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You’ve made it to your senior year of high school! Are ready to embark on your next journey of college life? However, there are many things you need to do in order to gain admission to your dream school.
The college application process can seem overwhelming, but don’t worry, follow this timeline to plan out each step and stay organized. I’ve also included a list of colleges that offer full-ride Scholarships and some free college application mentoring programs for low-income students at the end of this article.
May—August: The summer before senior year, also known as “The calm before the storm”
- Start visiting and researching colleges you are interested in (look into FREE fly-out programs)
- Make a balanced list of schools to apply to based on the average SAT/ACT scores (reach, match, safeties)
- It is a good idea to apply to your state schools now because you will most likely get accepted within weeks and have a peace of mind as you try for your dream schools
- Although counselors and websites have different opinions about the ideal number of schools to apply to, you are the only person to make that decision and it depends on your situation
- Start thinking about potential college essay topics. Reflect on who you are as a person and what do you want the admissions to know.
- Make sure to ask your teachers for recommendation letters early, at least two weeks in advance. This allows them plenty of time to write a glowing letter for you
- Find a way to keep track of your application materials: transcripts, recommendations, essays, supplemental materials, financial aid, SAT/ACT/SAT subject/TOEFL scores, interviews (usually optional). A spreadsheet is a great choice.
- Try to start writing an essay at least a week before it is due. Begin by outlining key points and write. Then, come back after a while to edit it and let people you trust to provide some feedback. When we read our own writing over and over again, it is hard to find grammatical errors or realize when certain parts don’t make sense. Having another person proofread would be really helpful.
- If you have a long list of colleges, don’t wait until the last minute to submit all applications. Instead, break the list down into several smaller chunks to be completed on a staggered pace, for example, apply to 3 this month, 3 next month. Trust me, this will save you from a lot of anxiety.
November 1st: Early Decision/Early Action deadline for most colleges
November—December: Super Busy!!
- This is usually the time when we all freak out about the final deadlines. Don’t worry! You have the winter break to finish up the essays. We are almost there!
Mid-December: Early Decision/Early Action decisions released
January 1st: Regular Decision deadline for most colleges. Woo-hoo! You are done!
January—March: APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIPS
Now that you are done with writing essays, this is a great time to apply to as many outside scholarships as possible!
- Make sure you start with local ones because there is much less competition. Look up your school’s website for lists of local scholarships, many of them come from companies, hospitals, churches, charity organizations, etc.
- After applying to those, find national scholarships from websites like Scholly, Fastweb, CollegeXpress, and College Greenlight. These scholarships have a lot more applicants and are much harder to win.
- Reuse application essays if possible. In fact, many scholarships ask similar prompts, such as “What is your career plan” and “Describe how you overcame difficulties.” Therefore, you can save a lot of time by reusing scholarships essays or even college essays!
- Keep in mind that winning scholarships is difficult because there are so many bright students like you applying for them. But spending 5 hours on an application might bring you $1,000, which is equivalent to about 100 hours working a job!
- Celebrate your acceptances and don’t get too depressed by rejections. It is okay to be sad, this is just part of life that we all have to go through. It does not matter which college you attend, as long as you remain hard-working and kind, you will shine wherever you go!
- Visit colleges on Admitted Students Days
- Compare costs and financial aid awards
May 1st: Make your final decision and submit an enrollment deposit
June—August: Enjoy the last summer before college!
- Complete required forms
- Meet new friends on Facebook Groups
- Get excited about the next four years of learning and having fun!!
Colleges that offer full-ride scholarships (not a comprehensive list):
- University of Texas at Dallas: McDermott Scholarship
- University of Richmond: Richmond Scholarship
- Washington and Lee University: Johnson Scholarship
- Indiana University Bloomington: Wells Scholarship
- Stamps Scholarship (has many partner colleges)
- Vanderbilt University: Ingram Scholarship, Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship
- Emory University: Emory Scholars, Oxford Scholars, Goizueta Scholars
- Washington University in St. Louis: 7 School-Specific Scholarships, Entrepreneurial Scholars, John B. Ervin Scholars, Annika Rodriguez Scholars, Danforth Scholars
- University of Virginia: Jefferson Scholars
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Morehead-Cain Scholars, Robertson Scholars
- Boston University: Trustee Scholarship
- Davidson College: Belk Scholarship, Charles Scholarship, Norris Scholarship
Free College Application Mentoring for low-income students: