Rising senior summer is time for college preparation

The summer before your student’s senior year of high school needs to be a productive few months, a time for pursuing academic and extracurricular interests that build strong college applications. It’s the last part of your child’s high school career that admissions officers see before they make admissions decisions, so you don’t want them to waste it without doing something meaningful. Why?

Admissions officers tell me this over and over: students who undertake meaningful summer experiences are much more likely to continue pursuing meaningful experiences in college. Those students—the self-starters who “create memories” during the summer –are likely to enrich their college freshman class and add to the depth of the applicant pool. And the answer to the question, “How did you spend your summer vacation?” could make a big difference in being admitted to the right college for your child.

Do What You Love

For the rising senior, summer is a time for growth. Having fun is allowed…and even encouraged! So how can your son or daughter have a summer that’s meaningful and leads the kind of character development that colleges want?

Encourage them to do something that challenges them to stretch their thinking. This summer is about exploring what sparks their passions and may lead to declaring a major that reflects that passion, not just a passing interest. Inspire them to make the summer experience an extension of who they are and who they may want to be in the future.

College Essay

Maybe your student’s summer experience will make for a great essay on the Common Application.  Take the advice of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “It’s the journey that matters, not the destination.”  Creating that meaningful journey over the summer that aligns with your student’s interests allows them to grow in ways that will reflect in their maturity, life experiences, and “voice,” particularly as it pertains to the essay on the Common Application.

Community Service

In addition to developing a strong list of interests and extracurricular activities, the Tennessee Promise program requires eight hours of volunteer service. Why not encourage your student to pursue something that really gets them excited?  Colleges discern a student’s level of commitment based on depth and longevity of a chosen activity and, while any amount of community service is admirable, admissions counselors want to see that passion and commitment over a sustained period of time.

Visit Colleges and Make Application

Early action/Early decision deadlines are decided just a few weeks after school starts in the fall. Vanderbilt for example, recently admitted 40% of incoming freshmen early. The most enthusiastic and qualified applicants generally apply to colleges early, signaling their true desire to attend that school. So, visiting colleges and making application before the early deadlines is critical. Most colleges will expect you to schedule an official campus tour.  If you skip this essential process of building relationships, don’t be surprised if your student gets rejected or wait-listed, even with your “safety” schools.

The Common Application

Starting your application is also important.  Go to www.CommonApp.org and begin filling out information.  Have your student begin to assemble their resume of extracurricular activities and service work. Make sure you and your children understand deadlines for each school. Review the new essay questions for 2015-2016 and use this summer as a springboard for a meaningful and enriching experiences that can lead to a winning essay.

Making Contact

Inspire your student to become their own self-advocate and develop new relationships with their target schools.  Ongoing communication with admissions advisors, attending admissions events, and campus visits are definite advantages when your student’s application comes before the Admissions Committee. Admissions counselors then know your child and the contributions they can make to that college. In short, the more substantive contact your child has with the school, the better their chances for admission.

Summer can be a time of relaxation for both parent and student but should also include taking the necessary steps to avoid the stresses with college planning that comes with the senior year. A few hours each week during the summer spent on college admissions tasks will reduce stress and avoid missed opportunities in the fall.  A little work this summer on visiting colleges, writing your essay and building your Common Application will ensure that this fall semester is not hectic and the path to college is stress free and meaningful.

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