I’ve been hearing it (and thinking it) all week: what happened to September?

If it’s fall of your senior year, I have a reality check for you: 

How many weeks do you have to get those applications in?

Let me throw a few numbers at you:

  • Most early applications (both Early Decision and Early Action) have submission deadlines of November 1st. That's five weeks from this Friday.

  • For those applying to California schools, the UCs and CSUs have a submission deadline of November 30th. That's nine weeks from this Saturday.

  • Then, many students' regular decision deadlines fall on January 1st. But who wants to spend the holidays working on applications? Today, we have about twelve weeks until winter break.

Thinking in terms of weeks really helps to put things into perspective, right? You just never have quite as long as you might think you do. 

But here is how you can use this perspective to your advantage: map out a week-by-week schedule of all deadlines and application tasks on your to-do list through the rest of the fall.

It's a tool I refer to as the Home Stretch.

Here are the steps to start your personal Home Stretch timeline:

  1. Open up a blank document and make a list of every week from now through next January (or later, if you have deadlines that fall past that window). Label each with the first or last day of the week, whatever you prefer.

  2. Add all major exams, travel, shows, other commitments that you know of this fall. (Keeping your personal calendar and any of your classes syllabi on hand makes this part much easier.)

  3. Add all of your colleges' application deadlines.

  4. Choose a date by which you intend to finish ALL of your application work.

  5. Choose your intended submission date for each college application — make sure it's at least 3 - 7 days before the actual deadline in case anything is missing.

  6. Make a to-do list at the very top of all the supplements and word counts. Make sure to include items from the Summer College Checklist if you have not already completed them.

From there, you'll want to work backward, breaking each task into the smallest, most manageable pieces possible, and spreading those sub-tasks across the weeks. 

Here's a glimpse at one past student's Home Stretch as he started to flesh it out:

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You can also download a different, more detailed example here.

The longer your to-do list, the easier it is to cross those items off — and get that momentum going to power through the weeks ahead!

Good luck.