What should high school students do before the summer of their senior year?
I’m assuming this means that the 11th grade is over. If not, be sure to ask special teachers for LOR’s. Waiting until the fall can be too late, as they’ll be bombarded by your classmates. Make sure that if they work in the summer that they’ll earn <$6,000 in 2012, otherwise, for every dollar earned over, they'll lose 50 cents in financial aid! Contemplate starting your own fundraising organization to get a real boost in the admissions process & hire your friends as your asssistants.
Make sure that if you have to visit a college campus that at least a summer session is in progress. Poor planning resulted in this decision.
Before the summer of senior year, students should spend at least 2-4 weeks doing something productive, interesting, and challenging. The exact activity should be dictated by the student and their interests.
Colleges don’t specifically want certain types of activities. They want to see students pursuing their interests, and showing initiative, leadership, and commitment in those areas.
Some ideas for things to do over the summer are working (colleges like it when students have a real job), pursuing an internship, attending an interesting summer program, studying abroad, focusing intently on your sport, art, or music, or doing foreign language immersion.
Any of these (and just about anything else you can think of!) are fine, as long as they are of interest for the student, and are challenging, engaging, and interesting.
Here is my video response to the question.
High school students should already have an idea of the schools to which they want to apply before the summer of their senior year. Most, if not all, of the research should be done. If possible, arrangements should be made to visit the schools of interest – either in the spring of a student’s junior year or in the summer of his/her senior year. Of course, this is not always feasible for various logistical and financial reasons, but there’s nothing that can beat an actual visit to a campus in helping a student to make college application and acceptance decisions. On those visits, the student should plan to attend an information session, take a campus tour, and if required or recommended by the institution, participate in a private interview with one of the admissions officers. Time permitting, it would also be of benefit for the student to wander around campus for awhile to get a feel for the environment. The best time to visit a college is when classes are in session and students are on campus, but this doesn’t always fit into the schedules of most high school students, so the visits will just have to be scheduled when they can be – usually spring or summer breaks. When colleges are in session, it is often possible to schedule on-campus overnight stays with current students, which is one more way to get a “feel” for the schools.
I also recommend that my clients take at least one SAT and/or one ACT before the summer of their senior year. This accomplishes several purposes: Firstly, a student can determine areas of strength and weakness and can focus on the areas in which he/she would like to improve before taking the test again once or twice in the fall of the senior year. (In my experience, taking the tests more than three times can be counter-productive.) Secondly, getting an idea of a student’s potential test results and comparing those results with standardized test score ranges at the schools in which the student is interested can be useful in determining which schools represent realistic expectations and which are “reaches”. Keep in mind that the standardized test score ranges which schools publish are typically the middle 50%, which means that 25% of admitted students had lower test scores and 25% of admitted students had higher test scores. Students in the lower 25% usually had some other defining strength or quality, which made up for the less stellar test scores – musical, artistic, or athletic ability, international background, etc. It is also important to know that a small, but growing, group of colleges have decided to no longer require standardized test scores of their applicants, feeling that the scores are not representative of a student’s potential for college/university success. These schools are not in the majority, however.
During their junior year, students should have made every effort to work toward success in their high school classes. Again, this if for several reasons: Firstly, the grades that will be initially entered on students’ applications will be grades from the junior year. Of course, students should stay focused on doing well in the 12th grade, as well, as those grades will ultimately be provided through the Mid-Year and Final Grade Reports to the schools to which they apply. Another reason for working diligently in the 11th grade is that students will, in all likelihood, be asking their 11th grade teachers for college recommendations, since, at the time that college applications are being sent out, 11th grade teachers will most often have more knowledge of a student, having worked with him/her for a full year and completed a full year of instruction with him/her. Students will want to ensure that what their recommenders are able to say about them will be positive.
I always tell my students to show that they can undertake responsibility. One of my favorite activities for my students is to have them take on a summer job. It can be anything from working as a camp counselor, to coaching youth basketball, to working at a local McDonalds. It shows an admissions office that a student is responsible, can manage his or her time, and is willing to earn their own keep.
If students do not choose that route, I may encourage them to take a college-level course at a local school. It does not have to be an expensive summer study at a top-tier school. Taking a college (non-remedial) course at a community college can show schools that your student is an active learner, and is willing to stretch him or herself academically.
Just kidding! Nothing could be farther from the truth. Have you ever heard the saying: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”? I hate that saying, because failure to me in not an option for teenagers. Everything is a learning experience. But I’m a middle child, and that means I learned most of what I know from observing the trial and error of others. Step One: Breathe through your nose. Repeat Step One. Now, get organized.? Does your guidance counselor even know who you are? Who is writing your recommendation letters? Work on your brag sheet (resume/list of activities). Make a calendar of important due dates. Most importantly, remember Step One. 80% of US colleges accept 80% of their applicants. You WILL get in somewhere if you have a balanced list.
Do something interesting! Whether academic, athletic, or other, do something that interests YOU. Go to college for high school students, volunteer, get a job, learn a new skill, spend time on your passions, go on an adventure….all of these are better than just sitting around or hanging out with your friends. Colleges want interesting students to deepen the substance of their student body….so be interesting, and be interested.
most students will spend time on test preparation during the summer before their senior year. however, if you have a three year plan for summer, you should stay with your plan and work on your test prep throughout the year.
it is also the last opportunity for students to catch up with their activities outside classroom.
if you ca not affort to do anything else, you may get a job and work part time.
Visit colleges. Read books. Get a job. Take a pre-college class at a college campus. Finalize your college list. Start on your essays. Volunteer. Get an internship. Begin the Common Application which becomes available on August 1. Relax a little before school starts…
The summer before your senior year of high school is the ideal time to focus on all things admissions related. Tour schools, fill out the Common App, write those essays, request those letters of recommendation, open the FAFSA, schedule interviews, stay focused. If you can be done by the time school begins, you will be soooo happy. There are plenty of other activities demanding your attention in senior year, how nice to be able to give them you undivided attention. Plus, if you apply early, you’ll hear back sooner; another BIG relief when that first offer hits your mailbox.
Suggestions for high school Juniors to jump-start their college action plan during the summer. As tempting as it might be to goof off and sit in the pool the summer before your Senior year in high school, take these tips to heart and the college application process will be significantly smoother come Senior year!
Before school lets out, sign up to take the PSAT/NMSQT in October
Get ready for the ACT/SAT during the summer by taking full-length practice tests and getting SAT/ACT tutoring.
Prepare for SAT Reasoning or SAT Subject Tests if the college you are interested in accepts these test scores. If you plan your tests in advance you can take up to three Subject Tests on the same day.
Prepare and take AP Exams. Doing well on AP Exams allows you credit or placement at most universities.
Start your college search:
Make a list of your abilities, hobbies, preferences, and personal qualities and use this list to develop what you may want to study in college
Read about perspective majors and careers
Use COLLEGE SEARCH to help find colleges with the features and characteristics you are looking for.
Visit college campuses. Take campus tours and schedule interviews with admissions counselors. It will show that you are serious about attending their school, plus it gives you a jump start on your classmates.
Secure your admission:
Begin thinking of what you will write about for your admissions essays.
Ask teachers, coaches, community leaders, family friends, etc. if they would be able to write letters of recommendation for you – best to ask as soon as possible so they have time to think about what they will write!
Request applications from colleges to which you are planning to apply. Ensure that you have the dates of acceptance down – some schools have early admissions dates or rolling admissions.
Prepare for the college experience:
Ask your parents for more responsibility over the summer, whether it be getting a job, or attending a summer college course, prove that you will be successful at college once you are on your own.
Stay active during the summer:
Volunteer or get a job that might help secure your admission into that elite program you have your eyes on – internships are great, even as a high school student!
Keep your mind active. Do some summer reading to catch up on required reading.
Start thinking about Financial Aid and how to pay for college:
Consult with your parents to determine the amount of financial aid that you will need to apply for.
Base your college search on schools that fit your budget
Begin compiling a list of scholarships to apply for, as well as beginning writing scholarship letters and essays.
While this may not be a popular answer — we highly recommend that students start on their college essays during the summer. At the very least, students should review essay prompts and begin the brainstorming process.
While fall and winter application deadlines can seem very far away in July and August — the first semester of senior year is an intense whirlwind of activity — and before you know it — it will be Halloween and early decision/action deadlines will be right around the corner.
In order to write a solid, authentic, and compelling essay, a student needs to devote some time and careful thought to the process. By starting in the summer — away from the crush of academics and extracurriculars — you can build a strong foundation to crafting essays that truly reflect the great person that you are.
There are a number of things you should do before your senior year that can help in the process. Start on application at its worst the process can seem like another class so anything you can do—draft of essays, entering the basic information on the Common application, whatever–can help ease that burden. Do some final visits even though summer visit to some schools may not give you the best picture since they may not have very full or vibrant summer population. Undertake some kind of productive and substantive activity—an academic program, volunteer work, or a job. Work in particular has a bad rap as far as its impact on college, and it shouldn’t for the demonstration of responsibility inherent in any job is nothing but positive. There is no one right thing to do, but use the summer productively.
Ideally, students will have made significant progress in their college process during junior year and will already be developing a list of potential schools and batting around idea for essays. Given the intensity of 11th grade, however, most kids are still at the beginning stages of the process when summer rolls around.
Of course, it’s crucial to have good grades in rigorous courses under your belt up through junior year, and to have been engaged in a few solid extracurricular activities during your high school years. These are things that you can’t start making up for as a rising senior; if you haven’t got them taken care of, it is, essentially, too late.
What you CAN do before school gets out for summer is take the SAT Subject tests while the material from your junior year classes is still fresh in your mind. You can be sure that you’re signed up for a full course load of rigorous classes (no slacking off! Senior year isn’t synonymous with a five period day).
You should also talk with the teachers who you’d like to write letters of recommendation for you, and, if they’re willing, get their summer email addresses so you can send them brag sheets, Common Application recommender invites, and other necessary materials. If you can provide them with the info they’ll need to write you a thorough recommendation before you leave in June, so much the better; teachers often prefer to write letters over the summer, when they aren’t burdened with academic year paperwork (and they tend to write better letters during the relaxing days of summer as well).
I’m assuming this means that the 11th grade is over. If not, be sure to ask special teachers for LOR’s. Waiting until the fall can be too late, as they’ll be bombarded by your classmates. Make sure that if they work in the summer that they’ll earn <$6,000 in 2012, otherwise, for every dollar earned over, they'll lose 50 cents in financial aid! Contemplate starting your own fundraising organization to get a real boost in the admissions process & hire your friends as secondary's.
Make sure that if you have to visit a college campus that at least a summer session is in progress. Poor planning resulted in this decision.
Utilizing the summer break is critical to a successful application process. Admissions officers look for engagement in activities 12 months of the year, not just during the school year. So, what you do with your summer’s matters. There is no right or wrong way to spend this time, but let it be unique to your own situation, goals and needs – just make sure you do something! Some students spend the summer focusing solely on test prep or taking classes at a local community college or online (MOOC’s, too). Others work full-time or part time, and there are some students who travel, volunteer or focus on a sport or sports. Most students do a combination of one or more of the above over the summer months, and the ability to demonstrate balance of a set of meaningful activities is a great characteristic to be able to highlight in your application.
In addition to continuing extracurricular activities, getting started on your essays should be near the top of your summer to-do list. The new Common Application prompts are out now (and School Supplements go live August 1st), so starting to brainstorm and draft during the summer months will save you a ton of time come the start of the busy senior school year. Even if you can only commit to working on them a few hours a week you will find yourself far ahead of your peers who have not put in the extra effort. You will be thanking yourself come October when your friends are stressed out trying to complete them all and you have time to continue your focus on maintaining that GPA!
Rest…that said: Whittle down your college list; prepare for the SAT/ACT; draft your essays; volunteer, work or participate in a leadership activity; visit campuses; and most of all, enjoy yourself. Find balance between the items listed above and your own personal growth.
Too many students their senior year wished they had used their summer break to start the application process. I would say in August before school starts up, begin “messing” with the personal essay and if schools you’re applying to are part of the Common Application, begin to fill out some of the sections. I say August because that is when the Common Application becomes available for students’ senior year application to college. (Rumor has it that in Fall, 2013, one of the essay prompts will be changing.) And, even if your schools are not part of the Common App., August is plenty soon enough to dig into that arduous task of beginning your personal statement/college essay!
In the meantime, if you have found a school/s you just love your junior year, check out summer programs for high school students at these campuses. Just maybe, it would make sense to participate in the program if it jazzes you! (Never do it thinking it will help with being admitted…)
Use your summer to follow your interests and/or employment opportunities. The key is to NEVER DO NOTHING—keep pursuing opportunities.
Congratulations on finishing up junior year! As a rising senior, here are some tips for making the most of your upcoming summer:
1. Take advantage of your free time. Get a part-time job or internship, volunteer at a local organization, take a summer class, or start your own business. The key to making the most of the summer before your senior year is to do something productive with your time.
2. Think about your letters of recommendation. If you have not already, brainstorm the people (teachers and others) who you feel would be able to best discuss you in a letter of recommendation for your college applications. Think about those who knows you best, who can speak about different aspects of you (academic and otherwise), and who you feel can add something to your application that has not yet been mentioned.
3. Begin brainstorming for the college essay. Use some brainstorming questions to generate ideas around what you might write about, what you want the admissions officers to know about you, and what you would like to convey about yourself in your essay. You might also consider looking at essay prompts for past application years and think about how you might answer those questions.
4. Continue narrowing your college list. Are you comfortable with the number of schools on your list? Is your list balanced between “reach schools” and “confident schools”? Would you be happy attending all of the schools on your final list?
5. Visit the colleges of interest to you. In a perfect world, try to visit all of the schools that have made it on to your college list. More realistically, though, take a look at your current list and try to visit one of each of the different types of schools on your list. Visit one large, state school for example, and then one smaller, private, liberal arts institution. This will help you better understand the factors that matter most to you.
6. Register for any remaining ACT/SAT tests. If you plan to take any remaining standardized tests in the Fall before applications are due, be sure to register for those in advance over the summer.
7. If you have not already, develop your extracurricular resume. This is your chance to write down all of your extracurricular activities from the start of high school until now. What groups/teams/organizations/clubs were you involved with? What was your role? How much time did you spend on each of these activities? What types of skills and experiences did each of these activities bring you? The more thought you can put into developing this resume over the summer, the easier time you will have completing this information on your applications in the Fall.
9. Develop a game plan for the Fall. Make sure that you have all of your college materials in one place (e.g., binder, folder on your computer, notebook, etc.), and develop a timeline of “to dos” to be completed. You might also find it helpful to map out all of the deadlines for your Fall applications (both early decision/action and regular decision). Collect any other necessary information that you might need for the application process (e.g., test scores, transcripts, etc).
10. Take a break! Taking a break from everything over the summer is a key component to being fully prepared to tackle the college application process in the Fall. If you can dedicate some time over the summer to the process, but also take some time for yourself, you will be prepared and rested for the applications to begin senior year.
– work on your college essays
– fill out applications
– do something academic or within your area of passion
– narrow your college list
– have fun!
Here are some of the things you may want to consider completing the summer before Senior Year (if you haven’t already):
1. Take (or retake) standardized tests such as ACT or SAT.
2. Continue to refine your list of potential schools.
3. This is a great time to take college tours, if possible. If you can’t visit in-person, you can take full advantage of the college website and also call the office of admissions if you have questions the site doesn’t answer.
4. Line up letters of recommendation from teachers and other sources.
5. Work on those college application essays! Have someone (a writing coach like myself for example) read them over for you. Keep in mind that your English teacher and parents don’t read essays the same way that admissions officers read essays. Your essays need to stand out from the crowd- the standard 3-point essay from English class will not do!
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