The college application process can be overwhelming. You’re navigating a whole new set of challenges and checklist items to make sure you get a spot at the college of your dreams. And, if you’re like many students, you may not even know where to go to ask for help figuring this stuff out.

Not to worry, though: we’ve got you covered.

Below, we’ve laid out a simple, basic checklist of all the important steps to get you ready to enter college, and when you should aim to complete them. Remember to keep this list handy, and stay on top of each month’s tasks:

SUMMER (Before Senior Year)

  • Complete any testing requirements: If you plan to take (or retake) the SAT or ACT, be sure to plan out your timetable to ensure you get your final scores early in the school year.
  • Start researching different colleges: You’ll want to create a list of colleges you’re interested in attending. Now is a good time to research candidates and start making a list.
  • Add to your resume: Consider adding some extracurriculars during the time off, including volunteer work, a temporary job, an internship, or a project aimed at personal enrichment.
  • Research financial aid: If you plan to apply for scholarships or grants, we have resources on our blog to help you get started with your search.


  • Take note of deadlines: You’ll want to find out about college application requirements and deadlines, as well as those for financial aid. Keep track of this information so you don’t miss any important dates.
  • Narrow down your list: After researching several schools, now you want to start creating a “shortlist” of 4-8 colleges in which you’re most interested.
  • Start applying for scholarships: You want to fill out the FAFSA as soon as you’re allowed to do so, then start applying for scholarship opportunities.


  • Get a recommendation: If you have a good relationship with a teacher or administrator, try asking if they’d be willing to write a recommendation letter for you to submit with your college application.
  • Start the application process: Download and begin working on college applications and financial aid forms.
  • Register for any necessary exams: The SAT or ACT is the only entrance exam most colleges require. If one of your shortlisted schools requires another test, though, be sure to sign up and complete this requirement.


  • Submit your scores: Most colleges require you to send them official SAT/ACT scores directly from the College Board. You can do this by logging in to the College Board portal.
  • Finish up your essay: If you’re submitting any essays with your college applications, you should aim to wrap up your final draft this month.
  • Schedule campus visits: You may want to visit some of your shortlisted schools to get a feel for the vibe of the campus. Try to schedule these visits for earlier in the Spring.


  • Start sending applications: Now’s a good time to submit your completed college applications to the schools you included on your shortlist.
  • Double-check the test requirements: Make sure that you’ve completed all testing requirements by this point. If not, sign up for the remaining requirements as soon as possible.


  • Keep applying for scholarships: The more scholarships you apply for, the better chance you have of boosting your total financial aid package (and the less you have to pay out of pocket or through loans).
  • Make a final counseling appointment: Meet with your academic advisor or counselor at school to go over your plans and the college readiness steps you’ve taken. Make sure there’s nothing you missed.


  • Review your acceptance letters: Consider all the schools that accepted your application. Think about them closely, and pick the one school that fits you best.
  • Reserve your spot: Once you make your final decision, it’s time to respond to your chosen college and confirm your slot for the Fall semester.
  • Figure our your lodging: If you’re not staying home during college, you’ll need to research lodging options (dorms, fraternities/sororities, off-campus apartments, etc.).

Remember: this isn’t a comprehensive list. There are some steps that might not apply to you, or additional steps that are not on this list. It all depends on your individual circumstances. That said, if you follow this list closely and stay up-to-date on your progress, you should have no problem being ready for your first semester of college!