If you’re an 11th grader about to start your college applications, you have a big summer ahead of you. This is your last chance to do something noteworthy to build your college resume. When we say noteworthy, we mean that you need to do something that will stand out to colleges and set you apart from the other applicants.
At the same time, the summer before your senior year is the perfect time for you to get everything in order before you start your college applications. By the time August comes around, you ought to have some idea of where you’re applying and be ready to fill out your applications in a timely manner. While it’s not required for you to start college applications prep this summer, doing so will make things easier for you in the fall.
If you’re not sure what you should be doing this summer to get ready for college applications or you’re unsure how much you can get done, this is the post for you. For a comprehensive list of tasks for this summer to get you started on the path to college admissions success, keep reading.
Start Drafting Your College Essays
Most college applications won’t be released until around August, but you can still start prepping your college essays with some generic prompts. You’ll notice that many universities try to keep their prompts vague, so you’ll probably be able to make the essay during the summer fit in at least one application.
Here are some commonly used prompts to get you thinking:
- Why do you want to attend (insert university name here)?
- Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking, and what was the outcome?
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth.
- Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve.
Alternatively, you can get started on the actual essay prompts for the CommonApp if you’re applying to a school that uses the CommonApp system. To learn more about the CommonApp essay prompts for the 2018-2019 school year, check out our blog post that explains and analyzes each of the prompts.
Study For Your Last Chance Standardized Test Date
If you haven’t earned an SAT/ACT score that you are comfortable with yet, this summer or the first semester of your senior year will be your last opportunity to re-take the test for a higher score before your college applications are due. Thus, you really need to buckle down and study hard this summer so that you can finally achieve your goal score.
Fortunately, we at CollegeVine have already developed a comprehensive guide to how you should approach your last chance standardized test. If you want to know how you should be studying for this final SAT/ACT test, check out our previous post.
Finalize Your College List
Before you start applying to colleges, you should know which colleges you are planning to apply to. There are thousands of colleges offering undergraduate education in the United States, and there are even more college options abroad. Narrowing down a list of which colleges you are going to apply to is going to take some serious research and introspection on your part.
Many high school seniors apply to anywhere from 5-10 colleges spanning a wide range of competitive schools, safety schools, in-state colleges, out-of-state schools, and more. When forming your college list, try to get a wide variety of colleges on there. However, you should also be cognizant of factors like your family’s financial capacity, location preferences, and educational quality when deciding which colleges to apply to.
Here is a brief list of things that you should consider when finalizing your college list:
- Career prospects if you attend the university: does that university produce a lot of full-time employed people in your intended career path?
- Academics: Does the university in question have the major you want? How highly ranked is the college in your department of choice?
- Competitiveness: Some schools are more selective in their admissions than others. You want to have a good mix of schools that you think you have a good chance of getting into and schools that may be a bit of a reach given your profile and application.
- Social Life: Is this a college where you see yourself fitting in and making friends?
- Campus Facilities: Is the school old/run down? Does the campus seem like a nice place to spend a lot of time?
- Quality of Housing: Will you be able to find affordable and decent housing either on-campus or around campus? Is the majority of housing located in a safe neighborhood?
- Student to Teacher Ratio: How much personalized attention can you expect to receive from professors and teaching assistants in each of your classes?
Do Something To Build Your College Resume
As mentioned above, the summer before your senior year is the time when you need to take on a job or big project that will make you stand out from other college applicants. Here are some big tasks, projects, and jobs you can consider:
- Apply for and obtain a summer internship. Not sure how to obtain a competitive internship as a high school student? Check out our expert advice on how to procure an ultra-competitive internship.
- Get a summer job. Our post on how to navigate your job search may be a good place to start if this is the path you want to take.
- Take summer classes to get some college credit and work towards your college degree. Not convinced that taking summer classes is the way to go? In our previous post, we discuss whether you should take college classes over the summer.
- Do Volunteer work. If you don’t have a specific volunteer project in mind, see 32 Community Service Ideas for Teen Volunteers.
- Conduct Research: if you’re on the pre-med or pre-health track, try reaching out to a local college, pharmaceutical services company, or other business that conducts research, and see if you can join one of their studies.
- Pursue a Personal Project: These projects can include starting your own business, writing and publishing a novel, pursuing your own research project, etc. As long as you have something to show for your personal project at the end of the summer, this can count towards your college resume.