I get this question from parents and students all the time. What should they be doing right now? Are they behind? Is it too late, too soon? When are the college applications due? No matter what time of year they ask, I always first say, relax. Stressing over a timeline will make most students avoid getting their applications done, which is normal, but not helpful. Many competitive colleges and universities have application deadlines in November. The majority of college applications are due in February. Plenty of great schools have rolling admissions, meaning you can apply anytime. You need to check with your preferred schools and find out their deadline, of course, but this gives you an idea of when applications should be submitted. Let's make a basic timeline for the application process that will be easy to follow.
August: Complete your resume. Ask for Letters of Recommendation (almost everyone you ask will want to see your resume, FYI). Make your free account on Common App and Coalition for College Access. Read My College Planner for tips, advice, and guidance.
September: Add application deadlines to your My College Planner calendar. Then go back two weeks from that deadline-- this is the day you want to submit your application! Be ahead of the crowd.
October: Essays. Edit, edit, edit. Then edit one more time. In a perfect world, you will edit once a month or so. The time in between will help you see how to polish up your essay like a pro. Get the demographic data entered into your applications.
November: Early decision apps are usually due, so check those dates. Study hard and keep your GPA up. Make a plan to get your apps done and submitted asap after the holidays.