notes to all of the teachers, mentors, administrators, and counselors who helped you get your applications in—especially the people who wrote letters of recommendations for you.

March Checklist March

  • You should see your acceptances and award letters start to come in. Begin comparing offers to figure out what each school will cost.

  • Not yet sure where you want to go to college next year? Use spring break to get a last look. Your family can even make a vacation out of it.

  • If you want to work the summer before college, now is the time to start applying.

  • Before you sign the dotted line on a scholarship, make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully.

April Checklist April

  • Talk to your parents, teachers, and counselors about what school is the best fit, and create a spreadsheet looking at the pros and cons of each choice. You have until Decision Day (May 1) to express your intent to attend. Don’t forget to notify the remaining schools that you will not attend.

  • If your financial circumstances have changed, try negotiating your financial aid package.

  • Once you’ve selected a college, send the deposit before the deadline, which is typically May 1 or shortly after.

  • If you’re taking AP classes, your exams should be happening soon. Study up and consider taking a prep course. Good scores mean you might be able to opt out of some required freshman courses.

  • Keep looking for scholarships to see what you can get. Your college may have one that you didn’t know about. Ask!

May Checklist May

  • On the waitlist? Schools will begin reaching out by the end of May. In the meantime, send any additional information, such as new recommendations or transcripts, over to your waitlist school, and keep track of enrollment deadlines for your first choice. 

  • You’ve made the big choice, now come the smaller ones. It’s time to decide on housing, meal plans, and roommates.

  • Sign up for summer jobs or summer internships. The earlier you build out your résumé, the better off you’ll be come college graduation. Plus, any money you earn over the summer can help with college expenses.

  • Some jobs offer part-time employees access to scholarships or tuition assistance. Ask to see if your summer job can help pay your tuition bill.

  • Ask your school to send your final transcripts to your college if required.

  • If your college offers a summer orientation, you should definitely consider attending. It could make the transition easier in the fall.

June Checklist June

  • Double-check to make sure you have your FAFSA® acknowledgement, and accept your financial aid package online in your student portal.

  • If you need help covering your remaining school-certified college costs, now’s the time to apply for your private student loans.

  • Orientation can give you valuable information about your school. Register now if you haven’t already. You should also start looking through the course catalog.

  • Keep looking for scholarships to see what you can get. Your college might have one that you didn’t know about. Ask!

July Checklist July

  • If you still need money to cover school-certified college costs, make sure to apply for a private student loan before tuition is due.

  • Dig in to get a better sense of the facilities, as well as their recommended list of what to bring with you freshman year. 

  • Get in touch and start building a rapport. Discuss shared experiences, study habits and lifestyle preferences

  • You might need a lot of supplies for school, from bedding to dishes and a mini-fridge. Talk to your roommate about what they’re bringing so you don’t double up.

  • This is the last step before going to college if you are paying your balance out of pocket.

  • Not every scholarship has a fall deadline. Research summer scholarships. The slow season might even make it easier to win.

August Checklist August

  • Now’s a great time to plan for college visits—remote or in person, if possible.

  • Evaluate the cost of each school on your child’s list and how your family is going to pay for it.

  • Encourage your child to get started on their applications early, and try to guide them through the process without overstepping.

  • If your child is submitting test scores with their applications, there are upcoming tests in October they can start studying for. Be sure your child registers for the tests as early as possible.

September Checklist September

  • Work with your child to put together a spreadsheet with application deadlines and requirements for each school.

  • Encourage your child to meet with their high school counselor—in person or remotely—early on to ensure they are meeting all of their graduation requirements.

  • If your child’s school offers college admissions planning or financial aid workshops, remind them to register and try to attend with them.

  • Remind your child to find and apply to as many scholarships as they can. Add these deadlines to the application spreadsheet.

  • The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opens October 1. Begin gathering tax information, asset records, SSNs, and your FSA IDs.

  • If your child is interested in applying early action or early decision, discuss the pros and cons. The due dates are typically November 1 or 15.

October Checklist October

  • The FAFSA is available October 1. No matter your financial situation, it is important that you complete the form together. It can help your child get grants, scholarships, work-study, and federal student loans. Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so it helps to fill it out early.

  • After you and your child complete the FAFSA, they’ll receive their Student Aid Report (SAR). Spend time reviewing this carefully with them to make sure all the information is correct.

  • In addition to the FAFSA, you and your child may also need to complete the CSS Profile if the schools they’re applying to require it. If this is the case, remind them of the deadline so they don’t miss out on non-federal financial aid.

  • Whether they are applying early decision or regular admission, by now your child should have begun their applications. Offer to look them over and help when it is needed.

  • Encourage your child to schedule a few college interviews—in person or remote—during their application process with some prospective schools, and help them prepare.

  • Your child should be finishing up their college essays. As they near their final draft, offer to look it over and provide constructive feedback.

November Checklist November

  • If your child is planning on applying early action or early decision, the deadlines are typically November 1 or 15, but in some instances can be open through December 1. Remind them to submit by the deadline.

  • December is your child’s last chance to retake the ACT or SAT exam this year. The registration deadline is in early November, so they should sign up soon if they’re planning to submit test scores with their applications.

  • Regular admissions applications are due starting in December (some can be as early as November). Make sure they’re finished and all the steps are complete.

  • It’s National Scholarship Month! Keep researching scholarships with your child and remind them to get their applications in. Try the free Discover® Student Loans scholarship search tool to find scholarships you might have missed.

  • Have your child double-check that their transcripts have been sent to any of the colleges they applied to.

December Checklist December

  • If your child applied early decision, they might start to hear back. If they get in, they will need to withdraw their applications from other colleges they applied to. If they didn’t get in, they should submit regular decision applications as soon as possible.

  • If your child is enrolled in Advanced Placement® (AP) classes, have them speak with their teachers now about plans for safe administration of the tests. There’s still time to impress colleges with challenging classes and achievements.

  • Your child should submit applications early for any scholarships that seem like a good fit. Have them check out the free Discover® Student Loans scholarship search tool to see if there are any they may have missed.

  • Some college applications are due this month or early January. If your child has fallen behind, help them get on track ASAP. 

January Checklist January

  • Some college applications are due this month. Make sure your child submits any last applications ASAP.

  • Submit enrollment deposits for early decision admissions.

  • Have your child check out the Discover® Student Loans free scholarship search tool.

  • If your family hasn’t already filed the FAFSA, be sure to do it this month. Make sure all the schools on your child’s current college list are also listed on the FAFSA form. Your child can add and delete schools as their college list evolves.

  • The winter can be a good time to think ahead to the summer. Some summer programs begin recruiting and hiring in January. It can also be a good time for your child to research gap year programs if deferral is a consideration. 

February Checklist February

  • Encourage your child to follow up on any applications they’ve submitted online and haven’t heard back from in a few weeks. If the admissions office is missing materials, they should work with their counselor to send them right away.

  • Your child should be thinking about which AP exams they are going to take. They can research previous exams online to get an idea of which ones they’ll be good at.

  • It’s not too late for your child to apply for scholarships. Keep up the search. Any scholarship your child receives is free money for college.

  • Remind your child to send thank you notes to all of the teachers, mentors, administrators, and counselors who helped them get their applications in—especially the people who wrote letters of recommendations.

March Checklist March

  • Your child should see their acceptances and awards letters start to come in. Spend time comparing offers and evaluating what each school will cost, to help guide your child in making their final decision.

  • Spring break is a great time for you and your child to get a last look at their prospective schools. If you plan ahead, you can make a great family vacation out of it.

  • It’s a great idea for your child to use the summer before college to work or intern. If they are looking to do so, now is the time to start applying.

  • Before your child signs the dotted line on a scholarship, you both will need to read the terms and conditions carefully.

April Checklist April

  • Set aside time to help your child evaluate each school and help them decide which one will be the best fit. Consider creating a spreadsheet that outlines the pros and cons of each choice. Your child has until Decision Day (May 1) to express their interest in attending.

  • Financial circumstances can change. If this is the case, you may be able to negotiate or appeal your child’s financial aid package. 

  • If your child is taking AP classes, exams should be happening soon. Make sure they study up—good scores mean they might be able to opt out of some required freshman courses.

  • It’s important to keep looking for scholarships even if your kid has already made their decision. Their college may offer one they didn’t know about. Ask!

  • Once your child has decided on a college, send the deposit before the deadline, which is typically due May 1 or shortly after.

May Checklist May

  • It’s been a long road, but your child most likely had some help from their mentors, teachers, and counselors. Encourage them to write thank you letters and deliver them before school is out.

  • Help your child weigh the different options for housing, meal plans, and roommate requests. 

  • On the waitlist? Schools will begin reaching out by the end of May. In the meantime, have your child send any additional information, such as new recommendations or transcripts, over to the waitlist school. 

  • The earlier your child builds out their résumé, the better off they’ll be come college graduation. Have your child sign up for summer jobs or summer internships. Plus, any money you earn over the summer can help with college expenses.

  • Remind your child to confirm that their high school has sent their final transcripts to their college.

  • Summer orientation is a great way for your child to get important information from the school that can help make the transition easier in the fall. Remind them to sign-up to attend, and if their school offers it, you should also sign up for parent orientation.

  • If you need to borrow, sit down with your child and research what student loan options are available, and discuss what makes sense for your family.

June Checklist June

  • Ensure your child has received their FAFSA® acknowledgement and has accepted their financial aid package online in their student portal.

  • If your child will need help covering the remaining school-certified college costs, they should consider applying for a private student loan now.

  • Talk to your child about attending their college orientation and make sure to register. Both student and parent orientation has valuable information about their school.

  • Before they head off to school, teach your child how to create and stick to a budget.

July Checklist July

  • Have your child go over the college facilities, recommended list of what to bring freshman year, and other details that will help make the fall move-in process go smoothly.

  • Your child is going to need everything from school supplies to bedding for college. Plan ahead and have them talk with their roommate to decide on who’s bringing what.

  • This is the last step before your child heads to campus if you are paying the balance out of pocket.

  • There may be some scholarships that have summer deadlines. Have your child research them and keep a close eye on deadlines.

  • Discuss how often and in what method you and your child will communicate while they’re away at college.

  • If this is your last child heading off to college, you are probably thinking about how it will feel to have a kid-free home. Use these tips to prepare yourself for this next step in your life.

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