Finally, you’re a senior! Time for fun, friends, memories. . .and applying to college.
A number of application deadlines hit in early November, meaning once school starts, you have just a couple of months to choose colleges, fill out applications, and write essays. Do you really want the stress of juggling those tasks with classes, tests, and homecoming? That’s why starting the process during the summer is one of the smartest decisions you can make.
1. Research Schools
You’ve been talking and dreaming about college for awhile, maybe even bought some sweatshirts and pennants representing your favorite schools. But have you gotten down to the nitty-gritty of where you want to go–and why?
When it comes to college, yes: location, reputation, and campus life are important. But even more important is academics. What do you want to study and pursue as a career? That school in the top ten rankings you’ve been salivating over may have just a so-so anthropology program, while that quiet college tucked away downstate is producing the best fossil finders in the world. Go online, but beyond the introductory pages. Dig deep into the majors, curricula, and professors your future program has to offer.
2. Hit the Road
If time and resources allow, visit some of the schools you’ve researched. Yes, you can find a lot of information online, but nothing beats the sensory experience of visiting a college in person to see how well the atmosphere blends with your temperament. Like your online research, though, don’t just stop at the admissions office. Set up an appointment to speak with a professor or student in your program of interest, asking as many questions as you can to form a good picture of what learning there is like.
3. Get Organized
Deadlines are a lot less intimidating if you own them and put them in order! After you choose the schools you’ll likely apply to, create a spreadsheet or calendar with important application dates, including your own deadlines for asking for recommendations, making an appointment with your college counselor, and writing essays. Stick to those deadlines as if they were assignments. I mean, aren’t they?
4. Give the ACT and/or SAT One Last Shot
Both the ACT and SAT offer fall testing dates that allow you to go for a higher score one more time before those applications are due. I know: you finished all of that junior year, right? Precisely because the whirlwind of junior year is behind you, you might find yourself more relaxed (and yes, a few months smarter) taking the standardized tests in August or September of your senior year. However, don’t let those registration deadlines pass you by. Register in the early summer–and then take a few practice sections–to make sure you’re set!
5. Read Narrative Nonfiction
College application essays are autobiographical narratives–stories, really, that show, don’t tell, what admissions counselors need to know about you. One of the best ways to prepare for this type of writing is reading!
6. Start Writing
Don’t wait for school to start to begin your application essays. Use the summer to brainstorm, free write, and try out some ideas; maybe even complete a draft or two. Not sure how to get started? Check out How to Write a College Application Essay for an informative, stress-free, and, shall we say, even fun way to write personal statements to get you into the school of your dreams! (Includes sample essays.)
7. Take it One Task at a Time
Yes, you should use your summer break before senior year wisely. But don’t pressure yourself to get it all figured out right now. Scholarship applications? Interviews? There will be plenty of time to tackle those tasks once you’ve gotten those applications in and have started to narrow your pool of choices.
Summer Quick Guide
• Make final list of schools
• Create spreadsheet/calendar of application deadlines
• Read narrative nonfiction
• Start brainstorming ideas for application essays
• Explore The Common App (700 schools, one application process!)
• Draft application essays
Providing everything a student needs to go from draft to polished essay, the instruction in How to Write a College Application Essay is straightforward, easy to apply, and inspiring. Includes sample essays from students who got into the colleges of their dreams.
“How to Write a College Application Essay is a valuable resource that I enthusiastically recommend to my students and their families.” —Lisa Scanio, High School Counselor, Adlai Stevenson High School
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