Even if you’ve taken it pretty easy the past few summers, the months between junior and senior years are crucial for jumpstarting the college admission process. It’s also a good time to refine interests, add to your resume, and otherwise position yourself for beginning the ultimate transition from high school senior to college freshman.
The first day of school will be here before you know it. But in the meantime, here are 12 ways you can make the most of the summer before senior year:
- Work. Options range from scooping ice cream at the
shore to organizing a book drive, conducting research, or hammering nails for
Habitat for Humanity. By the time you’ve
completed junior year of high school, you should be old enough and responsible enough
to work—full or part time; paid or unpaid.
Work builds character, introduces career options, teaches skills, and expands
your network in important ways. Don’t
miss the opportunity to add to your resume while learning something about yourself
- Visit Colleges. Campus tours don’t stop just because the
undergrads are off doing other things. Now
is the time to check out the last few colleges on your list and refine your
ideas of how location and size fit into the scheme of things. And by the way, the
summer is a great time for more relaxed conversations with admissions staff,
coaches, or professors in departments you may be targeting.
- Nail Down the
List. Take a deep breath and begin eliminating
schools that don’t really appeal or offer what you want. Zero in on the places that represent the best
fit—academically, socially, and financially—and begin committing to a realistic
list of schools to which you intend to apply.
- Get Organized.
There are a zillion moving parts controlling
the college admissions process. Get a
handle on them by creating a spreadsheet of colleges on your list and noting deadlines,
requirements (recommendations, test score submission, interviews), important admissions
policies (early action vs. early decision), and application quirks
(supplements, scholarships, honors). Also,
make note of which colleges use the Common Application, the Universal College Application (UCA), or other school-based forms.
- Do the Clerical
Part. There’s no reason not to complete
the simple stuff as soon as applications go on line or are made available on
college websites. Note that the UCA went
live on July 1st and the Common Application will be ready on August
1st. Other applications and
supplements will appear on websites as the summer progresses.
- Draft Essays. Now is the time to begin
brainstorming and drafting essays. Explore a variety of topics and don’t be
afraid to change direction or discard work that’s going nowhere. This is the true advantage of writing and
reflecting during summer months before the pressures of senior year cut into your Zen time.
- Prep for
Standardized Tests. You’ve probably
taken the ACT and/or the SAT at least once.
If you didn’t knock the ball out of the park the first time (and most
don’t), plan to prep for a fall retake.
Get a tutor, sign-up for a class, or simply sit at the kitchen table and
take timed practice tests. Work on
vocabulary and grammar—these are learned skills that take lots of practice like
playing the piano or improving your ERA.
- Research and
Apply for Scholarships. The
scholarship hunt should begin now—not after all your college applications have
been submitted. A surprising number of
scholarships have applications due early in the school year and use essay
prompts similar to those you’re working on for colleges. Use FastWeb or Cappex to get an overview of
what’s out there. And while you’re at
it, explore the FAFSA4caster with your parents for a little financial reality
testing and apply early for that all-important FAFSA pin number.
Recommendations. If you haven’t done so already, try to get in touch with at
least two teachers from junior year to ask for college recommendations. You may or may not need both, but it’s always
a good idea to have two teachers who are willing to support you. Don’t delay here—teachers may limit the number
of recommendations they’ll be willing to write or they may want to get started
before school begins. Be sure to provide recommenders with background
information—a resume and cover note should suffice.
- Schedule Interviews. Note that many
colleges only offer on-campus interviews during the summer, and you want to be
able to check these requirements off your list sooner rather than later. Colleges make it easy to combine interviews
with campus tours, but you have to schedule early to get days and times that
work for you.
- Position Yourself for Fall Classes. Be aware that senior year courses andgrades can be very important in admissions decisions. Colleges want to see upward trends in grades,
and they care very much that you continue to challenge yourself academically. Obtain texts for any challenging and/or AP classes and work ahead during the summer.
If necessary, give your tutor a call and go over the first few chapters
of material you know will keep you up late at night come September.
- Read, Relax, and Enjoy Yourself. A year from now, you’ll be packing your bags!