Between researching schools, taking tests, and writing essays, applying to college can feel overwhelming. While there will always be some nerves as you hit "submit" on your applications, the rest of the process doesn't need to be stressful. If you are organized and proactive, applying to college can be painless. To help you out, here's a timeline of the college process to ensure that you stay calm, cool, and collected as you find the right school for you.
First and Sophomore Years
My biggest college advice for underclassmen is to stop thinking about college! The most important things you can do during this time is focus on your schoolwork. Your transcript is the most critical part of most applications, so doing your best in school consistently is a great way to prepare yourself for success during these years.
Junior Fall and Winter
Fall and winter of junior year is the perfect time to start researching schools. There are more than 5,000 colleges in the United States and hundreds more overseas, so you want to do some research and find out about the programs and scholarships that different schools offer. As you search, make sure to think about what type of campus you're looking for. Do you want a big school or a small one? An urban or rural campus? Do you want to be close to home, or are you ready to leave the nest?
The spring of your junior year is when you should start thinking about taking standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, AP tests, and SAT subject tests. Be sure to register for your tests a few months in advance and give yourself ample time to prepare. If you're looking for testing resources, I highly recommend the Barons' test prep books or the Khan Academy online prep resources. During junior spring, you should also ask a few of your teachers to write you letters of recommendation, so that they have enough time to write before applications are due in the fall.
Senior Fall and Winter
The fall and winter of your senior year are when you'll do most of the heavy lifting of applying to college. After you choose which schools you are applying to, be sure to pay close attention to deadlines. Some schools will ask you to apply as early as October 15, while others won't need your application until as late as January 15. Make sure to stay organized so you don't miss your shot at a school over something as silly as a deadline. During this period, you will need to dedicate a solid amount of time to writing and polishing your essays. You may want to think carefully about the number of extracurriculars you take on. Don't leave your applications until the last minute!
Senior spring is the best part of the college process because the wait is over! After being admitted to schools, you will finally get to choose which campus you want to attend. Be sure to carefully review your financial aid packages, as well as the programs you are interested in at each school, as you weigh your options. At the end of the day, the best advice for this time is to go with your gut and get excited for the next four years!