What should rising seniors be doing over the summer?

What should rising seniors be doing over the summer?

by Lee Shulman Bierer for High School Counslor Week

“Yea, junior year is almost finally over, time for a vacation” is a frequently heard refrain in many households these days.

Yes, they 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 US history dates and allow them to soak up a little sun with their accomplishments. 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 can and 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’re at in the process and how much time and energy you’ve invested to date. Some of you have already visited some 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, i.e., 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. The rationale for holding off on visiting your safety schools is that you can check them out next spring if you aren’t accepted at any of your target or reach schools.
  2. Prepare your brag sheet or activities resume. Most every college application will require you to list your extracurricular activities, community service commitments, leadership roles, etc. Take the time to work on your own personal document. A neat, concise, well-organized brag sheet helps you communicate to a college 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 have the chance to interview at a college or the opportunity to meet a college representative, having your brag sheet handy is a great idea.
  3. Get going on the applications. The Common Application with 800+ members (www.commonapp.org) opens on August 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 each of the colleges’ direct links to their applications and your personal user names and passwords along with each college’s application deadline.
Start with your essay!

Start with your essay!

The summer of COVID-19!  Is it looking a little different for you than expected?  No school, no summer job, no hanging out at the community pool or movie theater or coffee shop?  You may find yourself with some extra time these days.   

The college admission process is also looking different than expected for fall.  Many colleges have opted to be test-optional for the first time.  This means that admission officers are faced with the task of distinguishing between highly qualified students without relying on test scores.  How do you choose between hundreds or thousands of applicants who have excellent grades and challenging classes on their transcripts?  Needless to say, your essay is one part of the application that can help you stand out.   

So why not spend some extra time this summer refining your essays.  Especially at test-optional schools, your essay can take on special significance.  The Common App essay prompts are the same as last year.  If you haven’t already started on your Common App essay, now is the time.  In addition, Common App has added a special “Additional Information” optional essay about how COVID-19 has impacted you.  Should you write this extra essay?  Like most of the variables in college applications, it depends!  Call me and let’s talk about it. 

You should also check to find out if any of the schools on your list require supplemental essays or short answer questions.  I have a list of supplemental essays and I am updating it daily.    

If you are applying to colleges that do not use the Common App, check the college websites to get their essay topics.            

Take Action 

Write something!  Get a first draft of your college essays started now.  This will give you plenty of time to think, add, and get feedback.  It will also give you a chance to put it aside for now and come back to it later. 

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Founder, Weil College Advising, LLC