Although many decisions are made during senior year, it is best to begin the college process early. Do enjoy some down time this summer but remain productive, active, and interested . . . Read, exercise, visit campuses while traveling, keep a journal, develop a hobby, and collaborate on something meaningful.
Here’s a list of action steps that will help students stay focused and on track.
Start researching colleges. Start by visiting, attending information sessions, reviewing websites, attending college fairs, and getting on college mailing lists. While attending local college fairs, find some that appeal to you. Start considering criteria such as academic programs, location, cost, size, retention rate, campus life, and housing. Check and see if your colleges of interested are on social media websites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.). Much current information can be accessed in this way.
Keep your GPA up. Take courses that are challenging and part of a strenuous curriculum. See what your high school offers and take harder classes that are part of a college prep curriculum. If you have exceeded what your high school offers, see what enrichment programs are approved by your high school. There may be advanced courses at a local community college or online that would work.
Explore working options. Learn about community service, jobs, and internship opportunities in your area that are in your field of interest. Talk to other students and adults to see if they have additional ideas. Network with those you know.
Know your school counselor. He/she will be writing college recommendations for you. Think about questions you want to ask, visit their office, and see what materials are available. Most school counselors are extremely busy with little time, so set an appointment if necessary.
Take the SAT/ACT in your junior year. Test date calendars can be found at http://www.collegeboard.com and http://www.act.org. Do practice and prepare; summer is a great time to do some practice tests or perhaps take a test prep course. Some colleges require SAT Subject Exams—so you should become familiar with those and learn the admission requirements of the colleges where you are applying
Discuss money. Will you need financial aid? Has your family saved money for your college education? Remember, the college itself will determine the true cost of your education. Some private colleges give their own scholarships and grants, so you want to investigate the options.
Stay involved in extracurricular activities. Just select a few that tie in with your interests. Do things you like and stick with it—depth and continuity are impressive on a college application. Volunteer, but not with too many organizations.
Visit colleges. Although campuses may be quieter during the summer, tours are offered and you can still “get a feel” for the college. Here are some college visit tips:
- Sign up and take a campus informational tour
- Set up an interview with an admission officer
- Audit a course
- Speak with a professor or representative at the department in your field of interest
- If you are pursuing athletics, talk to a coach in your sport
- If possible, stay overnight in a dorm with a friend or relative
- Pick up the campus newspaper
- Spend time in the student union and eat in the cafeteria
- Speak to students and ask questions
- Find the center of campus and have a seat for 30 minutes
- Take a look at the college bookstore
- Ask a student what he/she loves and hates about the college
- Tour the community surrounding the campus
- Ask a student if you can see their dorm room
- Ask yourself if you could feel at home at this college
- Take lots of notes and pictures
- Enjoy yourself!
Write. Practice writing in the first person—keep a journal and brainstorm possible college essay topics. Write a few rough drafts.
Lastly, spend time with your family!