Start Early: College Admissions Timeline

By Dr. Gina La Monica

As students finish their last days of finals, there is finally some reprieve from schoolwork. Summer is ample time to reassess where you are in the college admissions timeline as you venture closer to your senior year. The more you do early on, the less stressful the college admissions process will be during your fall senior year.

For freshmen, this is the first year of high school. During this period, students get familiar with the expectations and rigor of high school-level courses. Creating a four-year educational plan is of utmost importance to ensure you take the appropriate courses in high school for college admissions. Unfortunately, some students come to see me too late during their senior year and have not completed the required coursework. High schools have now changed the requirements to graduate, which regrettably often do not parallel with the college entrance ones. Know the specific subject course prerequisites for the colleges you might be applying to in your senior year.

For sophomores, this is a good time to take a few more rigorous courses, such as honors classes. Be active in extracurricular activities. This can include being in student government, athletics, or on the yearbook staff. Take every opportunity to obtain leadership roles. Colleges are looking for applicants who have leadership experience coupled with good character and volunteerism. Choose a non-profit to work at and make a difference. It is best to work at a couple of non-profits for a long duration than jump around to many.

For juniors, this is the time to take higher-level courses such as AP, honors, and/or college-level classes at your local community college. Make sure to excel in math working your way up to calculus by your senior year. Most highly selective colleges will not accept students without calculus even if they are non-STEM majors. This has been one of the requisites with the omission of ACT and SAT.  Continue your work in a community organization along with obtaining a paid position. Obtaining a job will set you apart from the rest of the applicants. Seventy-five percent of today’s college applicants are admissible; everyone has high-grade point averages. Therefore, a student must go beyond the norm to stand out. Many high schools are now integrating research opportunities with professors or industry scholars giving students a means to go above the typical high school curriculum to stand out among their peers. If you want to take the standardized tests, then take the ACT and/or SAT during your junior year, but do not send your scores to any colleges unless you know you scored well.

At the end of junior year is when the college process should begin if not sooner. Scholarships can be researched, and students can apply for them during the summer months. A spreadsheet should be created listing all the colleges a student is interested in with corresponding application due dates. Letters of recommendation should be requested during the spring to ensure they will be completed before the fall when teachers get inundated with requests. These letters can also be used for scholarship applications.

Starting in late summer until the end of the senior fall term is when students are submitting their college applications. Hence, your junior year grades are extremely important. For those who apply early, these will be the last grades the colleges see before making their admissions decisions.

College admission does not have to be a chaotic time if the process is planned early in advance with specific milestones being met with corresponding deadlines. It is an exciting time for all involved and a once-in-a-lifetime event in a student’s life.


Dr. Gina La Monica has a Doctorate in Education and has worked as a high school counselor, college administrator, and professor at many universities and colleges including the University of California, Los Angeles, California Lutheran University, California State University, Northridge, San Diego State University, etc. She was a tenured professor and an expert in career technical education and adult learning. She currently teaches at a local college and helps students of all ages from kindergarten to the university level with career exploration, college admissions, learning assessment, tutoring, and education plans. 

College and Career Advisement
Dr. Gina La Monica
(818) 359-0859


Written by Gina La Monica

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