Summer before senior year: The calm before the storm. For many students about to embark on the final push from high school to college, a busy year awaits. So it only makes sense to take advantage of the slower days of summer to get college applications done before the frenzy of the school year kicks in.
That kind of forward thinking and planning shows a student who has the skills to succeed in college… but also one who might be jumping the gun. Here a few tips on where to move full steam ahead this summer and where to pump the brakes in prepping college applications.
Start organizing documents for college applications. If an application is screaming for a student to complete it, summer is a great time to start collecting the items needed. Checking transcripts and drafting lists of accomplishments, extracurricular activities and awards will save time later when it’s time to compile them for the application. While there will certainly be more to add to these lists as senior year progresses, it will be easier if the bulk of the work has already been done.
Approach teachers for recommendations. Just as students’ schedules slow down during the summer, teachers have a little more free time on their hands. Rather than approaching a favorite teacher during the early hustle and bustle of the school year, reach out during the summer to lock down letters.
Research and visit potential schools. Many families travel during the summer. Working a college visit into the road trip not only adds some excitement and fun, but also gives students a chance to get a look at their next potential home. Summer sessions won’t be as busy as the regular school year, but many colleges offer enough activities and student presence to give an idea of what campus life will offer.
Get ready for FAFSA. While many have called for a simplified version of the FAFSA, it isn’t coming any time soon. The more work families do to organize financial records ahead of filling out the FAFSA in January, the easier the form will be to complete.
To do later:
Write the college application essay. Many incoming seniors might try to seize the opportunity of summer’s lower homework level to focus on writing their college essay. But just as senior year will bring new memories, summer will offer new experiences, many of them possibly lifechanging, that could make for a fantastic college essay. By trying to lock down an essay now, students will rob themselves of the opportunity to create compelling, and more timely, essays down the road. Of course, writing a draft or compiling a list of ideas is never a bad plan. If inspiration strikes, follow where it leads.