Summer is the perfect time to get a jump-start on your college admissions process. There are several steps that you can take to make the admissions process as stress-free as possible during the Fall. Even though your friends may procrastinate, there is no reason for you to do so.
1. Create your college list
Spend your time researching colleges since you have more free time now. Simply looking at the rankings is not enough. Check out academic programs, extracurricular opportunities, campus environment, social atmosphere, size, location, student body, etc. You are going to be at this school for at least four years so you want to make the best decision possible. Once you have a list of schools that you love, assess your chances of getting in. And be as honest with yourself as possible. Have other people help you make this assessment as well.
2. Request Teacher Recommendations
As you start to create your college list, think about how many recommendations you will need. Some schools will also specify which grades and/or subjects the teachers should have taught you. Also really think about which teachers know you well. The grade is not as important as the relationship. Colleges use this recommendation to learn about your personality and how you interact with others.
3. Visit Colleges – Virtually or In-Person
While many college campuses tend to be quieter during the summer, it is still a good idea to visit different types of colleges. If you are unsure about what setting will suit you best, these visits will tell you much more than reading information. Make good use of virtual college tours and online information sessions, too. While you might not visit every college on your list, you will have a much better sense of what is a better fit for you.
4. Brainstorm Essay Topics
Sit down and just write about the experiences you have or the things that you want colleges to know about you. This is a time to reflect on what is important to you. It is fine to read past essays, but it is not okay to copy the exact content. Remember that colleges want to learn what makes you unique – and you ARE unique!
5. Draft Your Personal Statement
Once you have brainstormed some ideas, try to draft an actual personal statement. The Common Application and Coalition Application essay prompts are already available. While you will be able to swap out essays for different colleges, write personal statements that you are comfortable sending to multiple colleges. Also start drafting supplemental essays since you might have to do research or more reflection.
6. Complete the Common Application or Universal College Application
These applications will go live in early August. Fill them out completely as soon as you can. At Insight, we typically host Senior College App Clinics in the first week of August to walk our students through every step of their applications, from background information to extracurricular activities. Having all the data entry finished before school starts gives you more time to focus on important things, such as your personal statement, course work, and standardized testing preparation.
7. Fill out the online Net Price Calculators
No matter your family’s financial situation, your parents are certainly thinking about how to finance your college education. Your parents can complete a Net Price Calculator online for each college you are considering. This will give them an estimate of what each college will cost. While this does not take into account merit-based scholarships, it gives you a starting point.
8. Prepare for Standardized Testing
For those who want to improve their ACT or SAT scores, summer is the best time to prepare. Learn how to maximize your score during the summer with our guide on How to Prepare for the ACT or the SAT this Summer. For rising seniors who want to apply for Early Action or Early Decision, you need to take the ACT by September or the SAT by October. If you are applying for Regular Decision, you should take the ACT or the SAT by December.
9. Check out Interview Policies
Once you have a final college list, find out if interviews are required or recommended. There might be earlier deadlines if you want to request an interview. If schools offer you the option to interview, take advantage. This is a chance to really show a different side of you to someone representing the college. If you are worried about your interview skills, practice with a parent or mentor.
10. Create a timeline for deadlines
If you miss a deadline, there is very little that you can do to recover. So mark your calendar. Set alerts for yourself. Plan ahead to submit everything at least two weeks ahead of time to avoid any problems.
Your entire summer should not be spent focused on college admissions, but use your time well. The more you do now, the less you will be worried about later. More importantly, you will be approaching your applications with confidence and preparedness.