5 Things High Schools Students Should Do in October

October is a busy month for high school students! This is often the month when they have to take midterms for their regular classes, but for some students, it’s also a big month for college prep. Whether you’re in 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grade, there are some things you should know about and be completing during the 10th month of the year! We cover a few below.

Fall is a great time to visit colleges for many reasons

Flickr user Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

1. Complete Your Early Decision or Early Action Applications (SENIORS)

If you’re planning on applying to a college or university under Early Decision or Early Action, October is the month to work on your application! Colleges often have due dates for these applications on November 1st or 15th. And you don’t want to be rushing to complete your submission on Halloween.

Applying under Early Decision or Early Action gives you the opportunity to get your college applications out of the way (granted if you’re accepted) and enjoy the rest of your senior year. However, they shouldn’t be rushed. You want to stand out among the applicants, and submitting a half-completed application on the due date will likely result in a rejection letter.

If you find it’s coming down to the wire and your application isn’t as polished as you would like, it may be better to hold off and apply under Regular Decision or Early Decision II.

2. (Usually) Submit Your FAFSA (SENIORS)

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) usually becomes available on October 1st of every year. It is highly recommended to complete it as soon as possible. Although the FAFSA doesn’t technically have a due date until June 30th of the award year, colleges’ FAFSA deadlines are much sooner. Failing to submit yours in time could result in you missing out on some generous financial aid packages.

However, 2023 is the exception to this October rule. A new FAFSA is being released for the 2024-2025 award year and it is being released in December instead. Many colleges have priority deadlines in mid-Spring. So be sure to complete yours as soon as you can!


For freshmen, sophomores, and juniors in high school, October is also PSAT month. So even if you’re not a high school senior, you still have some college prep to do! Taking the PSAT can help you get prepared for the SAT, but it could also get you in the running for a scholarship if you score high enough.

The PSAT is also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, and scoring in the top percentile as a junior could earn you the title of National Merit Finalist, Semi-Finalist, or Commended Student. Being named one of these looks amazing on college applications!

4. Take (one of) Your Final SAT or ACT Exams (JUNIORS & SENIORS)

For high school seniors, this could also be one of your last chances to take the SAT or ACT. Although you can technically take the exams until December if you’re planning to apply under Regular Decision or November if you’re planning on applying under Early Action or Early Decision, it’s a good idea to take the test more than once so you can try to score higher. You don’t have to submit all of your SAT and/or ACT results – only your best – so it’s a good idea to keep aiming for a better score.

October, therefore, is one of the last chances you’ll have to sit for either exam. And if you’re planning on taking one of the very last ones available to you this year, you should be using this month to study and prep! 

5. Work On Your Regular College Applications (SENIORS)

If you’re applying to colleges under Regular Decision, your applications aren’t technically due until January 1st. However, that doesn’t mean you should wait until winter break to start putting together your submission. October presents the perfect time to start focusing on those applications. You can use this month to ask for letters of recommendation, brainstorm college essay topics, finalize your college choices, visit college campuses (many are beautiful in the fall), and create a to-do list for the coming months. 

And even if you’re planning on applying under Early Action or Early Decision, you don’t want to completely neglect the Regular Decision process. Early Action and Early Decision letters come in mid-December, and if you receive a rejection letter, you don’t want to be rushing your backup applications in the final weeks leading up to January 1st. By taking the time to work on your backups now, you can save yourself from potential headaches down the line.

And while Early Decision is a binding contract if you’re accepted, there is no contract with Early Action. You could absolutely apply to additional colleges under Regular Decision and make your final decision closer to May 1st. It’s a good idea to have choices!

Keep Your Head Down and Work Hard

October is a busy month for high school students, and it’s not just due to Halloween and midterms. Now is the time to be focusing on college prep, no matter your grade. By taking the time to focus on the PSAT, SAT, ACT, and college applications during October, you can ensure you’re putting your best foot forward when it comes to impressing your dream school. 

Do you know what you should be aiming for on the SAT and ACT? Each of our college profiles showcases the average accepted students’ ACT and SAT scores. With this information, you can strengthen your college application and improve your chances of receiving a coveted acceptance letter. See how you stack up against other students using our free College Match tool today!

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