How to Prepare for College During High School Summers

    Posted June 18, 2014, 2:00 pm by Suzanne Shaffer
    How to Prepare for College During High School Summers

    There has been much said about high school summer activities and how to spend the summer: volunteering, reading, working, and more. But for the college-bound teen, summer gives each grade level an opportunity to concentrate on specific tasks before the school year begins.

    Soon-to-be Freshmen

    It’s the year of new beginnings. Wide-eyed freshmen enter high school campuses overwhelmed and excited. High school is the beginning of the college pursuit. It means added responsibility and academic challenges. And it also requires organization and preparation.

    Following are four tasks for soon-to-be freshmen:

    1. Plan

    The summer before freshman year is the best time to plan the courses you will be taking during high school. If you haven’t already done so, do a little research about what courses colleges require and plan your year accordingly. Freshman year is when you begin the quest for a high GPA, which assures admission to college and the promise of merit aid.

    2. Volunteer

    Colleges are looking for long-term commitments when it comes to volunteering in high school. The summer before freshman year is the best time to choose the activity that most interests you. If you’re not sure, try some on for size to help you decide.

    3. Start the scholarship search

    There are scholarships available for every age group. Starting the search early allows you the time to research and apply before the rush of senior year.

    4. Attend freshman orientation

    High school freshman orientation is important. Exploring clubs, organizations, sports, music, and even politics will jumpstart your social skills and give you an idea of your areas of interests. Orientation offers you your first glimpse into high school life, and also gives you the opportunity to plan and register for classes.

    Soon-to-be Sophomores

    You are now a “seasoned” high school student. In addition to the obvious volunteering and searching for scholarships, the focus for the summer before this year should be centered on the following tasks:

    1. Study for the PSAT

    You will want to take the PSAT in the fall. Why take it so early? First of all, because it doesn’t count and it’s great practice; secondly, because it will give you an idea of your testing strengths and weaknesses while you still have time to make improvements.

    2. Start researching careers

    By now, you should know what interests you in school. Are you drawn to the sciences? Or is drama your cup of tea? Do you excel in math? Or are you interested in literature? These interests will serve to guide you down the right career path. Use the summer to research some career paths. This research will help when you begin to create your college list.

    3. Take a personality test

    Take a simple online personality test to understand your interests and help with your college choices. The Myers-Briggs personality test is a simple test you can take to determine your interests and inclinations.

    4. Take online college tours

    Take some online tours of colleges that you might be interested in attending. You can find these on the college’s websites or on YouTube. Look for ones made by students to get the inside scoop on the campus.

    Prepare for College During High School Summer

    Soon-to-be Juniors

    It’s time for you to sit down and evaluate goals to make sure you’re on-track for the college application process. Get focused and keep your eye on the prize: graduation and college acceptance.

    1. Prepare for the PSAT

    This is the all-important PSAT year. This is the year that your score will qualify you for the National Merit Scholarship program. Follow the calendar deadlines and register EARLY. If you took the test last year, review the answers that you missed and make sure you know why you missed them, taking time to study the correct answers. Cramming rarely helps so studying over a period of time will help you approach the test with confidence and the knowledge you need to test well.

    2. Make summer college visits

    Junior year is a perfect time to begin visiting college campuses and summer is a great time to take some informal tours.

    Take pictures and use Instagram to keep track of your visits with photos. By tagging them with the college hashtags, other students will see your photos. But here’s the plus: as you take the photos you can type comments and this will provide you with a visual reminder of each college. If you are looking for images posted by students, Instagram might just be the perfect source. A student’s perspective, after all, is the best perspective.

    3. Evaluate your GPA

    If you have been working hard, your GPA should show it. College admissions officers will be looking hard at the GPA from junior year. Falling grades are an indicator of lack of focus and could hurt you down the road when your application is reviewed. If you need some extra tutoring before starting junior year, summer is a good time to schedule it.

    4. Review your high school progress

    Look at the past two years to see if there are any gaps in your resume. Do you need to do some volunteer work? Are you involved in some type of leadership capacity in at least one activity? Do your courses and grades show their college level success? Have you established a relationship with a member of the faculty and with your high school guidance counselor? Are your extracurricular activities “all over the place” or are they focused?

    It’s not too late to remedy any of these situations. You still have time during junior year to get focused.

    Soon-to-be Seniors

    Since senior year is jam-packed with tasks and deadlines, here are four tasks you should concentrate on over the summer.

    1. Hit scholarships hard

    Since many scholarships are for seniors, you should focus on researching and applying to those scholarships. Summer will allow you more time to do this, so use the time to prepare your applications and get them ready to submit before the deadlines.

    2. Make your college list

    It’s finally time to narrow down the college list. Why? Because application fees can add up; and you don’t want so many options that you find it hard to make a decision. Narrowing it to 10 colleges should be manageable. It will also make it easier to do extensive research on every school before applying and allow you to have all the facts once the acceptance letters arrive.

    3. Study for standardized tests

    Colleges use standardized tests to evaluate a student’s ability to be successful in college. Many students take the first round of tests their junior year (SATs, ACTs, SAT IIs), and continue taking them in the fall of senior year to achieve their goal score. While these tests aren’t the only criteria used, they are an important component of the application. Use the summer to study. Review formulas, study vocabulary, and practice writing essays. By the time you’re a senior, you should be a test veteran.

    4. Think about recommendation letters

    Make a list of perspective letter writers and give them plenty of time to complete those letters. There is nothing teachers/counselors hate more than last minute recommendation requests. Give them time to write a good letter because these letters weigh heavy in the eyes of admissions officers. Make the requests as soon as you return to school.

    Completing these tasks each summer will guarantee you are prepared to hit the ground running senior year. Summers give you an opportunity to focus on key tasks and allow you time apart from your studies to get those tasks completed.

    Prep for College during high school

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    Suzanne Shaffer

    Suzanne Shaffer

    Suzanne Shaffer counsels parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. Her Parenting for College blog offers timely college tips for parents and students, as well as providing parents with the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze.

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