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7 College tasks rising seniors should tackle this summer

Updated: May 16, 2023

Rising high-school seniors--

Once senior year begins, your classes, sports and extracurriculars will dominate your time. Getting through a number of your college “to do's” over the summer will alleviate a lot of stress and give you ample time to submit quality applications.

Here are 7 application-related tasks you can tackle over the summer to make your fall less hectic:

  1. Narrow down your college list. A successful college search requires thoughtful research. Rising seniors should spend time learning about schools over the summer to identify ones that may be a good fit. The goal is to build a well-balanced college list that includes “reach” schools, “target” schools and “safety” schools that are more likely to admit you. Websites like Niche, College Insight, and College Board’s BigFuture are favorites, but there are many more.

  2. Visit college campuses – even if it means doing so virtually. Summer can be a great time for families to visit colleges when teens have some downtime from school. Visiting a college in person is ideal, but remember that many college students will be off-campus for the summer so you may notget the full “vibe” of the school during summer months. Online virtual tours are available on YouVisit.

  3. Work on college essays. Start brainstorming topics early in the summer and work through multiple drafts throughout the summer. Prompts for the 2022-2023 Common App essay and four University of California essays are available now. I help students brainstorm and develop essays that showcase their unique strengths and personalities. No essay is alike.

  4. Ask for letters of recommendation. Some colleges and universities require applicants to obtain letters of recommendation, usually from teachers and school counselors. By asking for letters of recommendationbefore the start of their senior year, students can give recommenders time to write before they are flooded with requests in the fall.

  5. Compile an activities list. Colleges look at a student’s list of activities as closely as they do their college essays, so students need to spend time on them. Over the summer, you can make a list of all of the extracurricular activities you have been involved with and describe them. You can then transfer this information into any application platforms that require anactivities list, such as the Common Application. Activities don’t just include sports or clubs. Colleges are also interested in learning about a student’s work experience and family obligations.

  6. Study for standardized tests. The administration of standardized tests like the ACT and SAT was disrupted last year due to Covid. Many colleges reacted by shifting to test-optional policies, where ACT and SAT scores are not required but considered if submitted. Other colleges, like the University of California schools, went test-blind, meaning they won’t consider scores at all. Despite the seemingly diminished impact of test scores, submitting strong testscores (ACT, SAT, AP tests) can help boost your application. Students should use the summer months to prepare for these exams and check individual college policies to determine their stance on using test scores.

  7. Work or volunteer. Colleges care how students spend their summers, so make them worthwhile. You should take time over the summer to work, volunteer, take a class, or otherwise advance your skills in sports, technology, music, and academics.

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