12th Grade Timeline

Preparing for College – 12th Grade Timeline


Create a file entitled College Admissions. In it, you should include a calendar of important deadlines, this web page to use as a to–do list, copies of or links to college applications, letters of recommendation, test scores, and college and financial aid information (as these items become available).

Register for the September ACT or other ACT testing dates if appropriate.

Revise your list of college choices, beginning to narrow it down to those you will actually apply for.  Remember to include reach, match and safety schools.

Learn about admissions requirements at the websites of your top colleges. Make note of them in your file.

Continue visiting colleges during the summer before senior year.


Register for the October or November SAT.

Meet with your College Advisor to talk again about your top choice schools.

Speak with teachers and others about letters of recommendation. (If you are unsure who to ask, discuss it with your College Advisor.)

Continue visiting campuses and interviewing with college representatives.

Attend a regional college fair to explore those colleges and possibly others that might interest you. Visit the College Fairs section on NACAC’s website to view the schedule for the NACAC’s National College Fairs and the Performing and Visual Arts College Fairs.

Request applications from the colleges you have selected or download the applications from the colleges’ websites.

Create an account with The Common Application if the colleges you are interested in accept it.

Mark all college deadlines on your calendar. Make note of early decision and early action deadlines. Keep all of this information in your file.

Register for the October ACT exam if you have not signed up yet.

Focus on your studies and on building a strong GPA.


Take the SAT, SAT Subject exams, and/or ACT tests.

Register for the November SAT if appropriate.

Talk with your College Advisor and parents to narrow your list of prospective colleges to roughly 6 – 8 schools, including a few “safety schools.”

Take advantage of more college fairs.

Complete and submit your applications if you are applying early decision or early action.

Talk with your College Advisor about financial aid and scholarship opportunities, and research opportunities on the websites listed on our Links and Resources page.

Start writing your college essay. Share your draft with your College Advisor, your parents and a teacher.

Request your high school transcript and check for accuracy.

Stay organized! File all applications and deadlines information.


Register for the December SAT or ACT if you need to take the test(s) again or if you haven’t taken them yet.

Take the November SAT if appropriate.

Focus on your GPA. These are the last few months to boost that number!

Complete and submit your applications to colleges with November deadlines for early decision or early action, if applicable.

Keep researching scholarships. Apply for scholarships well in advance of deadlines.

December through January

Complete and submit your applications for regular decision admissions.

If you applied to any CSU campuses, sign up to take the ELM and EPT assessment tests.

Don’t delay applying to schools with rolling admissions or late deadlines — the available spaces can fill up quickly.

Send your SAT/ACT test scores to all colleges that require them.

Check in with recommenders to confirm the letters of recommendation have been sent. Ask for a copy for your file.

Write a thank you note to your recommenders.

Submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Financial Aid) after January 1 for the next school year.

Let your College Advisor know if you are accepted to a college through early decision or early action.  Follow the college’s directions carefully. If you are accepted at a school to which you applied early decision, you must accept their offer unless they did not give you enough financial aid.  In this case, talk with your college advisor about your options.  Let other schools you applied to know that you have decided on another school.

Have midyear grades sent to colleges.

Keep researching scholarships. Apply for scholarships well in advance of deadlines.

February through March

You should receive the Student Aid Report if you submitted the FAFSA. Make sure there are no errors.

Contact colleges that did not send you a confirmation receipt for your application.

Note that most decisions are mailed out in April but you may receive acceptance letters in February and March.

If you are planning to attend a community college, apply online and sign up to take the math and English assessment tests.

Continue applying for appropriate scholarships.


Place in your file all acceptances, rejections, and wait list decisions.

If you have not received a financial aid package from each college where you were accepted, contact their financial aid office.

If waitlisted, think through your other options carefully.  You may be accepted at that school, but you will not hear until after May 1.  You must tell another school that you accept their offer by May 1.

May through June

Know what senioritis is and avoid it! Colleges can retract offers if grades are significantly lower in the senior year.

May 1 is the National Candidates Reply Date, by which applicants should let colleges know whether they plan to attend.

Your chosen school may have a deposit deadline. If so, a common one is May 1st. If this is a cause of concern, you might be able to request an extension.

Apply for housing if you are planning to live on campus.

Sign up for orientation and other campus events.  Keep track of the deadlines to sign up and attend these events.

Talk to your College Advisor about having your final transcripts sent to colleges.

Send thank you letters to everyone who helped you in the application process. Let your mentors and recommenders know the results of your college search.

Notify your college if you receive any scholarships.

Graduate. Congratulations, you are off to college!