How Can I Use the Summer Months to Prepare?

The summer is the best (and often underutilized) time to prepare for the challenges of college applications. Starting as early as the summer after freshman year, the summer is a valuable time to reflect, study for standardized exams, work, volunteer, or spend time doing things you’re passionate about. Make each summer count! Don’t do activities simply as résumé stuffers. Instead, do things that matter to you. Ultimately, this will prove far more valuable both on college applications and in the long term.

The summer before senior year is most important. If you haven’t yet taken the SAT or ACT (and plan to) use the summer for preparing. Work through a guidebook, take a prep course, or sign up for tutoring. Preparing in the summer, when the stresses of a high academic course load is not in full swing, will allow you to dedicate more time and effort to preparations. Preparing in the summer will also set you up for taking an early fall administration of the SAT or ACT and the material will still be fresh in your mind.

Summer is an excellent time to solidify the list of colleges you’ll apply to. If you can’t visit, spend time on each college or university’s website. Learn about what majors and classes are offered; read about academic and residential life, financial awards, and the university community. Finally, learn about each college’s application requirements, as each school will have its own requirements or supplements. Select a solid mix of safety schools, match schools, and reach schools. Create and organize a plan and timeline for completing the applications and essays. This will make balancing applications with coursework possible during what is, for many, a challenging senior year.

Finally, the summer is a time to indulge in things you are passionate about. Whether you’re excited about working in your community, travel, reading, athletics, or research, spend time doing what you love. Whatever you spend your summer doing, avoid doing things that are obvious resume stuffers. Not only will this not be a valuable experience for you, but admissions committees can sense when students do activities simply to look impressive. Instead of doing something simply to do it, do what you love.

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