This school year is in the rearview mirror, and rising seniors are looking forward to a summer of sun, laughter, and friends. It’s time to tap the brakes. Before you know it, fall – and college application season – will be riding your bumper. Chillaxing has its place, but working college prep activities in the summer will better position seniors to step on the gas come September.
These five summer college prep tips for rising seniors are designed to pave the way for success.
1. Hone in on Your College List
That amorphous list of three dozen colleges needs to be wrestled down. Families can set aside time each week to research and discuss each prospective college and how the college may or not be a good fit for the student. Ultimately, the rising senior should have about nine colleges on their list. Three should be “safety” schools, or colleges they would have hands-down been admitted to last year. At least three should be “attainable” schools, or colleges where they are truly competitive with their coursework, GPA, and test scores. And two or three can be “reach” schools, where the student is on track academically and could be admitted, but where the school is highly competitive. College Board’s “Big Future” is the place to research schools and see how the student stacks up against last year’s incoming freshman class.
2. Start those Essays
College admission essays take time. A strong primary essay can take more than a dozen hours to draft, rewrite, edit, and polish. Many private colleges (especially those that use the Common Application) require supplemental essays. Some state colleges require essays as well. Now’s the time to contemplate essay topics, write first drafts, and mull how to dig deeper. (For a roadmap, read our article on writing spectacular college essays.) The student should have their almost-polished essays completed by the first day of senior year.
3. Ask for Letters of Recommendation
Ideally, rising seniors should already be in possession of letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors, community leaders, and employers. If the student is behind the curve, there’s no time like the present to request letters and follow up with recommenders. While Common App colleges and some scholarships will reach out directly to recommenders later in the year, avoid the rush by giving teachers and counselors the opportunity to take their time in crafting their letters. For specifics on how and who to ask, consult our letters of rec article.
4. Apply for Scholarships
External scholarship application deadlines occur year round. Indeed, scholarships with application deadlines in the summer months often have fewer applicants. Fewer applicants mean less competition. Check the Scholarship Money Online scholarship database regularly and apply, apply, apply. Students find that scholarships often require essays that are variations on a few themes, such as career and educational goals, how the student has given back to their community, or the world they come from. The trick is to write the essays, then cut, paste, and repurpose them for a variety of scholarships.
5. Learn Life Skills
Senior year will race by and graduation day will be at hand before you know it. Summer is a great opportunity to develop life skills that the student will need when they make the transition to college. Parents should use the school break to fill in their student’s knowledge gaps. For example, parents can teach their student how to shop for groceries and cook, how to do laundry, how to clean, and how to balance a checkbook. If the student doesn’t already have a checking account, savings account, and credit card, now – when the parent can keep an eye on spending and balances – is a good time to open them. Once the student has left for college, parents will look back fondly on the time they spent teaching their child the basics.
Setting college prep intentions for the summer and following through on goals and objectives will put students and families in the driver’s seat when fall rolls around. So, get to it!
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