How to Make the Most of the Summer Before Senior Year
☀️ College Application Process: Senior Year: Rising Senior Summer
During this summer, take advantage of the extra time in whatever form needed! This includes taking summer classes, starting an internship or research position, initiating new projects, or getting a job. Don't forget to take a break, as well; after all, it is summer!
Focus on your mental health in whichever way works best for you. For some, that includes sleeping in and watching movies. For others, they might spend time volunteering with friends.
Additionally, you should begin getting ready for the college application season. Some less-intensive tasks you can complete during the summer include:
🎉 Getting Ready as a Rising Senior
🖊️ Prep for standardized tests if you haven’t taken them yet
There's a lot of information on the ACT and SAT tests, so there's an entire page dedicated to these tests.
NOV 12, 2021
💭 Think about your interests and values
This summer will be a summer of reflection! Looking back at these high school years and your present self, what are some of your interests? What do you value? Going into the college application season, you should consider these ideas. They will help you consider majors, research colleges, write essays, and prepare for interviews. There are two ways to go about this:
- The more subjective way is to think about your goals and dreams, which then should converge into a goal you can use when applying for college. Perhaps to reach this goal, applying to and attending a 4-year university isn't necessary. Think about what's right for you!
- The more objective way is to consider your past involvements. You are encouraged to create a list of ALL your involvements in preparation for the activities section on the college application portals. However, after you list them all, think about which ones you are most involved with and enjoy the most. Is there a common thread between these activities?
Most likely, you will find your interests through both reflection activities. This process could be helpful for you as you write essays such as ones for "why major," "why school," and "why you"!
🙋🏻♂️ Show Your Interest
🔍 Begin your college research and creating a list
Fit over prestige.
When you are researching colleges, think about fit over prestige. For example, if you are looking for a small school with an emphasis on undergraduate education, try researching a liberal arts college. If you are interested in pre-med, look up BS/MD programs. There are many other factors that should go into your searches. Some include social life, sports, diversity, student-to-faculty ratio, food and housing, financial aid, and distance from home.
If you want to delve deeper into this idea, there's a whole page on "What is prestige?"
Consider your needs.
Think about which factors are most essential to you, and write them down. It is advised to make a spreadsheet with each college as a row and each column as one of these values you are looking for.
You'll also want to search based on your interests. Most applications will want you to pick a major you're interested in. By picking one and expressing why you're interested in partaking in that major and that specific school, you not only portray consistency in your application, but you also show demonstrated interest in the school (because you've done your research on what that school can offer for you!).
To compare majors, find additional resources, and explore probing questions, check out Comparing Majors.
Want to explore this idea a bit more? Click here to read through Fiveable's blog post, "Big Factors to Consider when Picking a Major"
Find all possible colleges, then narrow down!
It's better to have more than less! You can always take colleges off your list once you find that there are ones with a better fit for you.
Attend virtual and in-person events.
To learn more about the school, you can attend any virtual events held by the school itself or by another organization. Coalition for College holds many events, such as college fairs with college admissions officers from various schools and Summer Application Workshops.
Many schools also offer prospective students the chance to speak with a current student. You can do a Google search. If not, you can also watch YouTube videos online from students who go to that school. There are also many Reddit and blog posts online, including posts by the school's admissions office.
Search "[college name] admissions events" to find virtual events and "[college name] admissions blog" to see if they have a student-run blog for admissions.
Touring college and joining sessions held by the admissions office allows you to show demonstrated interest.
Some universities are not holding in-person college tours because of COVID guidelines. While you walking on the campus yourself does not show demonstrated interest, touring colleges in person also helps you get the feel of the college as well as how students are. Many students narrow their list upon visiting colleges. Additionally, don't worry too much about demonstrated interest. For many schools, schools do not take this into account - if they do, it's minimal. Check that by searching "[college] + common data set" and Ctrl+F for demonstrated interest to see the importance of demonstrated interest to that college.
To sign up for these events, go on the college's website (do a Google search for [college] admissions events)!
Speak to friends and family who have gone to the colleges you want to apply to or ask for their advice about where to apply to. Remember though that this is advice, and the decision is ultimately yours.
Prepare for Early Decision
If you choose to apply under Early Decision (binding), make sure you speak to your parents about the financial restrictions that come with Early Decision. Take time to visit the school and make sure you're willing to commit. Start that application as soon as possible!
👋 Show demonstrated interest
Some schools track clicks you make on their websites, and even the number of times you open emails they send you! To check which schools take this into account, read Fivable's blog post on "Demonstrated Interest".
Watch tour videos posted on the school's website and follow official accounts on social media. If possible, take a tour! Many colleges have virtual events, so it's accessible to all.
Email your admissions officers or meet with them in person. Ask what places you should visit, where to eat, and more. When contacting admissions officers, make sure you ask a genuine question and not something that can be answered on Google.
📧 Contact admissions officers
It's preferable to contact them before you apply, so get started early. Each university has officers designated to specific areas so reach out to the right one. These are the people that are going to read your essays and make a recommendation about your admittance!
If possible, schedule zoom meeting(s) with your regional admissions officer. You can find this by searching "[college] regional admissions officer", and the college will list their admissions representatives for each region. In these meetings, ask questions, and show how serious you are about their school. If applicable, give them some personal insight into any issues with your GPA or testing scores. Don't tell a sob story, and be honest. Helping them understand your backstory can give them perspective when reading your application.
Want to go through some more details of what to say in these meetings? Check out the page on "Contacting Admissions Officers".
🎒 Prep for the Application Season
🤔 Brainstorm and draft the "main" essay
The main essay is the 650-word essay required for the Common and Coalition essay (prompts vary). A common tip is to let the prompts guide you, instead of restricting you.
In this main essay, you want to "tell your story". Each part in your application should show a part of you; as a whole, it attempts to show you as a person. You can start by brainstorming some of your best memories then analyzing what your values are exemplified. You can also start by listing values you want to emphasize then thinking about certain stories that fit those values.
Often, the more mundane moments are the most memorable. They are only a few minutes of your life and involve the most everyday items. However, there is no cookie-cutter template to this essay! The main tips are to be vulnerable, show your personality and exemplify growth.
Need tips on brainstorming, writing, and editing the essay? Check out and bookmark the tutorial called "How to Write a College Essay" located on the Fiveable website.
📝 Prepare your "brag sheet"/resume—great for recommendations and the activities section.
Fiveable's college program will talk about this in greater detail. During the summer, write down all your activities and a description. Don't feel restricted by the character limit now. During this process of introspection, you may discover a new college essay topic!
Many high schools have their own "brag sheet" about what students should write to their college recommenders. These include your background, experience with them, personality traits, awards, leadership, and more. Basically, anything you want them to consider and write about in your letter. Check the Common App brag sheet for teacher letters of recommendation!
More information about these is in "Brag Sheets".
Make a list of all the activities you've done since freshman year. Then, narrow those activities down to what matters most to you. Some categories to include in the resume are education (a blurb about classes, GPA), extracurriculars, awards/honors, jobs, and skills.
🤑 Look for scholarships and organize financial aid
Many of the corporate and national scholarships are due in the summer or fall, so during the summer, create a list of all scholarships you're interested in, their deadlines, their value, their requirements, and any other relevant links and information. More information about the scholarship search and a free template is on the "Scholarships" page.
Develop a plan that includes a list of aid sources, requirements for each application, and a timetable for meeting the filing deadline. To learn more about financial aid, visit the post on "Financial Aid" and the official student financial aid page.
💻 Read college admissions blogs
Many schools have blogs on their websites, which are good to gauge the type of school culture. Harvard, Tulane, MIT, Yale, University of Michigan, and Georgia Tech are just a few universities that have honest reviews about the college admissions process and college life.