Many students think of June as their “month off" from college admissions planning – after all, the rigor of the school year is behind you and the blissful warm days of summer are here. Unfortunately, you probably don't want to completely leave college planning by the wayside as you plan out your vacation. Check out the following list to make sure you remain up-to-date this June as you prepare for your college journey.
- Although you may have just finished middle school, there are steps you can take now to prepare for a higher education plan. “It's never too early to start planning for college," says David Campos, director of programs and solutions with college admissions consulting firm UCEazy. “In the early years, parents may want to consider helping their students discover long-term interests and apply what they enjoy to a meaningful activity, such as service of others, academic enrichment or structured programs that offer hands-on experiences," he adds.
- Ensure that your high school plans include coursework with a rising level of rigor, says Charlotte M. Klaar, PhD, of Klaar College Consulting in Fort Mill, S.C. “Needless to say, this is a flexible plan and, should the student not be able to earn a 'B' or better in the more rigorous courses, it is best to drop back rather than move forward without success," she notes.
- This is also a good period to set expectations about you'll spend time in high school. This includes managing study time, grades, activities and other factors of high school life, Klaar advises. “These expectations must be in line with the student's true potential," she adds.
- Take the time to explore new activities, put ideas into action and take some risks so you can begin to establish the baseline for a resume, Campos says. “This baseline can be improved upon in time and with more experiential learning. Taking courses of interest to develop skills and using talents to serve others may be a solid start."
- Continue working on your college resume. If you did any extracurriculars last year, add those, as well as the activities that you'll be pursuing this summer. Include jobs, camp counseling, volunteer activities and other pursuits.
- Make time for relaxation – but not 24/7. “I believe that a habit of involvement is a good one to develop," Klaar says. “Therefore, without over-scheduling, students should do more than sit around playing video games or sleeping. One thing they should not forget to do is to read every day. In this way, the student will get in mental shape for the amount of reading in college." However, she adds, allot the time to enjoy yourself as well. “Children learn by having time to think and dream and it is an important part of forming a full human being."
- Begin to create a college list based on your interests and preferences.
- Register for fall ACT and SAT test dates if you plan to take the tests.
- Pursue test prep via classes, tutoring or individualized study if you have tests on the horizon.
- Evaluate whether your summer activities show a progression when compared to the previous summer. “As students advance in high school, their activities would ideally show signs of development, in terms of leadership, creativity and challenge," Campos advises.
- Work on your college list and confirm that your prospective major is available at the schools on the list.
- If you hope to play a sport in college, begin researching the requirements to join a team and contact coaches when appropriate.
- If you're hoping to take the SAT or ACT one more time, now is the time to register. See above for registration deadlines.
- Set up college tours if you plan to visit schools this summer.
- Begin working on your college essays. “The primary college essay is very different from an essay written for a school assignment," Klaar says. “It is important to work with someone who knows what the colleges are looking for in the essay (Hint: That is not a regurgitation of the activity resume or other accomplishments, nor is it the place to discuss why you are not a good tester)."
- Make sure your college resume includes all of your high school activities.
- If your college list isn't ready, now is the time to lock it down.
- Continue to pursue the activities you've shown interest in for the prior four years. “This is a good time to bring your research projects and service agendas to an impactful, final stretch," Campos says. “Many juniors use their time wisely by finding valuable internships and pre-college programs at well-known research institutions. An impactful resume shows consistency, perseverance and a story of an ambitious student carrying out his/her goals and demonstrating future commitment to a passion that can be continued in college."
- If you're still wait-listed, now is the time to make a decision about whether you plan to keep waiting. If so, ensure that the colleges that wait-listed you have your final transcripts, which could help them make final decisions.
- If you haven't been accepted anywhere yet and still want to attend college this fall, check whether any schools still have slots available for incoming freshmen. However, you might first examine the reasons why you weren't accepted anywhere to begin with, Klaar advises. “If it is because the student is truly not ready for the rigors of college life and study, a productive gap year is probably not a bad idea," Klaar says. “If the lack of acceptance is because the wrong colleges were chosen to receive applications, work with a consultant to get a more realistic list of colleges together … remember that it is about fit and match, and not trophy hunting."
- If you do choose to take a gap year, make sure you use it to explore yourself in an “actionable and meaningful way," Campos says. “One would have to use time extremely well for this to be worth it."
- If you aren't going to a four-year college or taking a gap year, attending the local community college may be a smart choice, Campos advises. “The community college offers a myriad of opportunities to gain more skills, create new plans and prepare for a transfer to a wide range of universities."
- If you know which college you'll be attending, ensure that your counselor has sent final transcripts to the school.
- Register to attend college orientation if you'll be headed to a school this fall.
- If you self-reported your test scores on your college applications, now is the time to send the “official" scores to the college, if you haven't already done so.
By staying on track with your college preparation checklist, you won't miss out on any important milestones. Keep an eye out for our July checklist, coming up next month.
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