Summer for rising seniors: an important time in the college application process
Summers are like Sundays. It’s time to sleep late, do something for ourselves, or spend more time with our families. It’s also an opportunity to get organized. Our weeks are easier when, on Sunday, we plan our schedules and start pending projects. Summertime, with its more leisurely pace, is a chance to tackle time-consuming tasks or clean out winter’s clutter.
If you are a rising senior, summer should be viewed as a precious opportunity. The secret to minimizing stress in the fall and optimizing the outcome of the college application process is to take time in the summer to get organized, become informed and complete the following critical tasks:
1. Put together a college list: Do not visit schools without investigating them beforehand. Compile an appropriate list of schools with respect to academics, activities, location, size, etc. Try to limit the list to 10-15 schools.
2. Begin visiting colleges: Many schools close for a period of time or run special programs in the summer. Thus, summer is not the best time to discover the “personality” of a college or its students. However, many colleges start classes before Labor Day, providing a chance for meaningful visits.
3. Complete a solid first draft of application essays. With a few tweaks here and there, these three essay topics can be used for most applications:
- A Personal Statement. This can be about almost anything, as long as it provides insight into something important about the applicant. (Two pages)
- A description of one of your extracurricular activities and why it is meaningful. (150 words on the Common Application)
- “Why I want to attend your school.” This should be written with respect to your number one choice and modified later to work on other applications. (One page)
In choosing your topics, remember that these essays are not just writing exercises. The goal of the essays is to give colleges a reason to admit you.
4. Create a resume that details extracurricular activities, jobs, summer experiences, honors and awards. Though not usually required, these provide a useful snapshot of your interests and accomplishments. They should be two pages maximum and should be organized and printed in a way that allows for a quick scan without missing key items.
Summer is also the time to strengthen skills and pursue core interests.
Begin studying for the September ACT and/or October SAT. Read a few good books. Attend a sports recruiting camp or a visual or performing arts program.
In the final analysis, if you have worked hard until now, you will find that the only things standing between you and admission to the right college are time and knowledge. You should use this summer to overcome these obstacles. Plan, educate yourself, get the hard work out of the way. These are simple principles that will propel you to college and beyond.