As summer approaches, most teenagers have nothing more than relaxation on their mind. But for those looking to get a leg up in today’s ultra-competitive college admissions process, summer provides a golden opportunity.
Here are five ways students can to use this summer to their utmost advantage:
- Pursue a passion. The more deeply a student pursues his or her interests, the more compelling his or her application will be to college admissions boards. If your student is interested in engineering, encourage him to complete a woodworking project; if your student plans to pursue a degree in history, encourage her to complete a research project on family genealogies or biographies. Regardless of the interest your student pursues, make sure he or she completes a task in the exploration process; this helps establish a track record of accomplishments.
- Get standardized tests out of the way, or devote time to studying for them. Although there are plenty of reasons standardized tests fail as metrics of future success in college or beyond, most colleges still rely on them immensely in making admissions decisions. Ideally, students should take all of their standardized tests in June following junior year, and if need be, again in September and October of senior year. They should plan to pick up an SAT vocabulary novel for summer studying.
- Research universities. Students should explore their options and form a clear picture of which universities they would like to attend, as well as what their chances are of being admitted. Students should have a nice balance of universities where they will certain be admitted, are likely to be admitted, as well as a couple of “reach” schools. Also keep in mind that while private schools are more expensive at first glance, they often offer higher scholarship awards. Students should investigate a couple of public universities that match their qualifications as well.
- Create a personal website. These days, the first thing people do when they hear a new name is type it into a Google search. Undeniably, the results of that search create a first impression. Students should aim to influence what college admissions officials find when they search their name by setting up a website through WordPress or tumblr. Students should post information about their activities and interests, interview fascinating people they meet, and blog about their lives. But, above all, students should monitor their content to ensure their website is a help rather than a hindrance.
- Get a head start on college application essays. Applicants who apply well before the deadlines fare significantly better in the college admissions race. The basic college application topics stay the same for most schools from year-to-year, and in any case, topics for the following fall are generally released the summer before. Students should elicit advice from their parents and other people they respect to ensure that the end product is completely vetted and in top shape.
Summer is often considered a time of zero expectation, but for students hoping to make a strong impression on admissions boards, this summer is the time to shine.