A friend of mine, another parent, recently hit me up for some free advice. Knowing my expertise, he wanted to know what his daughter could do this summer to keep ahead of the curve in the college admissions process.
So here is my Top Ten List of things students can do during the summer to have fun, stay organized, and increase chances for admission at any college.
Number 10: Prepare for ACT and SAT tests
Summer is a great time to take a course or get some tutoring to help improve those scores when you take the tests in the fall. Even working diligently with a good preparation book (see my recommendations) will help you learn the strategies and remind yourself of the content you will be expected to know.
Number 9: Take a Summer Class
Nothing shows that you’re serious about academic work like dedicating a portion of your summer to intellectual pursuits. Whether it’s a high school class you take to get a requirement out of the way, a community college course, or something offered by various prestigious universities like Harvard or Syracuse, you’ll give yourself a bit of an edge by by keeping your brain active over the summer.
Number 8: Start Those Essays
Most students underestimate the difficulty of writing a solid essay. Start on a draft or two now, and show your prose to people who know you well. Gather their ideas, revise, and tighten. Those who leave these for the last minute come to regret their procrastination.
Number 7: Get a Job
Fewer and fewer students understand the value of hard work. Holding down a job can not only earn you extra running-around money, it can also teach you things about commitment, responsibility, and leadership. Better yet, start your own lawn mowing, child care, or house sitting service: every college loves an entrepreneur!
Number 6: Volunteer
Community service is more and more a requirement on college applications. The important thing is to find a cause you care about and dedicate a significant chunk of time to the organization. Serving one meal at a homeless shelter is not as good as organizing a weekly musical concert at a nursing home with some of your musician friends.
Number 5: Organize Your College Visits
While many students visit colleges in the summer, campuses become ghost towns during June, July, and August. So spend some time this summer planning trips in the fall to the campuses on your list.
Number 4: Get Out There and Play!
If you’re an athlete, keep working on your sport and your physical training. If you’re a musician, practice and perform wherever possible. If you’re an actor, audition for summer productions. Whatever your passion and pastime, use the unstructured time of summer to pursue your interests and to be your best.
Number 3: Organize Your Continuing College Search
Most students underestimate the volume of information that requires organization during the admissions process. Make files for the colleges you are interested in. Contact admissions offices and let them know of your interest. Get all your documents (transcripts, test scores, recommendations, certificates of merit, your resume) together in a single notebook. Sign up for the Common Application and fill in the basic information. The more you do now, the less crazed the school year will be.
Number 2: Read
Go to the library. Sit under a tree, or on the beach, or in a mountain valley, and read. A good story will transport you to a different world. Plus, it’s a proven fact that students who read more do better on standardized tests. So in addition to the drudgery of test prep (see Number 10 above), make preparation more fun by reading a classic novel or two. Plus, being able to talk intelligently about a book you read on your own will look great in an admissions interview!
Number 1: Make Time for Yourself and Your Family
Summer is for fun. All of the items above (okay, well maybe not the test prep) can be fun and rewarding experiences, if you structure them well and keep organized.
With these tips, you’ll be able to keep the process of preparing for college both productive and sane. Enjoy!
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