It's not unusual for parents to ask me, “What can my student do over the summer to give them an edge in the college admission process?" So without further ado, here's my Top 10 Summertime list for College-Bound Students:
#10 - Prepare for the dreaded SAT / ACT tests
This could be a book, online course or a visit to the tutoring centers in your area. It will keep your mind focused and give your extra confidence when you sit down to take the SAT in October.
#9 - Don't forget the Essays
I find many students procrastinate on this subject, mainly because they don't realize the difficulty of writing a solid essay (in 25 minutes on the SAT!) Your best bet is to start on several drafts for the admissions essay and then have a close friend or relative read it and give you their opinion. Essays can carry a lot of weight with admission officers. So it's to your advantage to have a well thought-out essay prepared for the fall of your senior year.
#8 - Get a Job- or better yet, an internship!
Don't be the student who plays video games all summer long or becomes a familiar face at the local amusement park by utilizing that season pass like a champ. Take this time to get involved with a company; it will teach you commitment and responsibility. Starting your own business can earn major brownie points with an admission officer. The same goes for an internship in a field you are interested in. It shows the school that you are committed to your field of study.
#7 - Summer School, here I come!
It doesn't sound too exciting, but just like an internship, taking a summer class earns those needed brownie points with admission counselors. This can give you that needed edge over other students who spent their time at the beach. Plus your academic focus remains constant over the summer months.
#6 - College Visit schedule / College Picks (For upcoming seniors)
This is the time for upcoming seniors to put their energy into their college picks. Your goal should be to have 6-10 schools decided on by Halloween. In order to accomplish this, you need to do a detailed search, and schedule your visits. Your college visit is extremely important. Do NOT put this off until your senior year, or you will be sorry!
#5 - Have fun!!
I bet the students reading this are finally relieved to see this! Yes, you should have fun this summer. That's what summer is for, so get out there and enjoy it. Whatever your passion is, my advice would be to use the extra time you have during the summer months to pursue your passions.
# 4 - Volunteer your time to the less fortunate
Colleges are looking at this more and more each year. Some require a minimum of 100 hours of community service. Find the time to research different organizations within your area that you feel fit your personality and get involved. Serving meals at the homeless shelter is great, but if you were able to show your dedication through organizing an event on your own that benefited the less fortunate, now you're standing out.
# 3 - Continue to revisit your College Search / Picks
I listed this twice due to its importance with upcoming seniors. The message here is GET ORGANIZED! Keep separate folders for each school. Make sure you print out the loads of information that is available on the internet for each school. If you have questions, call the admission office, they'll be glad to answer your question. Remember, they want your application, so they will do anything to please you.
# 2 - Be sure to spend time with your loved ones
Summer is supposed to be fun, and it can be. The items above are not necessarily hard to accomplish; they're just tedious. If you devote the time throughout the summer days, it will be time well spent and your stress level will be reduced during your senior year.
# 1 - READ, READ, READ
Get a great book that interests you and dive into to it. Set a goal to read 2, 3, or 5 books before the summer ends. Take it with you to the beach or just sit in the air conditioning at home and get lost in one. Not only can reading be enjoyable, but it's a way to study for the standardized test and can be much more fun than the standard way to study for these test. Plus, don't be surprised if you're not asked in a college interview what was the last book you read. (Try Mary Shelly's version of Frankenstein. It's rumored to have “all the SAT vocabulary words included in it. " Of course thus isn't true, but there sure are a lot of those vocabulary words in there!)
Following these tips will help ensure a less stressful college admission experience. Enjoy your summer!
Tate Felts is president of College Planning Experts LLC. His firm serves the Hampton Roads area by providing families of college-bound students with college funding strategies and guidance in matching the right school for each student. He is widely known for his College Planning Class titled “How to Choose the Best College for Your Student and Your Pocketbook" which is offered to families of college-bound students. Visit http://www.college-doctor.com for details.