Originally Posted: Jun 11, 2018
Last Updated: Sep 22, 2020
School is finally out! We can all celebrate and relax for a bit over the next couple months…but given how much free time you now have, you should consider thinking about college, especially if you’re going to be a senior in high school next year. Yes, it may seem like you have so much time in front of you that you can use to procrastinate, but why not get these applications out of the way (or get ahead of the game) before you’re swamped with school again? Here are a few things you should do, sorted by grade.
Incoming freshmen, sophomores, and juniors
Think about what you’re interested in
It’s never too soon to realize your hobbies and interests and get involved in activities related to them. That way, you can start to determine what you want to focus on in college and look at schools that will be the best fit for those interests. There are plenty of summer camps and courses you can take if you want to delve further into a topic!
This is one of the most underrated things that you must do! I didn’t realize how important visiting a college campus was until after I’d received my acceptances, and I wish I had visited more schools before I applied. By visiting colleges, you can start to determine which campuses feel like a good fit. Try to go on a tour and possibly take a class. It’s also a good idea to meet with an admission counselor and talk to current students in order to find out about the campus culture and how you might fit in. If you have special interests like music or sports, try to get in touch with those departments, teachers, and coaches so you can see the facilities and learn what the college has to offer you.
Study for upcoming tests
I know this is not something you want to spend your summer doing, but it helps to get a head start! Just spend a little bit of time per day working to get ready for the SAT, ACT, or SAT subject tests, and even preparing yourself for your upcoming classes. You could also look into taking a standardized test (or a practice test) over the summer.
Get a job
Jobs look great on college applications. It shows colleges that you do more than just school, and it also shows that you are responsible and committed! It can be any sort of job, but if you’re lucky enough to find a job related to your interests, take that one.
Get an internship or do volunteer work
This is another application builder. Colleges want to see that you’re invested in the world outside of school; it’s not enough to just be a straight-A student. Try to find interesting projects near you and find out how to get involved! Volunteer work may sound boring, but I promise that you’ll have a great time working in your community. You may even discover a new interest.
Do everything on the list above
Even though you’ve probably already done many of the above items, you should continue them! College applications are stressful, but do not stop everything that you are doing to just focus on college apps. You need to show that you are a real person with real interests.
Now is the time to determine where you might want to apply to college. There are tons of great college search websites out there, and CollegeXpress has its own college search tool that can help you determine what schools might be a good fit. You want to choose a school that offers your areas of study, along with any other hobbies or interests you have.
Try to delve in deep and find out about the culture on campus. Read about student life, see what professors are doing research on, and take a virtual tour. College is about more than just studying; you should like the student life and the professors too. There are also lots of college search organizers online to help you figure out what information to compare (like this college search spreadsheet).
Find a college counselor
This isn’t required, but college counselors are great at helping you figure out where to apply and helping you work on your applications. College apps are strenuous and can be confusing, so having a guide walk you through the process can be very helpful. Look up counselors around you and read reviews. You’ll want to do a lot of research before choosing a counselor, as this is the person who will be helping you make one of the biggest decisions of your life. Keep in mind, though, that college counselors can be expensive. See if using one is the right plan for you and your family.
Write your essays
Many colleges release their essay questions during the summer, so if you know where you want to apply, start to work on these essays! Even though they aren’t due until late fall or early winter, it’s good to get a head start before you have to deal with your normal school work load. You can also start to craft your résumé, something that many schools also require.
Last but not least…
Have some fun! There are lots of things you should do during the summer, but allow yourself to relax too. You just finished another year of school, and you deserve a break! Go to the beach, hang out with friends, or go on vacation. Just make sure to think about your future. You’ve got some big decisions ahead of you!