Colleges

Parent Guide for College Admission: Month-by-Month Timeline

Help your child navigate the college application process.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

February 11, 2022

Between standardized tests and early and regular decision deadlines, there is so much to keep track of for college applications. Help your child meet deadlines.
Parent Guide for College Admission: Month-by-Month Timeline
Helping your child through the college application process is hard. You have to tiptoe between being too hands off or hovering like a helicopter parent. As a parent, it’s your role to offer support, act as a sounding board, and know a little bit (or a lot) about the process. At this point, you are well-versed at providing encouragement and a listening ear, but even if you’ve been through the college process yourself, you’ll find yourself in foreign territory these days. College admissions has changed quite a bit – even in the last two years. Fortunately, you can reacquaint yourself with the process, beginning with your child’s junior year in high school.

Junior Year

August – Ask your child if they’ve started researching colleges and whether they’re considering taking the SAT or ACT. Many colleges are test-optional now. September – Have “the talk” with your child. Discuss who is paying for college and how. At this point, your child should have a list of top choice colleges so that you can compare college costs and affordability. October – Encourage your child to start their scholarship search if they haven’t already. Pro tip: Create a Parent profile on Fastweb. You can see scholarship matches for your child and forward them so they can apply.
November – Have your child meet with their guidance counselor to discuss their transcript, college list, and standardized testing plan. December – Volunteer throughout the holidays as a family. Your college-bound student can put it on their Brag Sheet. January – Tell your child to update their Fastweb profile with GPA or club/organization changes from last semester. It’s also time to schedule spring SAT or ACT test dates.
February – Talk with your teen about their senior year schedule. Now is the time to consider which classes will challenge them and look good on their college applications. March – Give your child the goal of finding teachers, coaches, and mentors to write letters of recommendation before the month’s end. It’s also time to schedule spring and summer college visits! April – Nail down summer plans. Here are a few options: a part-time job, summer camp, or volunteering. Summer experiences will look great on their college applications and give them some real-world experience to reference in essays or admissions interviews. May – Start finalizing the college list. A helpful strategy is to narrow down schools into three categories: reach, target, and safety schools. June & July – Continue applying to colleges, check out virtual campus tours, and start organizing the college search by drafting college essays and asking for letters of recommendation. The latter is especially necessary if your child plans to apply for Early Decision or Early Admission deadlines.

Senior Year

August – It’s time to get to work. If your child has not asked for letters of recommendation, they need to do so now. They also need to determine if they will be applying for Early Decision/Action deadlines. Finally, schedule the SAT or ACT for the fall semester. September – Schedule and complete college visits and admissions interviews. It’s also a great time to assess which colleges you can afford, and if you haven’t talked about who is paying for college, do so now. October – File the FAFSA! The Free Application for Federal Student Aid becomes available on October 1, and it is best to fill out this form as soon as possible to maximize aid eligibility. Also, apply for any upcoming Early Admission deadlines. November – Apply to colleges, review your Student Aid Report (SAR), and research financial aid options. December – Encourage your child to continue the scholarship search, even as they work to meet college deadlines. January – Prepare any college applications that are being sent by Regular Admissions deadlines. February – Be on the lookout for admissions and financial aid packages. Use college cost calculators to compare offers from each college. Don’t be afraid to ask for more financial aid, especially if your circumstances warrant a professional judgment. March – If waitlisted, help your child cope with this news by being proactive. They can email their admissions officer at the college to let them know they’re still interested and would like to keep their place on the waitlist. April – If your child is still undecided on where to attend, sneak in one last college visit to help them make their final choice. Give them the nudge to make summer plans if they haven’t already. Some options include a part-time job, a summer abroad, or volunteering. May – May 1 is National College Decision Day! Your child needs to submit their decision by this date as well as their non-refundable deposit. If they change their mind over the summer or make it off the waitlist, they will lose this deposit – but it’s worth it if your child has made a choice that will make them happier. June & July – Send in final transcripts, submit housing forms, and research private student loans if necessary. Finally, start back to school dorm room shopping. August – Drop off day! Your family the college search process. Enjoy the culmination of all your family’s hard work and try not to cry too much as you drive away.

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