Summer is well underway, and whether your rising senior is busy with camps, internships, or travel, it is critical that he or she begin planning for the upcoming admissions season. Many students will tend to procrastinate after a demanding junior year as they rightfully deserve more sleep at night. However, those who completely put off the many time-consuming facets of a college application until fall are at a severe disadvantage. Soon to face what should be the most demanding course load of their high school careers in conjunction with major extracurricular time commitments, seniors simply do not have time to pull together all of the components of their college applications without becoming extremely overwhelmed and stressed. Read on for a list of application essentials that your student should work on this summer to avoid the time crunch.
- Prepare for standardized tests in the fall. If you are not satisfied with your previous SAT or ACT score or are still yet to take one, summer is the ideal time to prepare for standardized testing in the fall. Depending on your goals for college, working one-on-one with an SAT or ACT tutor is the best way to ensure you are best prepared to perform to your full capabilities as tutors can customize their plan of action to maximize your scores.
- Request letters of recommendations from teachers and counselors. It is best to decide who will be your recommenders in the summer before your teachers are swamped with grading, lesson plans, and writing several letters of recommendation in the fall. Teachers appreciate organized, proactive students and reflect this appreciation in their recommendation letters, so get an early start. This selection process is actually more nuanced than simply asking your favorite teacher to write you a recommendation.
- Research colleges of interest. Hopefully, you have already begun to formulate a college list with your high school counselor based upon your academic profile and what you are looking for in a college. While your college list by no means needs to be finalized at this point (it can fluctuate depending on your evolving interests and improvements in standardized test scores), it is important to start narrowing down schools that you would love to attend over the summer. This way, when school starts, you have a handful of schools to which you can consider applying either Early Action or Early Decision, an option that confers a massive statistical advantage (15% to 40%) in the admissions process.
- Brainstorm personal statement topics. While supplemental college essays specific to certain schools do not come out until early August, the personal statement and activity essay on the Common Application will remain the same this year. Start by brainstorming topics for each. Generally, your essays should either illustrate elements of your identity that are especially unique or examine the more common aspects of who you are in a remarkable or intellectual way. The UC application essays remain relatively constant from year to year. So you should certainly begin brainstorming and crafting essays for them as well.
- Compile an activity list. This list should include detailed explanations of all of your activities, focusing on accomplishments, leadership, and awards. It should also detail the hours per week, weeks per year, and number of years you have spent engaged in each activity. This way, your activity list can directly translate to the activity forms you will fill out when the Common Application and UC application come out in August and November, respectively.
If you are proactive about college application work, you will certainly minimize the amount of stress you experience this fall. However, if you are interested in understanding how to best represent yourself in your college essays and applications, it is best to seek out the expert advice of a college admissions consultant who can use his or her knowledge of current admissions trends to give you the best admissions results possible.
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