“Yay, junior year is finally over, time for a vacation” is a frequently heard refrain in many households these days.
Yes, students absolutely deserve a break, but let me be the bad guy and tell them not to waste their summer away. Give them some “decompression time” where they can push aside their mathematical equations and U.S. history dates and soak up a little sun. While it’s important to rest and recharge the batteries, after a few days it’s time to regroup and get the upper hand on preparing for the fall’s college application process.
Here are three things students should be doing this summer:
1. Build, grow or shrink your college list. By summer’s end you will want to have a finalized college list. Getting there will depend on where you are in the process and how much time and energy you’ve invested. Some of you have already visited a dozen schools and many of you haven’t yet started.
Dedicate the necessary time to creating a balanced list with reach, target and safety schools. Spend time researching your schools by checking out:
• The academic fit: Do they have majors that match your interests?
• The social fit: Do you like the city/college town, the surrounding area; is there enough to do?
• The financial fit: Are you likely to receive need-based or merit-based money? Then focus your summer campus visits on your target and reach schools. You can check out your safety schools next spring if you aren’t accepted at any of your target or reach schools.
2. Prepare your brag sheet or activities resume. Almost every college application will require you to list your extracurricular activities, community service commitments, leadership roles, etc. Take time to work on your personal document. A neat, concise, well-organized brag sheet helps you communicate that you are a serious applicant.
It is a great way for you to share the variety of things you’ve done, contributions you’ve made to your high school and/or local community and a wonderful jumping-off point for potential college essays. You can also give your brag sheet to your high school counselor and recommenders to help them prepare a more meaningful recommendation for you. If you get the chance to interview at a college or the opportunity to meet a college representative, have your brag sheet handy.
3. Get going on the applications. The Common Application, which has 500-plus members, ( www.commonapp.org) opens Aug. 1, but many colleges open their applications earlier and allow students to register, where they can obtain their user names and passwords.
I highly recommend that you create a document that keeps track of the colleges’ direct links to their applications and your personal user names and passwords along with each college’s application deadline.
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: email@example.com; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com
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