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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.

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Watch Tutorial Video

  • Organize the college planning process from start to finish
  • Checklists to remind you of important tasks each month
  • Helpful tips and college prep tools
  • Ability to save and print checklist

Watch Tutorial Video

  • Organize the college planning process from start to finish
  • Checklists to remind you of important tasks each month
  • Helpful tips and college prep tools
  • Ability to save and print checklist


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 easily affordable school that can serve as a financial safety.

  • Evaluate the cost of each school on your list and begin talking about how your family will pay for it.

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

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

  • If you’re interested in applying early action or early decision, consider the pros and cons. The due dates are typically November 1 or 15.

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 your 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).

  • Schedule college interviews—in person or remote—at the schools you’re most interested in, and prepare in advance.

  • Ask your school to send your transcripts to each college you’re applying to. If you’re using Common App, this can be sent by your counselor electronically.

  • 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 each college you applied to.

December Checklist December

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

  • You should have already filed your FAFSA. 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 how the test is structured and where you may need to focus your study time.

  • 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 high school counselors who helped you complete your applications, especially the people who wrote letters of recommendation 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 another 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 high school counselor about what school is the best fit, and maybe 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 you are hoping for more aid than you received, you can try negotiating your financial aid package. If your family’s financial circumstances changed (such as a job loss) you can contact the financial aid office and request a review.

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

  • If you’re taking AP (Advanced Placement) 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. Reach out to the financial aid office, talk with your high school guidance counselors, and continue searching online.

May Checklist May

  • You did a good job this year! But your mentors, teachers, and high school counselors helped. Make sure to send them thank you notes before school is out.

  • 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.

  • Sit down with your parents and research what student loan options are available, and discuss what makes sense for your family.

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.

  • Many scholarships have rolling deadlines, or have eligibility as the new school year begins. Continue your scholarship search and apply to ones that sound like a good fit.

  • Before you head off to school, set up a budget. Talk with your parents about how to make your money last through the semester.

July Checklist July

  • If you still need money to cover school-certified college costs, make sure to apply for private student loans 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(s) about what they’re bringing so you don’t double up.

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

  • 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.

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