College Application Season: Getting Ahead of the Fall Rush
By: Dr. Anna L. Patton
As many of us are just starting out the first week of summer, thoughts about next year are likely far-off for many! For rising high school juniors and seniors, however, the summer is an ideal time to get a jumpstart on the college application process. On top of the typical stressors of the school year, students embarking on their college selection and application have an additional layer of planning, organization, and time management to consider. It is imperative to have a game plan for this process, so deadlines and due dates do not creep up or pass by without proper attention. This month, I offer some key priorities for rising seniors and rising juniors to consider in order to minimize the fall frenzy.
For rising seniors, the summer is an opportune time to work smarter, not harder, ahead of fall applications and admissions. First and foremost, the summer is a great time to finalize your list of prospective college choices. In developing your list, be sure to consider factors beyond major availability such as campus size, institutional values, and student life opportunities. Finding a strong fit takes self-reflection, authentic organizational evaluation, and campus exposure. Summer is a strategic time to schedule and take campus tours in order to get a better feel for the in-person atmosphere of a school. Additionally, the summer is a helpful time to draft your selected personal essay via an open CommonApp account. The CommonApp is an online portal that hosts shared application data and materials for a large number of colleges and universities. While many schools’ application cycles will not open until August, the CommonApp platform is available anytime for you to begin set-up. Not only can you complete your demographic information early, you can access the 2022-2023 Personal Essay Prompts to select your prompt of interest. By beginning in the summer, you have ample time to draft, revise, and finalize a powerful personal essay. Finally, the summer is a great time to gather supporting materials for your applications. College applications require more than your own responses; they also include documents from others such as letters of recommendation or residency status determination. Letters of recommendation should speak to your academic and personal characteristics, so it is important to ask teachers and mentors who know you well. To give references the most time to write a strong letter, ask them ahead of the start of the year. By asking early, you may also lower the risk that your ideal reference is unavailable! The summer also gives you ample time to complete administrative steps like your residency determination for in-state status as well as make any new needed items, like a resume. Regardless of how you use it, the summer before your senior year of high school can truly help set you up for college application success.
For rising juniors, using the summer intentionally helps keep the stress at bay even before you begin the application process. One option for the summer is to focus on your application testing plan. The summer is ideal to take practice SAT/ACTs, evaluate if you are taking one or both tests for applications, and utilize preparation courses, such as the SAT/ACT prep courses hosted by CES. In addition to test planning, the summer before your junior year is an excellent time to brainstorm your college and university interest list. Are you leaning toward staying close to home or striking out somewhere new? Do you know what you might study or want a few years to explore before declaring? Do you want a small campus where you know most everyone or a large campus where you can be part of a big student body? These are just a few of the many factors that contribute to college fit. Finally, the summer allows you to participate in meaningful experiences that expand your academic, personal, and practical skills. Academic experiences might include enrolling in a Massive Open Online Course, a coding bootcamp, or in a community college course. Personal development could include hobby development, like learning a musical instrument, or community involvement, like volunteering. Practical experiences include options such as managing family responsibilities, doing part-time work, or learning a trade. Ultimately, the summer before your junior year is what you make of it, so consider how you might use it to your advantage!
Looking for support on any of the above steps? Reach out to CES today to find coaching support for all phases of the college search and application process!