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When Should You Start Your College Applications?

OCT 13, 2020 • 6 min read

One of the most common questions we hear when students start to think about college applications is: “when should I get started?”

Generally speaking, we recommend that students begin the process during the spring semester of their junior year. It is important for each student to set their own goals, manage their own time, and measure their own success. Each student is vastly different from the next, and it’s important not to pressure yourself to live up to the expectations of others.

One important thing to remember is that you know yourself best. It is critical that you understand and acknowledge your values, goals, and limits before you start applying to colleges and universities. Junior year is busy. Most students will take standardized tests, and many more are working through AP and IB courses. Still, this is a great time to start thinking about important aspects of the application, such as your college essays.

Preparing for the Personal Statement

Ideally, you’ll begin to develop your personal statement first, since this is likely the most labor-intensive part of the application process. Students often ask what the trick is to writing a perfect personal statement. The short answer? Write it about YOU! In college applications, the personal statement holds a unique degree of importance. A strong essay will offer a window into the student’s character and personality - giving admissions officers a more complete view of the student they may eventually admit. The statement brings to life the grades and accomplishments that color the rest of the application.

A great personal statement should not reiterate other parts of your application. Unless there is a ton of additional context needed on an existing activity, students should shy away from touching on topics covered elsewhere and focus instead on showing themselves in another light. Statements should be authentic and reflective: what happened to the student is often less important than how they processed, understood, and grew from it.

Once you have a strong sense of your personal statement topic, it’s time to get started! The summer between your junior and senior year is the ideal time to write your personal statement, as you are likely less distracted by schoolwork and deadlines. In an ideal world, you would be done with your personal statement by August.

Preparing For Your Common App

Mid-August is when the Common App and other application portals open and supplemental topics are released. Take August and September to write these essays before the rush of senior year kicks in! Before you know it, Early Action and Early Decision deadlines will arrive.

By mid-October, you may be submitting your first round of applications. You should be prepared to review your academic transcripts for application and finish your university selection. If you don’t have any applications due during this time, think about how you can get ahead. If you still need to take a standardized test, now is the time to really study.

Early Action and Early Decision

November will be the time most Early Action and Early Decision applications will be due. This is also the last chance to take the SAT/ACT! During this time, you should also be finalizing your Common Application for all of the schools on your final list. You will need to submit standardized test scores and complete all of your supplemental essays and the personal statement. If you’re aiming for top schools that are known for requesting interviews, now is the time to start prepping.

Wrap It Up!

Before you know it, it will be December! This is the month to put the finishing touches on your regular deadline applications. We also recommend taking this time to confirm your financial aid information (FAFSA) and submit your application early. And while you’re at it, we recommend submitting your regular round applications early too! Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your application. The earlier the better--put your brain at ease.

As mentioned before, it is important for each student to set their own goals, manage their own time, and measure their own success. Students should utilize their own preferred ways of staying organized and holding themselves accountable. Map a timeline and to-do list of all of the tasks and deadlines that you need to keep track of and follow it religiously! With enough dedication and drive, you can get accepted to the top school on your list!

How Crimson Can Support

Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admissions support company specializing in helping students gain entry to some of the world’s most competitive universities including the Ivy League, Oxbridge, and more.

Our holistic approach provides support across all areas of the US & UK application processes including everything from best-fit university selection and standardized test tutoring to extracurricular mentoring and personal essay support.

To speak with a Crimson Advisor about how you can get ahead this coming school year, schedule a complimentary consultation here.