This last school year was challenging on several levels. As a mom of a high school student and an Independent College Consultant, I’ve seen all the ups and downs that this last year brought on our children. Students are feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and unsure about the future. Here are a few tips to help students, specifically seniors, and parents utilize summer to be prepared for next year.
Tip #1: Rest, Relax, Reflect
The best thing a family can do to start the summer is to rest and relax; ideally unplugging from technology for a set period of time. Use this “unplugged” time to reflect with your student. Ask questions that are pertinent to your child. Consider these examples:
- How did you see perseverance in your academic pursuits this year?
- What is one lesson you learned about yourself from this past year?
- What are one or two ways that this year could’ve been different?
- Name one or two accomplishments you had this year. Consider focusing on personal and not just academic accomplishments.
- What expectations do you have for going to college?
- Communicate your (parent) expectations for the college application process (i.e. student preparing and planning for college. Consider sharing location, distance from home, and cost. The clearer the expectations are for your student, the easier it is to navigate disappointment or misunderstanding.
Tip #2: Discuss Summer Plans
Summer is an important time, especially for students going into their senior year. This is a great time to make final preparations for SAT and ACT tests in the fall. Many colleges are still test-optional or test-blind for the class of 2022, but some are reinstating a standardized test policy requiring students to submit scores. Make sure you and your student are familiar with the testing policy for the colleges on their list. Here are a few other great summer options:
- Apply for a part-time job – shows time management skills and responsibility
- Participate in an internship opportunity – demonstrates determination and focus
- Take summer school classes – to improve low grades previous years, increase GPA and scholarship opportunities
- Volunteer at a local organization – community service hours are highly valued when applying for college. It’s important for students to share their purpose behind volunteering, therefore choose an opportunity that is meaningful to the student
- Summer experience/opportunity – colleges have summer experiences for different interests, everything from engineering to creative writing. These programs offer significant benefits for students such as social interaction with peers from across the country and exposure to experts in their field of interest. Check here for more information on summer programs.
Tip #3: Develop a College List
Generating a list will provide guidance and clarity in the application process for both students and parents. A college’s mission, vision, and opportunities should align with the student’s values and goals. A beneficial resource is the Fiske Guide to Colleges. This is a great asset for families to begin the research process. There are over 300 colleges listed in the book which includes quotes from current students, school breakdown by state, price and average debt, plus ratings on social environment and the quality-of-life experience. Also consider researching these topics:
- Academic Majors
- Admission deadlines for each college. Some colleges start accepting as early as late October.
- Merit Scholarship
- Financial aid possibilities. The FAFSA opens October 1, be prepared to upload tax information as early as possible.
- Visit colleges! If you are able to visit a college, even during the summer months, it will be beneficial. If not able to visit, there are two highly recommended sites for virtual college tours: CampusReel and YouVisit. This past spring, CollegeBoard had virtual college fairs based on different regions in the country. The recordings of those presentations are here. Utilizing a college visit checklist can be helpful in remembering all the detailed information. Click here for a virtual tour checklist.
Tip #4: Create a Resume
Colleges and universities accept and sometimes require a resume as part of the college application. Schools are not interested in activities or honors or awards before freshman year of high school (unless significant or unique). Admission representatives want to know what a student has done with their four years of high school, and what they will likely do in the four years of college. Focus on accomplishments and take the summer to do one or two new opportunities. Some students were unable to get involved this year due to COVID, colleges and universities understand this, but still communicate the inability to participate on the application. This will give the admission committee a clear picture of your school year.
Tip #5: Search for Scholarships
The scholarship game can be very competitive, tedious, and overwhelming, but starting early and tracking the process will make the process more bearable. Students with a high GPA and high test scores will undoubtedly be eligible for scholarship money from the university they attend, but I also encourage all of my students to apply for additional scholarships. Below is a great list of scholarship search sites to begin the process:
If you need help with any of these steps, please feel free to connect with me. I’m happy to help! I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kortney Greene is a College Admissions Consultant for Firat Education. She enjoys the journey of helping high school students find their strengths as a means to guide their decision-making choices through the college selection process. Have a few questions about the college admissions process? Click here to connect with Kortney.