Although I recently crossed the finish line in the race of college admission, I know many rising high school seniors are just now taking their places at the starting line. The summer between junior and senior year is the time to prepare yourself for the college admission and scholarship application process ahead. You can start working on your college apps and personal statements, maybe participate in a couple of jobs or clubs that will beef up your applications, and, most importantly, finalize the list of colleges to which you will apply.
For many high school students, summertime is marked by hours spent watching TV, playing video games, or sleeping the days away. And much of that leisure time is well deserved, especially after the grueling junior year. However, with all of this free time, soon-to-be seniors should use some of it in a constructive way that will help them with their college applications. Here are a few ideas!
Write a rough draft of your application essay
Summer is a great time to write a rough draft of your application essay or personal statement. Since many colleges use similar prompts year after year, students can often glean an idea of what colleges are looking for in essays by reading old prompts and sample essays. They can then formulate their writing plans based upon what they observe. Use the summer before senior year to take your time drafting an application essay you’ll be proud of!
Get résumé-worthy experience
You may need to attach your résumé to your college applications, not to mention have need for one if you’re looking to get a job or internship soon. But a strong high school résumé is only as good as the person it represents, and it should be a reflection of how you’ve used summer as an opportunity to better yourself and dig into things that matter to you. Whether students choose to volunteer or get their first summer job, there are plenty of ways for students to use the summer to their advantage. And, yes, they can have fun while they gain experience.
Narrow down your college list
During the summer between my junior and senior years, several teachers and college professors advised me to apply to a maximum of five colleges, and at the time, I found this perplexing. Doubting this advice, I asked myself: Shouldn't I pursue as many opportunities as possible? Shouldn't I give myself college options? In the end, I didn't follow their advice, like many of my peers, I applied to the number of colleges that felt right to me: eight, while a friend of mine applied to 14 and some others only applied to one. Needless to say, my list of prospective colleges spanned pages upon pages of notebook paper. But now I am glad that I did not apply to all of those schools. In fact, I wish I had done more college research and practiced greater restraint senior year, because I wasted hundreds of dollars on schools I never would have attended.
When you eventually apply to colleges, make sure each of your schools is one you would truly like to attend. You don’t need to apply to five colleges—you should do what feels right to you. But I think that's where the idea of applying to a maximum of five comes from: helping students be more thoughtful and confident that each school they apply to is one they are truly interested in. To narrow your college choices, take some time during the summer before senior year to really explore colleges that fit you. Rising seniors should consider the costs of each college, what kind of financial aid they offer, how likely they are to receive financial aid from each college based upon their parents' finances, what housing and meal plans are, current student satisfaction, distance from home, extracurricular activities offered at each school, and more.
Start thinking about financial aid
You are going to need to file the FAFSA before you know it, and lots of college scholarships will have deadlines in the fall. So use the summer before senior year to familiarize yourself with the financial aid application process, gather financial docs (probably with your parents’ help), and search for scholarships if you haven’t started already. You can work on scholarship applications and draft some essays too.
Your summer to-do list
If you spend just one hour every day over the summer reading essay prompts, drafting essays, and researching colleges and scholarships, you will be well prepared for the start of the college application process in the fall. For quick reference, here is a summertime to-do list for rising seniors:
- Narrow the list of colleges you will apply to.
- Read over sample college applications and essays.
- Prepare your résumé.
- Draft your application essays/personal statements.
- Search for scholarships and other financial aid opportunities.
- Volunteer, get a job, join a club, and/or attend summer camps you care about.
Have fun, almost seniors! This is your last summer as a high school student. You can definitely enjoy it while still getting a leg up on the college application process!
We have a lot more great advice where that came from. Get ready for vacation with Our Best Advice for Having an Awesome Summer Break, or gear up for next semester with Our Best Advice for Senior Year of High School.