Ten Things You Can Do This Summer to Help with Your College Planning

May 4, 2013

by Howard and Matthew Greene

Take a considered approach to planning your summer. You don’t need to fill every minute, but you should have a plan and not let summer just happen. Before you know it, school will be starting again in September.

1. Take the June SAT (for Juniors) or one to three SAT Subject Tests (for 9th - 11th graders). Late Registration or Waitlist Status may be available. Talk with teachers and review practice/sample tests to determine your readiness. http://sat.collegeboard.org/about-tests/sat-subject-tests

2. Take the June ACT (for Juniors). Late Registration or Standby Testing may be available. http://www.actstudent.org

3. Put a preparation plan in place for Fall test dates. Consider self-preparation, using books or online sources; a prep class; one-on-one tutoring. In the Fall, Juniors should take the PSAT (given by high schools in October). Most will then take the January or March SAT, and/or February or April ACT, but some will want to test earlier, some later. Seniors can take ACT in September through December, and SAT and/or Subject Tests October through January. Raising your scores can make a difference in college admissions and merit scholarship decisions.

4. The Common Application goes live August 1, and Seniors should finish the application, and perhaps a few Supplements by the time school starts.

5. Visit colleges. Particularly important for rising Seniors. Consider visiting one or more “clusters” of different kinds of colleges and universities. You can begin close to home, but if you are looking at some schools that are farther away, summer is often the easiest time to go see them. Some students (rising Juniors or those Seniors who are just focusing on their college search) may be seeing most colleges for the first time and just getting a sense of their overall interests. Other Seniors may be re-visiting places, or trying to identify one or more top choices.

6. Interview at colleges, and consider connecting with other key personnel in a major area of interest to you.

7. Get a job. Colleges appreciate that you might need or want to work this summer. Can you get an internship or super exciting experience in an area of interest to you professionally? Sure! But it’s also fine to have a regular job at a camp, as a lifeguard, working construction, making coffee, or selling clothes. Having a job can help you figure out a major or what you want to do with your life, and any job can show colleges that you are responsible, diligent, hardworking, patient, serious, or resourceful.

8. Volunteer. It’s great if you can and want to travel far away to help the planet, build a school, or dig a well. But you don’t need to “pay to play.” You can join a service trip through a religious organization or other community group, or participate in a project for which you need to raise the funds ahead of time. Or, you can volunteer close to home for a cause that is important to you. Consider using your talents (in sports, arts, music, or another area) to give back in some way. Regular service over a longer period of time, even for a few hours a week, can have more impact than a one-time experience. Show some initiative and some leadership, whether you’re working for free or for pay.

9. Pursue an area of interest. If you are planning on a particular academic area of study in college, consider ways to explore that, particularly during the summer before senior year. This is a “capstone” year when you might qualify for some specialized and demanding programs. Perhaps you want to study abroad, to deepen a language skill, or try a class that your high school doesn’t offer. To stay close to home, consider a local community college, or selective colleges within commuting distance, where you could take a class in a pre-college program. These are often quite valuable, and would allow you to balance your summer with volunteer or work activities, sports camps, family time, or other commitments and interests.

10. Reflect on what you have learned. Admissions readers like to see students who have well-developed interests, and who have pursued these in multiple ways during the year and during the summer. If you are passionate and enthusiastic about an involvement or subject area, it is likely that this commitment and energy on your part will show through in your applications, and will, in fact, likely serve you as a guide to the kinds of colleges that will interest you most.

©2013 Howard and Matthew Greene