Your senior year of high school is sure going to be busy! Between college applications
and finals, you have a lot to tackle. We put together this list of important dates you’ll need to mark on your calendar so you can make sure you don’t miss any deadlines. You should have already completed your college search and some college planning in your junior year, but we
highly recommend following this senior timeline for high school.
1. ACT/SAT Test Dates – August through November – Senior Timeline for High School
Your first ACT or SAT test date should have been during your junior year or shortly after, but if you haven’t signed up for a test just yet and fall is approaching, don’t worry. You still have time.
Students should take their ACT or SAT well ahead of their application, however, especially for schools that still require one of the exams for their admissions process. If you wait until December or January, your score may not be submitted in time, which could result in a rejection letter.
It’s recommended, therefore, that you take 1 or 2 ACT/SAT tests between August and November or earlier if you are planning on applying under Early Action or Early Decision I.
High school seniors also shouldn’t wing the exam. These require study to do well on, so plan accordingly!
2. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – October 1st – Senior Timeline for Highschool
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) becomes available on October 1st every year. While you don’t have to complete it that very same day, it is important to finish it as soon as possible. The federal government and school grant programs can and will run out of money. If you apply too late, you could miss out on some free money.
And even if you don’t think you will qualify, apply anyway. While you may not get anything from the federal government, you might be pleasantly surprised when your college acceptance letter rolls around and includes a financial package. Colleges and universities work to make school more affordable for their students, and you might just get lucky.
Your FAFSA should be completed every year of college, too.
3. Know Your College Application Deadlines – November through January – Senior Timeline for High School
While there are some common college application due dates, not every school ascribes to these. Always double check with the colleges on your list ahead of time!
- Usually in November, either November 1st or November 15th. This means you will have to take the ACT or SAT sooner, too.
- Usually January 1st. Not all schools offer this application option, however.
- Usually January 1st. Some schools can vary though or have rolling admissions.
However, these dates don’t mean you should wait until the last minute to collect your college application materials! From essays to letters of recommendation, these things take time. Planning accordingly will help ensure your applications are submitted well ahead of time, helping you avoid any last-minute computer or connection problems.
4. Gather Your Acceptance Letters and Compare Financial Aid Packages– December through April – Senior Timeline for High School
When you receive your acceptance letter will depend on the type of system you applied under!
- Early Action and Early Decision applicants will hear back between early and mid-December.
- Early Decision II applicants should hear back by mid-February.
- Regular Decision applicants will receive their letters usually in March or early April.
You should wait until you have all acceptance and rejection letters in hand before moving to the next step!
We also recommend comparing your financial aid packages at this point. Some will seem great on paper but aren’t as good once you look a bit deeper!
5. Notify Colleges of Your Decision and Submit Deposits – December through May 1st – Senior Timeline for High School
Once you hear back from all your colleges, it’s time to make a decision! You should notify colleges you are attending and ones you are not.
Early Decision – December
If you applied under Early Decision, this means you agreed to attend the school if accepted. You need to send a deposit right after receiving the acceptance letter, which tends to be mid-December. If, for some reason, you cannot attend, you need to have a good reason to back out without consequences.
Early Decision II – February
As with Early Decision, Early Decision II is binding. If you’re accepted, you need to submit your deposit after receiving the letter in mid-February.
Early Action – May 1st
Early Action applications are not binding, and students usually have until May 1st to notify the college of their intention to attend or not. A deposit is also needed by this date.
Regular Decision – May 1st
Regular decision applicants need to notify their schools of their intentions by May 1st. Schools usually require deposits by May 1st, too.
6. Note Your College’s Various Deadlines – May through August – Senior Timeline for High School
Now that you know what school you will be applying to in the fall, it’s time to get started on your college deadlines! Colleges will have varying dates for each of these tasks, so be sure to check the paperwork you received from the school so you don’t miss anything important. These are only estimates and your college may have a different system or approach.
- Sign up for orientation
- Register for the online portal and other necessary registrations
- Submit financial aid information
- Accept/decline financial aid assistance from the school
June – August
- Register for classes
- Attend orientation
- Select housing on campus
August – September
- Move in date
- First week of classes
7. Complete Your Senior Finals – May through June – Senior Timeline for High School
College has taken up a lot of your brainpower, but that doesn’t mean you should forget about high school just yet – even if you’ve already received your acceptance letter! Schools can (and have) revoked acceptance offers if a student does poorly in their senior year or gives into senioritis.
It’s important that you put time aside to properly prepare for your final exams, especially if you’re taking AP courses or college classes. AP and college classes can be transferred to your college of choice if you do well enough in them, which could even result in you graduating early!
Make sure to set aside time to study for your senior finals in April and May.
There’s no doubt that there’s a lot you’ll need to tackle this year on top of your normal school work, scholarship applications, and responsibilities outside of your classes. We highly recommend keeping a planner or a calendar on your wall so you can keep track of all the college deadlines you need to know for your senior year. If you need any further assistance or have questions about the process, be sure to talk to your high school guidance counselor.
Want to be sure you have all your ducks in a row and are submitting an excellent application to the best schools for you? Use our College Match tool to find out what colleges are looking for from their students!