When Should You Start Working On Your University Applications?

01 JUL 2022

The university application process is much more than just filling out an application. It involves planning, preparing, and investing time in academics, activities, and relationships. Each piece of the application is an opportunity for you to tell universities why you're the perfect addition to their community.


While there's no exact time to start your university applications, the strongest applicants typically start their applications early. While you're not going to fill out your application in your first or second year of high school, you should consider what you'll put in it. A strong application includes challenging courses, strong extracurriculars, high test scores (when applicable), and more!

Since you only have a short time to complete your actual university applications, having all the pieces ready will give you more time to refine each section and make the application as strong as possible. If you're curious about the application process or ready to get started, this blog will walk you through the university application timeline, when you should start researching universities, taking standardized tests, writing your essays, and completing your application.

College acceptance calculator

When Do University Applications Open?

University applications, including the Common App, typically open around August 1 of your senior year of high school. Some applications open as late as September.

If you choose to submit your application for the early decision round, you typically submit it between November 1-15.

You'll get notified of your acceptance or rejection around mid-to-late December. If you submit your application for the regular decision round, it will be due around January 1 of your senior year.

While most schools follow a similar application deadline, they aren't always the same. Check each school's deadline before submitting your application.

How Crimson CEO Jamie Beaton got into Harvard

University Application Timeline

To help you with your university application to-do list, we've put together a timeline with all the major milestones of the application process.

US university application timeline and deadlines

One Year Before Applying

Research Universities

Start thinking about which universities you'd like to attend. Once you narrow down your search to 5-10 schools, schedule tours (in-person or virtually). You can learn a lot more about a school if you visit, talk with other students, learn about the programs, and tour the campus.

Check out our university profiles page or free college admissions calculator to learn more about the universities that may be right for you!

Speak To A University Admissions Counselor

Crimson offers application advising services to students. We can help you create safety, target, and reach lists of colleges and universities. Our advisors are experts in the university application process. They can walk you through each step of the process, ensuring you build the best possible application and complete every piece of your application on time.

Book a free consultation

Nine Months Before Applying

Take the SAT or ACT for the First Time

You can take these tests multiple times, so about nine months before applying, take the test(s) to assess your strengths and weaknesses. If you score lower than you like, identify the areas you need to improve and take the test again in a few months.

Take an English Language Exam (if required)

Some US universities require an English language exam if you're applying from a non-native English-speaking country. Most students choose either the TOEFL or the IELTS.

Six Months Before Applying

Request Letters of Recommendation

Start thinking about who you will ask for a letter of recommendation. Consider the teachers and mentors in your life who will be thoughtful and knowledgeable about your experiences and character traits. Asking six months before applications are due provides teachers with ample time to complete them.

Start Writing your Common App Essay

Most universities use the Common App as the vehicle for applications. (University of California schools are an exception). You can start thinking about and writing your common app essay before the application opens. Start the essay early before the school year gets even busier. You'll be happy you did!

How to write the perfect personal statement

Five Months Before Applying

Write Supplemental Essays

Most universities ask for supplemental essays in addition to the Common App essay. Get them done right away so you can refine them and work on the rest of the application over the next couple of months.

Four Months Before Applying

Take the SAT or ACT Again

If you're unhappy with your first SAT or ACT scores, retake the test(s). Universities will look at your best score, so it doesn't hurt to try again, especially if you practiced the areas you needed to improve and are more prepared.

Research Your Financial Aid and Scholarship Opportunities

Many schools offer their own financial aid and scholarship programs. Even if you don't qualify for financial assistance, many organizations and programs offer students large and small amounts of money for college.

Learn more about how Crimson can help you with Financial Aid applications and scholarships we provide

One Month Before Applying

Don't wait until the last minute to submit your applications. Aim to have everything finalized and completed one month before they are due.

If you apply in the early round, your application will be due early to mid-November of your senior year. Calculate that as your application due date and work back from there to determine when to begin the application process.

If you apply in the regular round, your application will be due around January 1 of your senior year. Adjust your timeline accordingly, and don't forget the Christmas holiday is before the deadline. Give yourself plenty of time to work around any holiday vacations or festivities.

Important University Application Deadlines 2022/23
DateApplication
November 2022Submit Early Action and Early Decision applications
Mid-December 2022Receive EA and ED results
January 2023Submit Regular Round applications
January and February 2023Attend interviews
March and April 2023Receive Regular Round results
May 2023Decide which university you will attend!

What Can I Do Now To Prepare For University?

Even if you're not at the point of applying for university, there's still a lot you can do beforehand. In addition to researching and visiting your top universities, you can continue taking advanced courses, getting top grades, and taking advantage of the resources your school and community offer.

It's Never Too Early To Start Thinking About University

Your first two years of high school are when you start establishing your leadership skills within your extracurricular activities. Join activities and clubs within your area of interest or ones that will help further your career goals.

The earlier you start preparing for university, the longer you'll have to showcase your grades, extracurricular activities, and leadership skills. It's also never too early to think about your personal essay. Write down possible essay ideas so that you'll have inspiration for your essay when it's time to start writing.

Increase Your Chances Of Getting Into Your Dream University By Using Crimson's Exclusive Pathfinder Tool

The application process can be complicated and time-consuming, and it's easy to miss a step or a deadline. Crimson recently released Pathfinder - a comprehensive in-app tool that helps you stay on track and helps you quantify the value of activities you do in preparation to apply to US universities.

Contained within the Crimson app, Pathfinder is a master list of everything you can do during school to increase your chances of getting into the university of your dreams. Pathfinder includes over 280 goals, each with an assigned point value based on how much admissions officers will value that achievement.

Pathfinder ensures you stay on track between now and applying to a university. It accurately predicts your admission results (based on your achievements). Combined with guidance from your personalized strategist, you'll become a master of your US university applications!

Introduction to Crimson Pathfinder

Final Thoughts

It's never too early to get familiar with the university application process and the specific parts. Many students start thinking about what they want to include in their applications during their early high school years.

The best time to gather information for your university application is approximately one year before submitting it (the summer before your senior year of high school). Start thinking about which teachers/mentors you will ask for a letter of recommendation from, what you want to say in your personal essay, and how your extracurriculars fit into your academic and career plans.

Don't forget to choose challenging courses related to your area of interest, keep your grades high, and take (and retake) your standardized tests.

The university application process may seem daunting, but you don't have to walk the path alone. Crimson offers a wide range of educational support services that will help you with all aspects of the process. From online tutoring and extracurricular mentoring to essay reviews and even postgraduate admissions, Crimson can help you get into your dream university!

Book a free consultation

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