Here are 6 ways you can maximize your time this summer to get ahead of your college applications:
1. Finalize Your List
Deciding early which schools are “best fit” for you will help you get a head start on everything else. You want to narrow your list to 8-10 schools (max 12) with a balance of admissions selectivity. Aim for at least 2 “safety” schools, 4 “target” schools, and 2 “reach” schools. If you aren’t sure how to categorize the schools on your list, speak to your college counselor before summer break!
If you haven’t had an opportunity to visit all of the schools, take advantage of the many other resources at your fingertips to help you determine fit. Speak to admissions reps and local alumni, devour the college’s website and social media, and go on a virtual tour. Once you finalize your list, make sure to decide what application date/track is best for you.
2. Get Organized
Once you know where you are going to apply and when, you can begin organizing all of your application materials. At Vault Prep we help students organize all materials into a large binder, with a tab for each school. Within each tab you should include the following:
- Deadline Application
- Contact Information
- Login Information
- Research notes about the college
- Any print-outs or links you want to have on hand from the website
We also help students create a “master calendar” of deadlines for each application that includes time for multiple drafts of essays. Many colleges share due dates (ex: Nov 1st, Dec 15th, etc.) – so you want to plan it all out so that you can manage your time properly.
3. Email Your Local Rep
Spend time thinking carefully and critically about why each college is on your list. Take notes, both reflective and research based, about every school. You should consider why you are a “right fit” for their college and why they are a “right fit” for you. Use these notes to connect with your local admissions rep in a thoughtful way. Demonstrating interest in this way can help you connect with the person who will be reading your application.
4. Common Application
While the Common Application does not officially launch until August 1st, you can still create a temporary account today and scope it out. Spend some serious time on your activity list – you can include 10 activities and only get 150 characters to describe your involvement, so make each word count!
One of the most important components of the application is your personal essay. You answer 1 prompt and get a maximum of 650 words. You want your essay to add personality to your application, shed light on your values and goals, and demonstrate your ability to communicate clearly and succinctly. Get creative with your topic choice and writing style and remember that the personal essay is an informal one and should be written in the first person.
5. Supplemental Materials
As part of the application, schools often have additional requirements. Collect the essay questions and requirements from all of the colleges and store them in your organizational binder. Map out (on your calendar) deadlines for each requirement so that you don’t end up cramming them all in the last minute. These supplements should not be an afterthought. Many schools will ask questions about why X school is a good fit. It is extremely important you clearly answer “why I am right for the school” as well as “why the school is right for me.” Draw on the research notes you have taken on the schools (or get researching if you haven’t already!).
If you haven’t yet taken the SAT or ACT and/or weren’t thrilled with your spring scores – study over the summer for the fall exams. Allot a few hours every week over the summer to study and try to take a full-length practice exam every other week. Also consider taking an “AP Bootcamp” in preparation for any AP classes you may have coming up in the fall when application season is in full swing.