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College Admissions: 5 Ways to Get a Head Start This Summer | Education

College Admissions: 5 Ways to Get a Head Start This Summer | Education
College Admissions: 5 Ways to Get a Head Start This Summer 

Five ways students should use the summer to get a head start on their applications

The summer before application season can be a critical time for high school seniors to gather the many pieces necessary for a successful college application.  As college admissions become increasingly competitive, with top universities like Stanford University and Harvard University accepting less than 5% of applicants in 2021-22, students need to pay attention to the little details of application process.

Starting early can help students put in the time needed to build a solid app. 

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1. Create a list of colleges

As you begin to create a list of colleges, one of the first factors you'll want to consider is what type of school you want to attend.  Size, location, tuition, major options, extracurricular options, and more should factor into your decision.  If you are interested in special programs, such as expedited medical or dental programs, you should consider those options.

Having a balanced list of colleges can be critical to your success.  As you begin to consider what kinds of schools interest you, sort them into three different categories: Safety, Match (or Target), and Reach.

Safety schools are schools where your GPA and standardized test scores are higher than the average admitted freshman.  The acceptance rate should also be at least 40-45%.  Many times your local state schools fall into this category.

Matched (or target) schools are schools where your GPA and standardized test scores are similar to the average admitted freshman.  The acceptance rate should be at least 20-40%.

Catch schools are schools where your GPA and standardized test scores may be lower than the average for accepted students, but you are still within range of your scores.  Any school with an acceptance rate of less than 20% is considered a reach due to its unpredictability.

"Students often forget to look at acceptance rates when making their college lists and will classify an Ivy League as a match or even a safety," says Lindsey Conger, independent college counselor at Moon Prep.  "Ivy League schools and many top-tier universities are within everyone's reach, no matter what your GPA or standardized test scores."

Some universities, such as Brown University, Columbia University and Cornell University, have already announced that they will offer optional exams for the 2022-23 admissions cycle, but that is not the case for all universities.  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that it would reinstate its SAT/ACT requirements for the next cycle.  Check the testing policy of the schools on your list so there are no surprises.

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2. Start visiting schools

Once you've started selecting colleges that interest you, summer vacation is a great time to visit colleges.  You don't have to go to every school on your list;  instead, pick a few of your best options and visit them to reaffirm that they are truly your best option.

Students considering requesting an early decision at a school should prioritize visits because, if accepted, they are binding and they are required to attend.

However, it's not always possible to visit your top picks in person.  Schools will hold virtual information sessions or tours throughout the school year and summer.  This can be a great opportunity for students to show interest and learn more about their best options.

Other options include the new show on Amazon Prime, The College Tour, which spends each episode on a different college campus.  Hosted by Alex Boylan, the series provides an inside look at college campus life, from the classroom to the dorms to game day vibes.

As you tour (either virtually or in person), take notes about what you liked and didn't like about campus.  Later, this will help you decide where to apply and where to go.

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3. Start a resume/to-do list

On the Common Application, you will have space to list your top ten activities.  However, you only get 150 characters to describe each activity.  If you have been heavily involved in the business for four years or have held various leadership positions, it can be challenging to describe your role and accomplishments in such limited space.

By creating a resume, you can expand on your activities and list everything you've been involved with during high school.  Some schools will allow you to submit your resume along with your applications.  It is also possible to include a URL that links to your resume in your Google Drive in the Additional Information section in the common app as well as other apps.

Spend the summer creating a professional resume and start listing the activities and descriptions of your activities that you will include in the common application.

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4. Ask for letters of recommendation

Most schools will allow you to submit at least two letters of recommendation from teachers.  Some teachers will only write a limited number of letters each year, so you'll want to ask before summer break if they can write one for you.  This also gives them plenty of time to work on their letter over the summer.  If they agree, you can spend the first few weeks of your break creating a "brag sheet" for them, which could include a few bullet points detailing your college or career goals, some example stories where you showed leadership or had an impact on your community, plus anything else you think they might want to use in the letter.  You can send the cover sheet, along with your resume, to help them write a more personalized letter of recommendation.

Colleges will often allow you to submit letters of recommendation from people who are not faculty, which may include:

  • Employer
  • Coworker
  • Manager in an internship or volunteer position
  • Trainer
  • Anyone else who knows you well and can talk about your positive attributes

Ask outside recommenders over the summer to give you enough time to write a well-written letter.

Remember that more letters does not necessarily mean that you will have a stronger application.  Only ask people who you're sure will write a strong recommendation or add something unique to your app.

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5. Start writing your college essays

Common Application Forms for 2022-23 are now out, so students should spend the summer working on their personal statements.  This essay is essential: it is the student's first opportunity to distinguish himself from other applicants and show his personality.

"This trial shouldn't be done in one sitting," says Conger.  "Taking the time to think of a compelling essay can take several weeks and multiple drafts."  By starting in the summer, students can develop a compelling personal statement and be ready to begin tackling school-specific supplemental essays later in the summer and fall.

Students may also want to consider professional help to guide them through this complicated process.  Attending an application boot camp like Application iQ can keep a student on track and motivated all summer long.  By attending an application boot camp, students will often end their summer with professionally edited personal statements, essays, and activity lists.

Whether you're applying to competitive schools or not, summer is the best time for students to focus their energy on preparing their college applications.

Source: Kristen Moon, Forbes, Direct News 99