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Thinking About College? Why Not Think About Summer Too!

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Thinking About College? Why Not Think About Summer Too!

If you plan to go to college, don’t let the lazy days of summer be too lazy.

There is plenty you can do in July and August to help get you thinking about colleges and preparing for applications. And now is the time to start thinking about it so you can reward yourself and plan plenty of time to just veg out.

First, most college timelines recommend these to-do lists, based on the year you’ve just finished:

Freshman year – Start exploring the idea of college. Talk to friends or relatives about schools. Visit a campus or two and see what it feels like to be there.

Sophomore year – Start the college search, contact some schools that interest you and consider taking SAT subject tests in courses you’ve completed.

Junior – Complete your top-five list, visit schools, get advice from college students, pursue financial aid, start working on essays, and prepare for early-decision applications.

But here are a few other things you can plan to do during the summers to prepare for college:

Enhance academics.

It’s a good time to read and do some test prep, but a number of schools offer pre-college programs, where students can experience college life and learn a language or polish an academic or arts skill. Not all summer programs are expensive and many offer financial aid. If it’s an overnight program, be sure you can handle the social and academic responsibility. You can also check out online or community college courses.

Health habits.

Summer is a good time to emphasize healthy eating, sleeping and fitness habits. It’s also a good time to assess any mental health issues. College stress may exacerbate attention issues, anxiety, drug or alcohol use, or loneliness.

Money matters.

Summer is a good time talk about expectations about how your family will pay for college. If you have a summer job, it’s the time to learn about budgeting. You might even get your first credit card offers – understand their benefits and pitfalls.

Personal peculiarities.

Sloppiness, procrastination, poor time management – all these things are a drag on college success. You can set summertime goals (do your own laundry, plan your calendar, keep your organized). Address these issues when things slow down in July and August, rather than that week before school starts again.

Connections.

Summer is a great time to network – through a summer job or volunteer work. Set a goal to make a beneficial connection of some sort every day – no matter how seemingly insignificant – for everything from future employment to financial aid to advice about any of the above.

That’s nearly 100 connections in one summer, at least some of which will pay off!

[Looking for more tips from the TeenLife Experts? Here's 5 ways to make your summer rock!]

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Written by James Paterson

James Paterson-profile-picture

Jim Paterson is a writer and editor who specializes in issues related to education and counseling. He has written for the Washington Post, USA Today Weekend, Parent Magazine, Baltimore Magazine, Counseling Today and a variety of other publications. He has also been a school counselor for the past eight years and last year was named “Counselor of the Year” in Montgomery County, Md., just outside Washington, DC.

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