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.
What should rising seniors be doing over the summer?

“Summer Melt”

It’s summer!!  It’s finally heating up in most places and you might feel like your melting.  However  ”summer melt”  means something very different for colleges.  Each year, colleges require students to submit an enrollment deposit to enroll as freshmen in the fall (usually by May 1, but this year June 1 for some colleges).  After that deposit deadline passes, colleges count up the number of deposits they have and decide whether they need more students to fill their freshman class.  If so, this may lead them to admit students who are on their waitlist.  Those newly admitted students probably sent deposits to other colleges but now those students tell the other colleges they are no longer going to attend.  So that college has an empty seat and so on and so forth.  That’s summer melt for colleges – students who had originally sent their deposit deciding later not to enroll causing the college to fall short of their freshman class goals.   

The pandemic has created anxiety of all kinds including for enrollment managers.  Predictions of students deferring college enrollment or staying closer to home have admission directors eyeing their waitlists.  Counselors are anticipating students may hear from more colleges about waitlists and other offers even late into the summer.    

What does summer melt mean for you?  Well, it means that if you were on the waitlist at a school you might get admitted.  And although unlikely, it’s possible that you could get a revised financial aid package from a school that admitted you.  This may cause you to rethink your enrollment choice.  However, unless it’s an admission offer from your dream college or a truly unbeatable scholarship award, you are probably better off to stick with your original deposit.  You spent a lot of time weighing your options when you made that initial decision.  Don’t second guess yourself unless there is a very compelling reason!  Stick with what your gut tells you and look forward to freshman year with excitement.  

Bettina Weil

Founder, Weil College Advising, LLC