Those months preceding your senior year of high school are, in many ways, part of the final stretch of all your hard work. During this time, you will not only be physically preparing for the next step of your academic career - college - but also mentally and emotionally looking to close the chapter on high school. So hang in there!
The start of senior year will be jam-packed with college application deadlines and final testing dates. You can anticipate spending a great amount of time and energy in the fall of your senior finalizing your college applications. As you prepare for this process, you can learn more about how college admissions have changed since 2020 here.
Here are the important actions you can take over the summer to relieve some of the workload and set yourself up for success in 12th grade and beyond!
1. Resume + Activities Sheet = LinkedIn account.
You already know that you will need a detailed resume for your college applications. However, in today’s world, you should also expect to host that impressive information on a social media platform, like LinkedIn. This task will help you reflect on your strengths and experiences as you prepare to complete your college applications. You may even find that this review of your high school career gives you more ideas for your personal statement.
Up until this point, you should be keeping a running list of your extracurricular activities, awards, notable experiences, and accomplishments throughout high school. If you’re not yet at this point, start by writing it down for your official resume. This resume -- and, therefore, your LinkedIn profile -- is like your “brag sheet.” Include volunteer work, clubs, leadership roles, sports teams, and any other significant achievements. Be sure to list which years you participated in each activity and any achievements associated with them.
2. Draft your college essays.
Most college applications (and, therefore, each college’s distinct application questions) won’t be released until later in the summer. However, you can still start writing your personal statement for the common app and practice responding to more pointed questions using some generic prompts (check out great ideas for creating a theme in your essay, according to admissions coaches, here). Many universities keep their prompts vague and up to interpretation and creativity, which allows you to redesign your responses to the real prompts. Additionally, outlining your thoughts for multiple prompts helps prepare you for other areas of the application process, such as interviews with admissions officers or alumni.
You may work on personal statement essays as part of your senior English curriculum, but you should take advantage of the summer to kickstart the brainstorming process. Additionally, this writing gives you the opportunity to create multiple versions of your personal statement which can be reviewed and evaluated several times before final selection and submission.
3. Send ‘thank you’ notes.
It takes a team to complete college applications. By now, you may have asked a guidance counselor or trusted mentor to review and provide feedback on your resume and personal statement drafts. You may have enlisted several teachers or advisors to write letters of recommendation. The summer is a perfect time to send out thank you notes to this team of application allies. It’s never too early to show your appreciation for their efforts, and sending them over the summer avoids the mishap of delayed (or forgotten) thank yous!
4. Take a summer enrichment or pre-college course.
Intrinsic curiosity and a desire to learn are notable qualities for a college application. Show schools that you are always looking to improve your skills or broaden your knowledge by signing up for a college-level or enrichment summer course, either on a local college campus or virtually. You could also use this time to take one or several online certification courses (many of which could be free) to learn or master skills in a wide range of areas, from software like Photoshop to First Aid/CPR. The summer is a great time to find new ways to best market yourself as a desirable asset for any school and to better position yourself in the application pool. Whether a course you take follows your passion or improves your academic prowess, it will stand out to schools as a self-motivated experience.
5. Prepare for admissions interviews.
Most colleges either strongly recommend or require an interview with an admissions office representative or alumni for your application. While you will never know the exact questions you will be asked during each interview, you can expect that most questions will ask for similar narratives and hit on expected themes. You can begin to brainstorm how you would respond to these questions using prompts for your college essay. Be sure to review your resume in order to effectively highlight your strengths and valuable experiences.
The most important part of the interview prep is practicing how you would verbally respond! As a friend or a parent to run through a mock interview with you. This will help you grow more confident and comfortable talking about yourself and speaking in an authentic tone. Make sure to practice in-person and Zoom interviews, as you may have to do both.
6. Finish SAT/ACT prep - schedule an Oct or Nov test if needed.
If you are considering taking the SAT/ACT at least one more time before submitting your applications, you should continue to prepare for the exams over the summer. Determine the sections on which you had the most difficulty, and cater your studying to those style of questions. Make sure you also schedule your exams - the latest you should be taking them is October or November.
7. Take final college visits - in person or virtually.
As you narrow down your list of schools to which to apply, you might want to consider re-visiting (or visiting for the first time) those on your list. If possible, sign up for an on-campus visit, and be sure to explore the surrounding areas to see what each school community has to offer. Most schools are also offering very comprehensive virtual visits, providing more opportunities to look at a wider range of schools if campus is not open or you do not have the opportunity to visit for another reason.
8. Find connections at your top college choices.
It’s never too early to network! Spend time exploring your top schools’ social media and websites. If there is a club that interests you, or if a professor is conducting research that strikes you, don’t hesitate to send them an email to introduce yourself. This is a perfect opportunity to have an informal interview with a college representative as well as a great way to learn more about the types of people you will meet or experiences you might have at each school.
9. Show leadership with a volunteer or job internship opportunity.
Since you won’t be busy with school work, you should view this summer break as a great opportunity to get involved in the community or an area of your personal or professional interest. Look up local nonprofits or charities in your surrounding areas, or find a particular cause that resonates with you and kickstart our own community efforts. If you have already determined career paths that interest you, network with professionals in the area, and see if you can secure a part-time job, internship or shadowing experience. This go-getter attitude will stand out and impress admissions officers who want to bring that energy and drive to their campuses.
Your senior year will be very busy personally and academically. Take this time before the school year begins to prioritize you! Relax and recharge, however that best suits you. Read. Go for hikes. Spend time with friends and family. Give yourself ample time to reward yourself for your diligent work up until this point.