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I just graduated high school, so let me give you my perspective.
I applied to 7 schools over the course of senior year. I took days off of school in order to make comfortable schedules for each of the auditions that I went to, and I felt that having a good schedule for the audition helped me a ton. Waking up to fly out to New York at 2 AM in the morning in order to go to an audition by 6 in the evening is gruesome and you don't want to do that. Anyways, I auditioned for the University of Alabama (for in-state rates), the Frost School of Music at Miami, Berklee, Steinhardt at NYU, Loyola at New Orleans, the University of North Texas, and the Juilliard School (just because). I was accepted into all of those schools, with the exception of Juilliard (duh), and ultimately I decided on North Texas, mainly because of turf3's point. Alabama, North Texas, and Loyola were the only schools that offered me scholarships, with North Texas offering me an out of state waiver, along with $6,000 a year (adding up to roughly an $18,000 value). Money is a HUGE factor when you're considering colleges, don't forget that.
I urge you to pursue a Music Ed degree, whether it's a traditional program, or one that has an emphasis in jazz. You can play without a performance degree, but it's hard to teach without a teaching certificate. I'm doing a double major with jazz studies and, after I eventually found out that I was admitted into it, music education.
When to apply? Dunno. Beat me there. Just try to space out your auditions as much as possible, with low priority schools (for me, Alabama and Loyola) earlier than high priority schools (i.e. NYU and UNT). That'll really help you with your auditions for later colleges, get rid of nerves, etc. At the end of my auditioning, I was really just kinda going through the motions at that point and each audition felt easier than the one before.
Do a standard. They're gonna frown upon auditioning with original compositions unless you're planning to be a composition major. I did Confirmation for my Berklee audition, and they asked me to play a ballad after that; I played Blue in Green.
Make sure you send in transcripts and apply to all of your colleges EARLY, EARLY, EARLY. Again, apply EARLY. It gets rid of that annoying process and you can just focus on getting ready for the audition. Another thing I'd like to remind you is to not slack off on classical literature. Top schools will usually require you to play a classical piece, and then play a standard. Even when you're accepted and attending the college, they'll make you study classical for a little bit in order to build up technique.
One big thing that deterred me from Berklee was the fact that their program is diminishing. It's really just turned into a school for electric guitarists to learn basic theory, and I didn't see how I would've fit into the program. I'm not telling you to not audition for the program, but that's how I perceived the program when I auditioned and visited there.
Sorry for such a long post, and best of luck to you, Nick!
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