Daria Rockholz – May 28, 2014
If you want to get an edge on the college application process, begin by using your summer wisely. During the school year, high school students tend to get busy with their classes, sports, part-time jobs, and social activities, leaving little time for the college application process itself. This may lead to missing deadlines that could cost them a spot at a coveted college or university. It may also lead to missed opportunities for financial aid and scholarships. Despite the urge to relax and focus on vacations and summer fun, it is important to utilize the summer months between your junior and senior years to complete college applications, research scholarships, and write essays. This will reduce stress in the fall of the senior year, avoid lost opportunities, and most importantly – make you a more competitive candidate.
Based on a member survey of IECA educational consultants, there are a number of key activities that rising seniors can do during the summer to get a jump on the college search. Here are some of their suggestions:
Complete at least one college application
For most students, this will be the Common Application, available on August 1st of each year (www.commonapp.org). Accepted by hundreds of colleges, the Common Application can serve as a prototype for other applications. If you live in a state such as California and plan to apply to California state universities or colleges, then you should use the “common” state applications specifically for theses colleges.
Write your personal essay
College essay topics and requirements differ greatly, and are listed on college websites or on the application itself. If you are applying to more than one college, make a list of all essays themes, including supplemental essays, so that your essay(s) can be used for more than one application.
Collect reference letters
If you haven’t already done so, contact a couple of key teachers, preferably from your junior year, to request a letter of recommendation. It is always helpful to include your resume or a list of your activities and interests to remind teachers of your specific accomplishments. Teachers appreciate having the extra time over the summer to write a reference while the memory of the student’s achievements is fresh.
Develop a preliminary list of colleges
Talk with your guidance counselor and utilize the Internet to research colleges. Some colleges even provide names of alumni in the student’s neighborhood who are willing to share their experiences. Use this information to create a list of colleges to consider. An educational consultant trained to find your best college matches can assist with developing a realistic and appropriate college list that addresses your interests, geographic preferences, talents, academic abilities, and financial needs.
Visit (or plan to visit) campuses
While summer is not the ideal time to visit campuses because classes aren’t in session and students are away, this is the time high school students are free and parents’ schedules are usually more flexible. These visits can also be made in the early fall and should include sitting in on a class, looking at the dorm rooms, eating in the dining hall, and meeting with coaches and professors in areas of interest.
Participate in interesting activities
Summer is a time to act on interests through internships, volunteer work, clubs, or paid positions. Try something productive and creative, preferably in an area of your interest.
Study for SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Test
While rising seniors should have taken SATs and ACTs at least once by this point, they may want to consider taking them again in the fall. Prep programs are available in most areas throughout the summer, and students may also choose to study on their own, or to take advantage of the many online courses.
Begin scholarship search
Use books and web-based services to begin a search for private funding. College websites will post information pertaining to scholarships available to their applicants.
IECA experts point to reading as the best way to improve vocabulary and prepare for standardized tests.
The college application process can be overwhelming and confusing, especially for students with special learning needs. There are professionals who can help. Dr. Daria Rockholz can assist with all phases of the college application process, from filling out paperwork and writing essays, to interview preparation and resume assistance. For more information or to schedule an appointment with a professional college consultant, call our office today.