Rising Seniors: 6 Easy Ways to Prepare for College Admissions Over Summer Break
In the lazy days of summer, applying to college will often be the last thing on your mind. You’ll want to take advantage of the free time and spend time doing what you want (as you should!). But, even setting aside just an hour or two a week towards preparing for college admissions will help you have a much smoother fall.
Here’s how you can get ahead of the college admissions chaos:
1. Take a breather. No, really. Enjoy yourself.
First and foremost, give yourself time to unwind and relax. Between tests and tough classes, junior year is stressful. You have earned some time to go to the beach, Netflix to your heart’s content, hang out with friends.
Assistant director Julie Simon at University of Michigan encourages rising seniors to take advantage and enjoy the freedom you have this summer. You’ll have plenty of time for internships and college courses and doing work in the future, so for now, “Do what makes you happy and recharges your batteries.”
In the moments in between, when you’re stuck at home without a car or feeling the itch to do something productive, get started with the rest of our list below. Your Fall Semester Self will thank you.
2. Set aside an hour or two each week to research and prepare for college admissions.
Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz, Founder and Director of adMISSION POSSIBLE, encourages students to “Literally mark in your cell phone or calendar a block of time that says, “College Admissions” every week until school begins again in the fall. It might sound like a lot, but you’d be surprised how quickly the time goes by when you’re scrolling through college websites and putting your list of top choices together.
Tip: When you’re waiting for someone at a restaurant or waiting for family dinner to be ready, Google some nearby colleges instead of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a start!
3. Make a list of colleges you’re interested in.
Whether you’re hoping to move far away or stay close to home, you have a lot of choices when it comes to which type of college you want to attend. To help make it less overwhelming, start looking at a specific geographic area if you can. As you skim through colleges, make note of the parts you like about the school (do they offer study abroad? Are they located only an hour from your Aunt’s house?).
Be sure to look through their academic programs. Even if you don’t know what you want to major in yet, taking a look at what’s offered might help you narrow down.
This doesn’t have to be the end all be all list. This is just something for you to start and then discuss with your school counselor and parents as the admissions cycle begins.
4. Brainstorm essay ideas.
Create an ongoing list of things you can talk about in your college essay. After looking through the essay options, some prompts might stand out more than others to you. You’d be surprised how daunting the empty page will feel when you’re first starting.
A good way to make sure you’re keeping track of ideas is by using your Notes app on your phone. If your friend thanks you for being trustworthy and loyal in a situation, write that down. If your mom mentions how responsible and reliable you are, write that down. If you’re talking to a family member or friend, or watching a movie and a memory or idea comes up, quickly jot it down in your Note app.
Sometimes seeing yourself through another person’s eyes is the easiest way to take a step back and recognize the value you bring to the table. Ask friends and family what they think and remember to jot some of their insights down.
5. Visit college campuses.
Is your family going on vacation? Maybe a road trip? See if there are any colleges nearby or on the way that you’d like to see. The best way to start narrowing down is to see the environment for yourself. Call ahead or book a tour online before you visit to make sure you get the most out of your experience.
6. Stay engaged throughout the summer.
Aside from taking time to enjoy yourself and plan ahead for the admissions cycle, here are some ways you can continue to learn and build your skills:
Take a course. Are there online courses or opportunities are your local community college to learn about a topic you find interesting?
Attend a workshop or event. Are there any workshops or community events that you might be interested in attending? Check out Eventbrite, Meetup, and Facebook for local workshops and events that are open to the public. Even the bulletin board at your local cafe or library might have something posted that you’re interested in.
Interview and/or shadow a professional. Ask friends and family if they know anyone in a job you’d like to learn more about. See if you can schedule a call or coffee to ask them specifics of how they got there. Some might even be able to have you shadow them at work so you can experience a “day in the life.”
Volunteer! Whether it’s a one-time event, weekly, or monthly, there are so many ways you can support others during the summer months. Check out nursing home, animal shelters, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, or search on Volunteer Match for opportunities near you.
Attend summer programs nearby. Many colleges have programs for high school students to participate in, from engineering camps to music camps. Check out the ones near you and see if they’re a good fit.
Slow and Steady Preparation
Remember how stressful junior has been? Multiply that by at least two or three and you’ve got September of senior year. No need to worry. By following our list, you will feel more prepared for what’s to come.