The first semester of senior year in high school is always strenuous. You are assimilating from summer break, you’re tackling AP courses, signing up for extra curriculars, participating in Varsity sports teams, and anticipating graduation by really buckling down on your studies. Oh, and then there’s your social life and any fall school events to attend. And, OH YEAH, there’s college. Right. Around. The corner. The first semester of your senior year is full of to-dos, and ascertaining where you want to go to college, why you want to go there, and what you (purportedly) want to do there is actually the easier part! Getting in is the problem. You’ve (hopefully) already taken your ACTs, SATs, SAT IIs, or any other standard examination in your junior year to get you where you need to be in order to apply for college. But, those exams mixed with your cumulative high school GPA won’t automatically get you into your university of choice–there’s quite a bit more hoops to jump through. What you need to do is narrow your college application process down to a handful of your top choice schools, at least three back-up schools, and maybe a shoo-in local school for good measure. That way, you will have all of your bases covered, and will be able to choose between acceptance letters when they start pouring in! Since you never know which school will say ‘yes’, the only thing you can do now is apply to your best ability and wait. So, while you’re compiling the best application ever, there are several things to keep in mind about college application deadlines.

1. They sneak up on you.
You might think you have 6-8 weeks before you have to submit the application, but before you know it, the semester takes off and you’re cramming everything into a few days to get it done. The trick is to mark your calendars of all important deadlines the minute you decide on a school, and remind yourself to do a ‘self-assessment’ of your progress and time-management every week thereafter. That way, you’ll be able to check off all the listed requirements without stress. And, you better believe those first and second midterms in senior year are challenging! The last thing you want to do is jeopardize your GPA (and your future) by squeezing college entrance essays in between big exams and daily assignments. Thus, leave procrastination at the door… or until second semester when Senioritis kicks in.

2. Every college is different.
College application deadlines differ between schools. You might have until mid-November to apply to one university, while another’s application cut-off is tomorrow. On top of that, colleges and universities require different things to complete an application: some want essays and creative samples, some want volunteer work (that you may or may not have time to complete!), but some–and this is crucial to remember–want letters of recommendation. If you have to collect more than one letter of recommendation from adults you know, you have to allot enough turn-around time for them to get those over to you! Adults are busier than you think, and you don’t want to rush them to sing your praises. If your college or university of choice requires letters from others, it’s smart to add another three weeks onto the application assembly process before the big deadline.

What else is important to keep in mind about college application deadlines? What worked for you? Share your story in the comments!