As a consultant working with many different types of students preparing to apply to many different types of colleges in the fall, I’ve realized there are several tips that are universally applicable for the summer before senior year starts. At the beginning of the summer it can seem as if there is ample time to work on applications, and many students neglect the necessary focus to make good headway and wind up panicking when the school year starts and deadlines start sneaking up on them. To avoid the panic and ensure applications are receiving the necessary time and attention to best complete them, rising seniors should use the summer to:
- Carefully look over the 19-20 essay prompts and select prompts that will allow them to highlight a unique aspect about themselves or their experience. First drafts should be completed over the summer.
- Consider registering for an SAT/ACT retake. Scores are often higher after a student has already been through the experience of the test and with a little more maturity. Even a slight improvement in the score can make a big difference at decision time.
- Conduct mindful college searches and tours. Many students and families use the summer months to go on grand college tours. I have seen many students fall in love with a campus only to come to the sad realization they do not have the qualifications necessary for admittance or the school is financially out of reach for their parents. All colleges publicize their admit statistics each year. In addition to looking at academic programs and geographic location when planning tours, students and parents should also research admit stats, tuition rates and possible school scholarships.
- With an early college list in mind, research the ways these schools accept applications. The summer is a perfect time to begin setting up the Coalition and/or Common App profiles. By setting profiles up, students become acclimated to navigating the sites and logging in and out.
It is important for students to use their time wisely in the summer months before the senior year begins. Many students feel it is too late by this point to do anything that will make a difference. That is not so. By looking at the application profile sections, students may realize an area that is lacking. Whether it is a summer job, community volunteer work, or taking on a leadership role in an activity the student is already involved in, every little effort counts. College acceptance rates get more competitive each year, and this could be the time to possibly fill in that one little gap. That said, students have been working very hard for a long time at this point. It is absolutely possible for them to begin these steps and set themselves up for a smooth process in the fall while also finding time to relax, enjoy friends, and prepare for that exciting last year of high school!
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