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This is the third, and final, part of my probably-way-too-long introduction to the college application process for the rising high school seniors.  Be sure to start with part 1, then slog your way through part 2 before picking up this thrilling climax in the adventure that is applying to college.

The Next 9 Months: 3 Phases to College Admission

I believe there are 3 parts to the college admission process:

  1. You Decide Where You Apply
  2. Schools Make Admission Decisions
  3. You Decide Where You Enroll

The stress around this process can often be lessened by remembering that you (and only you) control 2/3 of this entire process.  We, as a university, only have a say in one of them.  You may feel like everything is out of your control as a result of the stress.  Trust me when I say this is your process; you are in control.

As highly successful, over-achieving high school students you may be used to getting the best grades, or completing tasks earlier than others.  Don’t try to apply that philosophy to college admission.  These three steps will run the entire course of your senior year.  Grandparents and Friends-of-Parents will often want to know where you are attending college way earlier than the three steps above run their course.

Let’s review the 3 Phases with a sense of the timeline:

  1. You Decide Where You Apply
    1. Application Deadlines vary, but typically are in Nov-Jan
    2. Apply to USC by December 1st for Merit Scholarship consideration
  2. Schools Make Admission Decisions
    1. Admission decisions can start rolling out from some schools as early as December through the end of March
    2. USC will make all admission decisions by the end of March
  3. You Decide Where You Enroll
    1. All schools must hear from you on your plans to enroll by May 1, 2019

Keep in mind, you will likely not know where you choose to enroll until the end of April, 2019.  This takes time – and it should.  We want you to consider all offers of admission carefully, including ours. Choosing a college or university is an incredibly personal decision and you will need at least the month of April to make that choice.


Early Admission, Early Action, Early Decision, Early What?

It is important to note the existence of Early ________ at other schools and be clear about USC.  We do not practice Early Admission, Early Action, Early Anything, of any sort. We believe you need the entire timeline outlined above in order to make a healthy decision as to where you will attend university.  The full year is important to get answers to the questions above, but also understand your own feelings toward each institution.  Read more about our application process as you get started on your applications.

I know you like data.  I know you make smart decisions.  You likely want to approach the college search process in the most quantitative process possible.  Unfortunately, it just doesn’t help.  Your emotions (how you feel, how you react, what you loved, what you hated) related to college visits (or their respective websites/social media feeds) are important.  You are choosing a place to live.  A community with whom you will interact on a daily basis.  Friends, colleagues, maids of honor.  I’m fairly certain you didn’t choose your current friends or community based on data.

Processing those types of feelings and emotions takes time.  It takes the full 9 months.  Let it.


Just the Beginning

While long, this 3-part post was just the beginning of the application process.  Each of you will have a different process, and likely different concerns.  We are always happy to help.  If you need more information, have further questions, please contact us and we are happy to discuss it all with you.

Paul Ledesma

As Executive Director, Paul oversees Undergraduate Admission for all programs at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. He was born and raised in southern California and is a lifetime Dodgers fan. He enjoys traveling (Italy may be a second home), discovering new restaurants in LA (tacos anyone?), and while he may not qualify as a bonafide movie-buff, he loves movies (especially comic book movies). He studied Psychology for his bachelor's degree, minored in Public Management, and was active in leadership for community service groups Troy Camp and Dance Marathon while attending USC. When he's not working he enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter, and rescued pup and kitty in Redondo Beach, CA. (well, maybe not the cat so much) Preferred Pronouns: he/him/his