You are a Junior, going into your summer vacation. You’re getting ready for your senior year, and thinking that you will spend your summer just enjoying and relaxing… Think again! College applications are due between October and January of your senior year. Time speeds up in your final year of high school. Or maybe it’s just because you have so much more to accomplish in this year, it feels like you have less time. On top of your classes, exams and social life, the time and effort required for preparing for college can feel daunting. Is it smart to leave everything plus your senior coursework for the fall? If you want to reduce your stress levels this year, start the college application process now. The Common App goes live on August 1st, but there are many things you can do over the next few months to get a head start and to improve your chances of getting into the college of your choice.
Build a Résumé
When applying for college, you will need a résumé that boasts all of your amazing accomplishments, but perhaps you don’t have much to crow about at this stage of the game. Rather than trying to cram required community service hours into your already hectic senior year, spend some time this summer pursuing activities that will make your résumé glow while you give back to your community.
By now you may have an idea of where your career interests lie, but there is only one way to be certain. Take on an internship in your chosen field. Not only will this look great on your résumé, but it will give you the necessary practical experience to determine whether or not this is really the career for you.
Write Your Essays
You’ve heard it a million times: practice makes perfect. Even the most accomplished writers allow themselves enough time for re-writes, and so should you. The Common App essay prompts have already been announced, so, this summer, take a peak at the essay options and get typing. You may produce a masterpiece that requires only a little tweaking before submission, or you may discover that writing does not come naturally and you are glad you allowed yourself this extra time to hone your skills. You will probably also be required to write a supplemental essay for specific schools. Check each school’s website for essay topics and write a few drafts. As with the Common App essay, this head start and extra practice will improve your chances of submitting an outstanding essay when the time comes.
SAT and ACT
It’s never too soon to study for the SAT (http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice) or the ACT (http://www.actstudent.org/sampletest/index.html). Both websites offer free practice tests to help you prepare. Take advantage of these free trials as often as you need to until you feel confident enough to master the real tests, then try to schedule your SAT/ACT before school starts again in September. It is best to take the tests while the information is still fresh and before you are completely caught up with your senior year responsibilities. EduPlan has links to several ACT and SAT practice sites where you can get free tests. Contact us if you’d like more information on these free resources!
Talk to Teachers
Although your summer is fully planned and coming any minute now, you still have a few more days of school before the final bell rings. This is a good time to have a chat with the teachers you’ll be asking to write your letters of recommendation. Make sure they know who you are and where you are applying for college. Have the forms ready for them. Some teachers may even ask you to fill out a form that provides information to help them write your letter. Complete their requirement steadfastly in order to show them that you are serious and diligent when embarking in the college admissions process. Be smart and provide examples of your achievements throughout your year while taking their class, information that they can easily bring to your recommendation letter.
There are so many good reasons to spend this summer getting a head start on your college admissions process. Working during the summer holidays may not be your ideal vacation, but it will allow you some breathing space in your busiest year of high school. While others are scrambling to complete volunteer hours and work experience, you will have already ticked that box. Last minute college applications tend to be messy and incomplete, but, by starting early, you will have plenty of time to prepare a high quality application package. Admissions officers will not only be impressed by what you present on paper, but they will also see that you are an organized, self-motivated individual and an ideal candidate for their school. And with this, you will be on your way to achieving your best with your college admissions process.