If you have decided that an online education is the right fit for you and even narrowed down your list of possible colleges, you might wonder what the next step is. To get into an online college program, you will have to apply. Online schools have various admissions policies and deadlines. Some are very selective, while others have what’s called “open admissions,” accepting any student with a high school degree or equivalent. The application process can take time, so make sure that you’re aware of the deadlines and that you have any materials you need.

Online College Application Deadlines

One factor that plays an important role in deciding when you should begin your college application is the application deadline. Many schools that follow regular admissions deadlines require that applications be submitted no later than a specified date in December or June, according to the Higher Education Services Corporation of New York State. Others have what’s called “rolling admissions,” with no set deadline. In rolling admissions, schools review applications as they come in, so the sooner you apply, the better your chances. Some schools also offer early decision or early action programs.

What to Do Before Beginning Your Application

Before you begin working on a college application, read it in its entirety. Pay attention to the boxes you check and what the questions are asking. Find out what other materials you need, such as a high school transcript, SAT or ACT test results or letters of recommendation. Getting these documents can take time, so the sooner you find out what you need, the better. If you have to write an essay to submit along with your application, you will want to make sure you have the time to think through your idea, purpose, audience and tone and to plan out what you intend to say. You don’t want to rush through an essay to get it done on time and accidentally make an error that could reflect badly on you and your whole application. When you finish your application, take the time to proofread it for typos and other errors.

Is It Ever Too Early to Start Your College Application?

For high school students, the accepted time to begin applying for college is in the fall of their senior year. However, students should begin exploring their education options and narrowing down the list of colleges they are interested in during their junior year or earlier. In fact, today’s high school students often begin preparing for the college application process as early as age 14 – and the Coalition for College Access is creating a new online portfolio tool to help them, ABC News reported.

One piece of advice students applying to online college should follow is to give themselves plenty of time to complete the application. In fact, waiting until the last minute is among the biggest mistakes students make when applying to college, according to U.S. News & World Report.