It’s summertime; the days are longer, the weather is usually hot and clear, and you’re just now realizing that senior year is staring you right in the face. What should be a time of relaxation, beach vacations, and making as much money as you can, has become a race against the clock to figure out what you’re going to do after you graduate. Well, I’m here to help.
I’m not going to mince words: this will be the most important summer of your college search! Although this is important, it does not have to be stressful. I have provided four tips to help you be better prepared and ahead of your peers.
- Do your research – This is the perfect time to try and figure out what kinds of colleges will be a good fit for you. Do you want a large school with large class sizes or a small school where the professors know you by name? Do you want a college in the city or do you want a college deep in the heart of farm country? Create a list of the specific things you want in a college and use this as a guide for your research. Once you’ve created this list, visit websites like bigfuture.collegeboard.org to compare and contrast different colleges that have the traits you’re looking for.
- Visit – Although summertime is usually very slow on college campuses, you can still use this time to visit schools near where you live or where you plan to be on vacation. Summer visits give you the opportunity to take in the quietness of a campus. It should serve as your first visit (if you haven’t visited before) and the time where you ask the logistical questions. And because the summertime is usually slow, you may luck out and get your own tour guide who can show you places on campus tailor-fit for your own needs and wants.
- Prepare your application materials – Once you’ve done your research and created a list of colleges that you may be interested in applying to, begin gathering the materials you’ll need for your applications. Most high schools have a process for requesting your transcripts so find out what that process is and make sure you follow your school’s instruction down to the smallest detail. This is also a good time to think about which teachers you will ask to write you a letter of recommendation. If you are able to contact these teachers, give them a heads up that you will be requesting a letter of recommendation from them and start preparing your resume to assist them in this process. Lastly, begin writing your essay. Think about topics that pique your interest and begin outlining ways to approach this topic. Remember that the essay(s) is an important part of your application, so the more thought you put into crafting it, the better.
- Be aware of all deadlines, event dates, and visits – The upcoming fall will be very busy for college admissions counselors and also the best time for you to use us as resources. Make sure you see if we will be visiting your school this fall, and if so, make sure you sign up to come and meet us. Also plan to attend any open houses that the colleges hold in the fall — this would be a good time to speak to faculty and staff, maybe get an application fee waiver, and ask your specific questions. Lastly and most importantly, be aware of all deadlines! Deadlines are important and not paying attention to them can cause you to miss out on scholarships, important event invitations, or even admission to a certain program you were interested in. Keep a detailed list of important dates and deadlines and make sure that you abide by each one.
-James N. Jackson, Assistant Director