By Eric DoblerRising seniors, here is a checklist of the top five things to you should be doing before the school year starts. Ready, set, go!1. Work on Your EssayYour essay can be one of the most time-consuming pieces of your college application. You have 500 words to tell your story, and not just any story at that. Your essay is your one opportunity, outside of an interview (which is no sure thing), to get beyond grades and SAT scores and show who you are as a person. With school out and no homework or studying on your radar for another couple months, the summer is a great time to start working on your essay. The Common Application will go live on August 1st but a quick search on Google will return the essay prompts which remain the same this year. Read them over, think about what they are asking of you and then start writing. Be prepared to write several drafts – often the end result looks nothing like what you started with.2. Study for the SATI know, I know. You just finished the school year. You’re tired of homework and you’re stressing about college and here I am telling you to study for a test that won’t happen again until October. But it’s precisely because you are not in school right now, that studying for the SAT makes so much sense. Take several practice tests from the SAT blue book and then spend time going back through the answers to understand what you got wrong. Spread this process out over several weeks and you might be pretty amazed at how much more prepared you will be for the real thing in October.3. Keep Working on Your BrandThinking of majoring in business? Look for part-time jobs or internships with local businesses or accounting firms. Better yet, tap into your entrepreneurial juices and start your own small business. Want to be a nurse? Apply for a shadow program at a local hospital or volunteer your time at a clinic. Veterinary school in your future? Contact local veterinarians and animal shelters to see if you can volunteer. It’s all about building and supporting your brand as an applicant.You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a fancy summer college program when you can learn valuable skills while networking with people in your future field through one of these avenues. If you already have a job and your time is somewhat limited, job shadows and informational interviews are also great ways to meet people and learn about your intended field. Learn everything you can from them and let this information help you qualify the decisions you have made, or are getting closer to making, about your major.4. Athletes – Time to Get NoticedUnless you are already being heavily recruited, student athletes should be using the summer to get noticed by college coaches. One way to do this is to participate in summer showcases and camps. Research your options and select programs which are being visited by coaches from colleges at which you are likely to apply. Once you have registered for the programs, send a letter of interest and an athletic resume to the coaches who will be in attendance. Once the camps are over, send a follow-up letter to the coaches from schools you are most interested in. Better yet, send them a DVD or a link to your own YouTube channel showcasing your highlights. The better you are at marketing yourself, the more college coaches will know about you.5. Have FunThe next year is going to bring its share of challenges, stresses and heartbreak. To be prepared for the grueling college application process that lies ahead, make it a priority over the summer to spend time with your family and friends and have some fun. One way to really help yourself manage the work/play relationship is by creating a calendar.Set due dates and reminders for writing drafts of your essay, study time for the SAT, college visits, etc. If you can keep your college-prep life organized, the rest of your life will be so much better for it! Eric Dobler is the President & Founder of Dobler College Consulting. Eric has spent 12 years working in college admissions and academic advising. He offers Unigo Sessions covering Getting In, Paying For It, and College Life.