A month-by-month timeline for your application to top-ranked universities
The best way to get into a top school? Carefully go step-by-step through the application process. Here’s our guide to the key dates coming up for this application season. Students should make the adults in their lives aware of these dates, and mark them IN BOLD in their calendars! Here goes:
Back to school month doesn’t have any major deadlines but your college research and preparations should all be underway at this point in time. Making yourself a competitive applicant will require lots of planning well before applications are due – as early as freshman year for students in the US. The major components under evaluation in your applications are your academic transcript, your standardized test scores, your recommendations, your personal essay, and your extracurricular activities.
September 5: In the UK, the UCAS platform for submitting university applications opens on the 5th September – so if you’re really keen to get a head start, you can start filling it in then.
September 7: In order to get your SAT scores back well in time for early applications, you need to register to sit the SAT in October by this date, and will be notified of your results on October 18. More info on registration dates is here.
October 1: All applications for music courses in the UK are due by this date.
October 15: Applications to Oxford and Cambridge in the UK (also collectively termed Oxbridge) happen earlier than other applications. This means sending off all the individual materials for the course you’re applying to and having all of your UCAS information filed on time. This is also the date that most applications for courses in Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science are due in the UK.
October 15: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s early application deadline is unexpectedly early at midway through October.
November 1: In the US, the common deadlines for top early applications is November 1 with some schools like Dartmouth keeping to a deadline of November 15th. These vary from school to school, but November 1 is the early application deadline for many of the top schools, including Harvard, MIT, Caltech, Princeton, Stanford and Yale. More information about early action and early decision deadlines can be found here.
November 2: For regular admission, in order to get SAT results back by mid-December and apply at the beginning of January, students need to register to sit the exam on December 1st by this date.
If you’ve applied early to colleges in the US, you are likely to hear back from those colleges by about mid-December. In the UK, you will hear back from your college at either Oxford or Cambridge in mid-to-late December.
January 15: This is the deadline for the majority of regular admission applications to undergraduate courses in the UK, excepting those mentioned above (Oxbridge, music, vocational sciences). This means that applications to top universities like UCL, Imperial and LSE should be in by this date.
January 1: Brown, Columbia, Harvard and Princeton all have a January 1st deadline for applications. Many other universities do as well!
January 2: Cornell, Darmouth, Duke, Stanford and Yale all expect applications in by this date.
January 5: Penn expects applications by the 5th.
January to February
This is interview season. Brace yourself – hopefully you’ll be called by your colleges of choice to come in and sell yourself!
March – April
Applications from the Ivies applied to in January begin filtering through from the end of March to the first date in April.
In the UK, decision times vary but the majority should be received by March 31st, with students required to respond to offers (choosing a primary and a secondary option) by May 1st.
May 1: This tends to be the deadline for rolling applications or transfer applications for US colleges. Each college varies and it’s important to know the exact timeline for your college of choice if you do choose to pursue this path. More info here.
May 2: In the UK, universities are obliged to respond by the 2nd May.
Breakdown by US college for regular admission
|American University||January 15|
|Boston College||January 1|
|Boston Univeristy||January 2|
|Johns Hopkins||January 2|
|New York University||January 1|
|UNC Chapel Hill||January 15|
|University of California||November 30|
|University of Chicago||January 1|
|University of Michigan||February 1|
|University of Notre Dame||January 1|
|University of Pennsylvania||January 5|
|University of Southern California||January 15|
|University of Virginia||January 1|
Top tips for studying online
Has your school closed down and moved to online learning due to the COVID-19 outbreak? Well, if they have, you certainly aren’t alone, and if you haven’t been moved to online learning yet, you should certainly be prepared to be if the situation develops.
How to ask for a recommendation or reference letter
They may seem like a stressful part of the application to organise, but for top-tier universities like Harvard; with an admission rate as low as 4.6%, letters of recommendation are fundamental in supporting your application.