The Ideal College Applications Timeline for 2024-2025

April 18, 2024
College Admissions
College Essays
College Applications

For rising seniors, summer is really the time to hit the ground running with your college applications. While you may have commitments with pre-college summer programs or other activities, the Common App personal statement and supplemental essays for EA/ED schools should not be put on the back burner. When you go back to school in August or September, you will have even more items on your plate — and less time to dedicate to writing quality essays and honing your activities list. The following is our recommended timeline for staying on track with your college applications:

The Starting Line

April 1-30: Complete "Brag Sheets" and Select Your Recommenders

Does your school distribute "brag sheet" forms for you or your parents to complete? You should plan to fill them out thoroughly and thoughtfully because your answers will serve as a tool for aiding your counselor and teachers in crafting letters of recommendation. By completing these questionnaires, you provide them with a deeper understanding of your personality, interests, and activities beyond the classroom.

May 1-31: Finalize Your Recommendations and Work on Your College List

If possible, try to have your two junior year teacher recommenders lined up before the school year ends. You should also use the month of May to consider your EA/ED/RD/ED2 choices. If your school uses a college readiness tool like Naviance/Scoir/Maia Learning/College Kickstart, now is the time to review the data on your scattergrams to determine what colleges are targets or reaches for you based on your GPA and other factors. Make an appointment with your college advisor to discuss this data so you can make the most informed decisions about creating your college list.

June 1-30: Start Brainstorming!

Use the first few weeks of June to brainstorm ideas for your Common App personal statement. This requires some deep thinking, not just writing about the first topic that comes to your mind. Remember that college admissions committees read a ton of these, so they will read your personal statement with the question “So what?” in the back of their minds. To grab their attention, you want to write something that is both impactful and meaningful. For 2024-2025, the essay prompts are the same as last year:

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

July 1-31: Finish the First Draft of Your CAPS Essay

By July 1, you should have a first draft of your Common App personal statement that meets the requirement of the 650-word limit. First drafts are never perfect, so don’t stress if you need to go back and make some changes.

Note for students applying to the University of California: This is also a good time to begin drafting the four essays that UC requires. Not only does this replace the Common App personal statement for UC, but working on those essays will also help you develop material that will come in handy for other schools’ supplemental essays.

The Halfway Point

August 1: Create Your Common App Account and Add Your School List

Creating your Common App account is fairly simple. After creating your account, upload your school list (EA/ED/RD/ED2) and complete all the sections including your activities list. Keep in mind that you will want to edit your activities list if your activities/roles change once the school year begins.

If you are planning to apply to any University of California schools, please also set up your UC account this week!

Your CAPS essay should be in its final draft stage by August 1.

August 2-31: Continue Working on Supplemental Essays

You should also use the remainder of August to begin drafting your supplemental essays for EA/ED schools. Your first round of supplemental essays will always be the hardest, so it is important to give yourself enough time.

If you are applying to MIT or Georgetown, or any schools that don’t use the Common App, you’ll want to create those applications and start filling them out. You will likely be able to adapt at least some of the material from your Common App and/or UC essays to use — but you still want to make sure you don't respond generically to the prompts.

Try to look at your essays with fresh eyes every day. That way you can catch any mistakes or inconsistencies. Pro tip: Read your essay aloud. You will be surprised at how helpful this simple technique can be for catching errors!

If you haven’t already asked your teachers for recommendations, now is a good time to think about whom you want to ask and get them to commit as soon as school starts. Also, if you are going to use an “optional recommender” such as a coach or an art teacher, get those lined up and ready to go. If you are applying to Dartmouth, please be aware that you will need a peer recommendation, so think about whom you plan to ask for that and have them start writing!

The Home Stretch

September 1-30: Start Finalizing

Your Common App personal statement should be complete. The only other edits will come after your high-school counselor provides comments. Once you have your personal statement done, you will feel much more confident and ready to take on the college application process!

Your EA/ED supplements should be done by the end of September. Again, the only other edits will come after your high-school counselor provides comments.

October 1-15: Finalize Your Common Application

This includes activities plus entering courses and grades for any schools that require them, as well as loading in your essays. All UC applications should also be finalized during the first half of October.

October 16-25: Start Submitting

All of your EA/ED apps should be submitted before the end of the month! Getting everything completed with time to spare will allow you some breathing room and a chance to relax.

November 1-30: Work on RD/ED2 Applications

UC apps should be submitted the first week of November. Work on finalizing your RD/ED2 school list and start working on supplemental essays for these schools.

If you are applying to the University of Southern California, work on those essays first so your application can be completed and submitted prior to USC’s priority deadline in mid-December.

December 1-4: Final Drafts for RD/ED2 Schools

All of your RD/ED2 essays should be loaded into the Common App and other applications.

December 5-20: Decisions, Decisions!

This is when REA/EA/ED decisions are usually announced.

December 21: You Made It!

Try to have all of your RD/ED2 applications submitted by December 21. You will be glad to have everything completed before the holidays start!

Follow this checklist and calendar, and you will be on your way to conquering college applications!