The first half of summer is in the books. The start of the school year is just weeks away and rising high school seniors are feeling like there's a lot to do if they plan to apply to college. Here are the five most important things to get done this summer so that the college process will be smooth sailing:
1. Visit colleges
If the student hasn't started visiting colleges yet, consider an open house or a campus tour at a nearby college. This can be a low-stress experience especially for a student who has been hesitant to start visiting college campuses. Most families should visit anywhere between five and ten colleges. Summer is ideal to do a college visit as time is on your side. Any colleges that haven't been visited by the end of the summer can be done in the early fall. Visits not only help the student imagine themselves in college, the simple act of visiting campus can help them get admitted as many colleges (especially private ones) keep track of whether or not a student took the opportunity to visit. And, the visit can help the student fill out the college's "supplement" as firsthand knowledge translates better in applications than learning about a college online.
2. Write the college essay
Believe it or not, my favorite essays from students are written in the second half of the summer leading up to senior year. There is something about the distance from the end of junior year coupled with the anticipation of senior year that allows students to think more deeply about who they are and how they want to be perceived in their applications. The best place to start is coming up with a few essay topics. Then start writing ideas down for each topic. And before you know it, you're ready to start writing a draft off of the notes you created.
BONUS TIP: HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF COLLEGE VISITS
3. Fill out applications
This takes longer than one expects. Most students will fill out the most widely accepted application, The Common Application. Colleges have additional forms called "supplements" that need to be filled out on Common App as well. Each supplement can take just as much time and effort as filling out the main application. Many state/public universities have their own applications too. If the applications get filled out over the summer, students can spend more time focused on having a fun and productive senior year.
4. Test prep
It's not too late to brush up on testing strategies to prepare for any additional standardized tests this fall. I tend to see students' best results on standardized tests in the fall of senior year if they were able to get some targeted test prep done over the summer.
5. Be productive
Spend time on other activities IN ADDITION to what is listed above. It doesn't matter what it is, but having another outlet besides "applying to college" is important for students. Getting something accomplished THIS SUMMER, whether it's getting certified to be a lifeguard, having a summer job, or pursuing their passion, gives students perspective. This helps them write better college essays and leads them to make more thoughtful decisions about their future.