How to Get a Head Start on Your College Applications.
Summer is finally here. Our first thoughts are often, “I can’t wait to just relax and not have to think of homework or preparing for an upcoming test. This downtime is indeed very important. You need to recharge your batteries and regain energy before the next school year begins.
However, summer is also a good time to reflect on what went well this past school year and what could possibly benefit from some improvement. And, for rising seniors, it’s a perfect time to get a head start on some college application work before the actual senior year starts.
Things you can DO NOW to make your senior year less stressful
1 – Research and Explore: Spend time researching different colleges and universities that you are interested in. You can do so by using college search websites like College Confidential, CollegeXpress, or even the Common App. Look into a respective college’s admission requirements, programs, campus life, and any other factors that are important to you. Explore various options and jot down some potential schools to consider.
2 – Create a College List: Based on your research, narrow down your list of potential colleges to a manageable number. Consider factors such as academic fit, location, size, cost, and any other personal preferences.
3 – Visit Colleges: If possible, plan visits to the colleges on your list. Attend campus tours, information sessions, and meet with admission counselors. All this you can do also virtually these days! This will help you get a feel for the campus environment and determine if a school is a good fit for you.
4 – Prepare for Standardized Tests: If you haven’t already taken the SAT or ACT, consider registering for upcoming test dates. Use the summer to study and familiarize yourself with the test format. Take practice tests, review content, and consider enrolling in test prep courses if needed.
5 – Plan for SAT or ACT Retakes: If you have already taken standardized tests but want to improve your scores, consider retaking the exams in the fall. Make a study plan to focus on areas where you need improvement.
6 – Volunteer or Participate in Community Service: Engaging in meaningful volunteer work can demonstrate your commitment to social responsibility and community engagement. Seek out local organizations or causes that align with your interests and dedicate some time to making a difference.
7 – Explore Internship Opportunities: Look for internships or part-time jobs in fields that interest you. Internships provide valuable real-world experience, help you develop professional skills, and can enhance your college applications.
8 – Develop Your Extracurricular Activities: Dedicate time to your extracurricular pursuits and leadership roles. Deepen your involvement in clubs, sports, arts, or any other activities that showcase your interests and skills. Seek opportunities for leadership positions or take on new challenges.
9 – Start your Common App Account: You can create your Common App account already now and start working on questions that you find on the “Common App” tab regarding your profile, family, education, testing, activities, and more. Once the Common App launches for the new application cycle on August 1st, all your answers on the “Common App” tab will roll over! (NOTE: Anything on the “My Colleges” tab will not roll over)
10 – Start Drafting Your Personal Statement: Common App essay prompts for the 2023-2024 application cycle will remain the same. This means you can use the summer to start working on your personal statement. Brainstorm ideas, write drafts, and revise your essay.
11 – Research Scholarships and learn about Financial Aid: Get acquainted with the financial aid process and how to look for scholarships. If you have already started your Common App account you will have access to the tab “Financial Aid Resources”. The information there will give you a good overview of the financial aid process. To learn more about scholarships (merit-based & need-based) I recommend reading the page Finding and Applying for Scholarships on the Federal Student Aid website.
Preparation is Key. But so is Summer Downtime.
Starting to work on your college applications in the summer will give you more time to polish your application, seek guidance from counselors or mentors, and handle any unexpected challenges that may arise. However, it is important to enjoy your summer as well, so find a balance between college preparation and relaxation.
Remember to stay organized, create a timeline for application deadlines, maintain a checklist of tasks, keep track of all the necessary documents and materials, and allocate dedicated time for completing each application.
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