With another school year down and a new one just lurking around the corner, it is important for high school seniors to begin their college application process now. No, we’re not doing this to fuel the fire of competitive college admissions. And we’re certainly not doing this to pile on more stress and anxiety to the already-hectic life of a teen. What we’re doing is actually trying to alleviate some of that by planning — creating a timetable of sorts to make your life more orderly. Let’s face it, the junior year was tough because that’s what the junior year is supposed to be. Your senior year is equally as difficult in the classroom. Do you really want to add to that by doing nothing the summer before? So let’s figure out what you can do now that will save you time and worry during your last hoorah in high school.
- Start choosing a college, by building a list of at least 2-3 colleges you want to apply to. I recommend that one is a local school that’s public and another one (or two) are a bit further away, outside of your comfort zone, but that you’re still somehow familiar with (i.e. your family vacationed to New Orleans at some point and you really liked the city, so you’re looking at the University of New Orleans and Tulane University).
- Put together a resume. This can be a rough bulleted list of your activities and extracurriculars since FRESHMAN year. Eighth grade doesn’t count. Therefore, fifth grade doesn’t count. Understand?! Just record some of your activities and how long and how regularly you’ve been involved with each. If you have earned any awards or recognition, indicate that on your list, as well.
- Start brainstorming your most interesting activity since high school (the resume above should help). Draft a little explanation of why the activity was interesting/meaningful. We’re talking about 1 paragraph here– 4-5 sentences.
- Visit a college if you have one close or will be near one. Take the tour and ask lots of questions. Even if you have no desire to apply to or attend this college, it’s a good idea to start looking around and becoming aware of what is out there.
- Figure out when and where you’re taking your standardized tests. Even if you’ve already taken them once or twice during the junior year, you should take them again. And if you haven’t taken the ACT, do so (collegeboard.com and actstudent.org).
- Gather crucial information about yourself and your parents. You will need your social security number, address, your parent’s occupations and contact information, their alma mater (if applicable), your class schedule, your test scores, etc . . . In other words, get everything together, put it in a folder and get organized.
- Start brainstorming a topic for your main college essay. This can be about anything. Remember: every parent thinks their kid is extraordinary. Not intending to hurt your feelings with this next comment but . . . you’re not. What you think is extraordinary has been written about hundreds of times already, from another’s perspective. The goal with the essay is to show what you value, how well you can convey your ideas and how thoughftul you are. If you make it about anything else, you’re just another kid.
- Have fun. If you can commit 45 minutes or an hour every day over the summer to working on getting organized and being prepared, you’ll be ahead of the game. Trust me. You don’t want to throw together your application together in the final minutes. When this happens it usually shows. Use the summer to really reflect on the things that you hold most valuable. If you could do anything, without commitments for one full week, what would it be? When you have that answer, ask yourself why you value that activity so much and think about how college will help make this activity more than just something you can do in your free time. Good luck. As always, if you need help, seek someone out who you trust. You can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org.