After taking a well-deserved break, summer is the perfect time for high school students to explore, learn, grow, and discover who they are away from the confines and pressure of their academics. This self-reflection will better help students in the college search and admission process. As college admission becomes more competitive, making a summer plan and starting the process early can help rising high school seniors build solid college application materials. Here are three ways students should use the summer to get a jump-start on admission season.
1. Build your college list
When starting your college list, you’ll want to consider several essential factors, including location, tuition, major options, size, and type of school. Most importantly, you’ll want to create a balanced college list, which is critical to your success and should include schools in three different categories: reach, target, and safety.
- Reach school: One where your academic credentials fall below the school's typical requirement range; also called a “dream” school; any school with an acceptance rate of less than 20% is considered a reach due to its unpredictability.
- Target school: One where your academic credentials fall well within (or even exceed) the school’s range; also called a “match” school; the acceptance rate should be at least 20%–40%.
- Safety school: One where your academic credentials fall comfortably above the school's range; these typically have an acceptance rate of at least 40%–45%.
Related: How to Build the Perfect College List
2. Ask for letters of recommendation
The best time to ask for recommendation letters from your teachers is before summer vacation starts. This gives them plenty of time to work on your letter over the summer. After they agree to write the letter, create a "brag sheet" for them, including bullet points detailing your academic and career goals, examples of stories where you showed leadership or made an impact in your community, and anything else you think they may want to reference in the letter. Sending your brag sheet along with your résumé will help them write a more personalized letter of recommendation. Remember, only ask people who know you well to ensure they’ll write you a strong recommendation that adds something positive or unique to your application.
3. Start writing your admission essays
The personal statement essay is essential in helping students stand out from others and showcase their personality in their college applications. During the summer, students should start to work on their personal statements because developing a compelling essay can take several drafts. By starting early, students can get the standard, more universal essay out of the way to provide more time to individual schools’ supplemental essays later. You’ll also give yourself enough time to find a professional guide to aid you through the process if you find yourself struggling more than you expected. Attending a “boot camp” like Application iQ from Moon Prep can keep you on track and motivated throughout the summer. Students can make real strides with their college applications and will finish the camp with professionally edited personal statements, essays, and activity lists.
Related: Our Best Advice for Writing Your College Application Essays
Regardless of whether you’re applying to competitive schools or not, the summer is the best time for rising seniors to get ready for college application season. When fall hits, it’ll be a whirlwind of senior year academics, sports, and other responsibilities, and students will find it more difficult to make time for college applications. Preparing while you have some free time now will set you up for college admission success and make your senior year of high school go a lot smoother.
Ready to learn more about or dive straight into the college search and application process? Be sure to use The CollegeXpress Ultimate Guide to the College Search to help you along the way!