I can't believe it's mid-June. While I know our high school seniors have been thrown for a loop, I want to make sure one thing is certain: Summer 2020 is productive, straightforward, and personal for every rising senior.
Here are the five most important things to do now that school is out:
1. Be resourceful with your summer when it comes to a reportable activity for your application.
I have heard from so many students over the last few months who are upset about COVID-19 canceling their summer job or internship. You can absolutely list that canceled opportunity in the new COVID-19 section of the Common Application. But here's the thing about this summer: what you do for yourself, your family, and your community will be one thousand times more meaningful than anything else. Taking care of your younger siblings while your parents work, overseeing the medical care of a grandparent, or packing and distributing critical supplies for those in need in your hometown will shine brighter than anything else on your application. Hours per week and the number of weeks you do this activity matter so you need to invest the time into it. It is often the things we do when the chips are down which matter most.
2. Write your college essay—now!
The best time to write your main college essay is June, right after junior year ends. Due to all of the end-of-year thoughts, your emotional acuity is as sharp as it will ever be. Tap into those emotions. They translate into deeply personal essays which move the admissions officers to fight for you. Spend the next few weeks choosing a topic, writing your essay, and editing it to perfection. If you can get the essay done by the end of June, you will be far ahead of any timelines you make for yourself!
To get started, download my Ultimate Guide to Picking the Perfect College Essay Topic — for free!
3. Start writing supplemental essays as soon as your main college essay is complete.
Colleges typically do not update their supplemental essay prompts until August 1st when the Common Application does its annual update. But colleges seem to be more aware this year that delaying their prompts would be another blow to our students. Over the last week, I have posted on my Instagram Story a dozen or so colleges which have already announced their new supplemental essay prompts for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle. And the more colleges that announce, the more pressure it puts on other colleges to get their acts together, especially if they plan to reuse the same prompts as last year. You don't want to wait until August or later to start writing these supplemental essays. They can be more time-consuming than the main essay if the student is applying to selective colleges which are more likely to require additional essays.
4. Take a trip, a virtual trip, once a week this summer.
College admissions offices are still not open, but most provide online virtual tours and information sessions. Even though a virtual trip is just a little drop of insight into a college compared to a real in-person visit, it can help you narrow down some choices and be able to decide which colleges to visit once campuses reopen. You will save a lot of money and time by doing virtual research now on the colleges on your list.
5. Start filling out applications.
I always tell students who have writer's block on their essays or simply just need a break from writing to start filling out the sections of their college applications. The Common Application is expected to make some small tweaks to the template students use for this coming year, but anything a student inputs before August 1st rolls over to the updated version automatically. The "Activities" section of the application takes the longest time to fill out and tends to be a work in progress as senior year presents new opportunities which can shift the activities around and change titles, descriptions, and achievements. Getting started on it now can give you peace of mind going into senior year.
I know this summer is not what you imagined it would be. You are worried about standardized tests, finalizing your college list, and trying to have a semblance of normalcy. But you will look back on this summer as the most maturing and transformative time in your life. With half the colleges adopting a test optional policy this year, students might not have to scramble and take standardized tests this fall. Not being able to visit colleges until the fall may result in students having more reasonable and shorter college lists. And knowing that anything fancy this summer (whether it's a fancy internship or experience) is the last thing an admissions officer wants to learn about you, might allow you to see the power of your own ideas and individual impact on those around you. When we are able to do more with less, we are more creative, clear-minded, and purposeful. Let this summer be the most influential pivot of your life thus far.