By: Susanna Cerasuolo, M.Ed
School may be out for the summer, but there is much that you can (and some of you should) be doing to prepare for college admissions. For the full list, follow your dashboard on www.collegemapper.com, but here are the highlights:
Read for pleasure, research something you love, explore new interests. Do you need to attend summer school to improve a grade or to get ahead? Do that *this* summer, because summer time gets more scarce as high school progresses.
Pursue an intellectual passion, and I highly recommend doing some job shadows or career interviews of people you know. Adults LOVE to talk about what they do, and they will always be willing to meet you for coffee to discuss if their career would be a good fit for you. This helps you when you declare a major and when you write your college apps. But sophomores, the big thing you NEED to do this summer is TEST PREP. Get it out of the way before school starts, and continue it into the fall if you need. See the full guidelines on this on CollegeMapper.
This is it, the big summer of applications. You can do it. Head in the game.
My number one piece of advice for you is: Write ALL essays during this summer, to be done before school starts. This is the #1 thing Seniors tell me to tell you guys every year because they really see what a difference it makes when they have their essays done in summer (read—decreased suffering). To do this, create a master list of writing prompts by checking each application (many apps do not come out until August, so be sure you are not working on last year’s prompts!) Recycle and tweak essays *wherever* you can—don’t work harder, work smarter—but always be sure to change college names and facts!!
Do any final test prep if you need it. The last call for tests is Sept. (ACT) and Oct. (SAT) so that you can apply Early Action or Early Decision, which greatly increases your chances of admission, so I strongly suggest it. If your testing is already squared away and done by now, all the better. (Tell your younger sibs to try to wrap up testing in Junior year).
Finalize your activities resume, to attach to each application (do this NOW). Complete the recommendation letter questionnaires for your teachers this summer; ask the teachers please if you can have these questionnaires (if they require one) before school ends. You want to do a great job on this so that they do a great job on your rec letter, so do it during the summer and also give them a copy of your super spiffy resume.
Join the mailing lists of all target colleges; see CollegeMapper for an explanation of why. Schedule any and all possible college interviews and campus visits—interview when you are on campus so you do not have to go back. Interviews and campus visits DO increase your admissions chances if you handle them well. See the CM Resources for guidelines/handouts.
And athletes, keep contacting those coaches!!
There is an awesome handout on CollegeMapper about making a smooth transition to college. Basically, my students text me every year and tell me to tell the younger students this or that, so I keep a master list. You can find this on the website under Resources, then Handouts. It covers everything from roommate rules to frat party punch. If you read it and have anything to add, please let me know! 🙂