8 Ways to Get Ahead on Your College Applications This Summer

This article first appeared on BuzzFeed on June 7, 2015.

The sound of the ocean. The warmth of the sun. And… college applications? What? That can’t be what summer vacation is about.

Yet, for rising high school seniors, that’s exactly what you need to be focusing on, that is, if you want to keep yourself sane in the fall. Whether or not you realize it, by seizing the relative calm of your summer break, you might just survive college application season.

So what can you do over the next 3 months to beat the stress and increase your chances of getting into your dream school?

Here are 8 tips to help:

Visit Colleges
If you’re still trying to decide where to apply, campus visits are essential. You’ll be able to feel out schools and their surrounding areas, and decide whether or not you think you’ll be happy there for the next 4 years. So take advantage of being out of class during the work week, which is when colleges tend to offer tours. You will learn about special programs, get insider tips on the admissions process, and earn brownie points for taking the time to visit.

Draft Your Résumé
Believe it or not, as a 17-year-old, you need a résumé. Some colleges ask you to upload them to replace an “Activities Section,” while others simply use them as a supplement. So Google a template and get started! When it’s done, you’ll have the added bonus of being able to give it to your recommendation writers, admissions interviewers, and future potential employers. Who knew that thing had so many uses!

Prepare Your Activities Descriptions
Just like your résumé, this is something that takes time and that you can generate now! Start by creating Universal Application and Common Application accounts and check out the character counts and suggestions. That way, when the systems re-launch, July 15 and August 1 respectively, you’ll have everything ready to copy and paste.

Interview
Believe it or not, some colleges have already opened their admissions interviews for the Class of 2016! So, if you think you’ll likely apply to a school, Google their admissions interview information and sign up now. If you don’t, you risk missing out on a valuable opportunity to demonstrate interest and tell the admissions office more about why you are their ideal student!

Write Your Personal Statement
Your main essay is perhaps the most time-consuming part of the college application process. Rather than wait until the week before your first application is due, check out the Common Application’s prompts now! They are ready and waiting for you online. You can then start brainstorming ideas, writing your story, and perfecting your voice, so that you’re done before the application itself even launches.

Prepare for Tests
If you haven’t taken the SAT or ACT, it’s time to catch up. You may think that summer was made for chilling by the pool, but it is actually the ideal time to prepare for this most dreaded part of the college application process. Can you imagine studying for the SAT, while trying to keep your grades up and applying to college senior year? Think about it. Keep yourself sane, and crack those books now!

Apply for Scholarships
While many students wait for the unpleasant shock of their financial aid award letters to motivate them, you should really start looking for other people’s money now. Scholarships are, without a doubt, the best form of financial aid out there, and many go unclaimed each year. So, get ahead of everyone else, and start your search. The more you find over the summer, when the competition is low, the better off you’ll be!

Start Your Applications
Maybe no one has told you, but the Universal Application, the Common Application, and really every other college application launch over the summer! Don’t wait for the school year to start filling them out. Instead, create accounts the day they go live, read through them, and gather all the information you’ll need in advance. You’ll be thankful you did a few months down the line.

While this summer may not end up being the most fun, if you follow these 8 tips, you will ensure that you will be celebrating your college acceptances 10 months down the road.

Posted on July 9, 2015 at 8:03 pm

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