It’s hard to believe that in just a few months, you’ll be a senior and ready to start applying to colleges. If you’re feeling like you’re running behind, you’re not alone. So how do you maximize summer so you’re ready (and not overwhelmed) come fall?
1. Finalize list of applicant schools.
Most college applications go online August 1, including the Common App, which over 500 colleges use. Start these apps as soon as they come available, so that your already-busy fall schedule won’t be tied up with applications. To be ready to apply, you need to finalize where you’ll apply. Start your search online, schedule campus visits, and be ready to go. (You may benefit from our tips for sophomores if you are wishing you’d taken this more seriously a year ago.) Remember, just because you apply doesn’t mean you have to go. It’s okay to apply and still attend college fairs and plan visits throughout your senior year.
2. Write your essay for your apps.
While the actual applications aren’t available until late summer, many essay prompts are released in late winter. Summer is the perfect time to take LEAP’s approach of Learn, Brainstorm, Write, Revise, Polish to task. Then, once August arrives you’re ready to cut and paste.
3. Evaluate test scores.
Research the average test scores of admitted students at the schools where you’ll apply. Perhaps you should give the test one more shot for the score you need. Find out whether the schools Super Score the ACT and/or SAT; then determine your Super Score and whether it will benefit you. Just found out you need/it’s recommended that you take an SAT Subject Test? Schedule those for October. If any testing still needs to take place, it’s wise to be finished by late October to meet Early Decision and Early Action deadlines.
4. Close the gaps.
Revise your resume (which you’ve hopefully put together by now). See any gaps in work or community service? Summer is a great time to address these. That polished resume will save you time with applications in the fall when you can upload or cut and paste. Additionally, giving your resume to a potential writer of your recommendation letters can glean a better letter.
5. Choose references.
Most colleges will require two to three recommendation letters. Stop and think who should write for you. Consider teachers you had junior year, particularly in the area(s) you intend to study. Some require a guidance counselor, but if they don’t and/or you are from a large school with little opportunity to build a relationship with the counselor, another teacher or coach may be a better choice.
6. Consider the cost.
A recent study of college graduates showed that those with the lowest debt to repay reported being the most satisfied. Now is the time to figure out what each of those schools might cost you, and is it realistic to apply? Consider the FAFSA4caster to see what your expected family contribution (EFC) will be. Complete the Net Price Calculator on each college’s website, and check average net price on College Navigator. Then, have an honest conversation as a family on what you can afford and what portion of debt you may need to take on alone.
If you accomplish this checklist over the summer, you’ll be able to breathe easier come fall!