If you just finished your junior year of college, this is your last summer before you start heading off to college. While you may want to enjoy that time with a little (or a lot of) R&R, don’t kick back just yet. There are plenty of items for your college prep to-do list, including these five important tasks:
1. Narrow down your list
Create of list of 8-12 colleges you are seriously considering applying to. While in today’s competitive college atmosphere, “safety schools” may be a thing of the past, it is important to have ‘safer’ and ‘bigger reach’ schools on your list. And while you may have your heart set on the athletics Big 10 school — or the ivy-covered buildings of small liberal arts college — don’t pigeon hole yourself. To get a better picture of your options, schedule a summer meeting with your high school guidance counselor. Or narrow down your options with an online search engine like the College Board’s College Matchmaker.
2. Sign up for the SAT / ACT & start studying
The SAT and ACT standardized college admission exams are offered several times during the year. Most juniors take the test for the first time in the spring semester, and then retake the test (to better their score) in the fall of their senior year. You can register online in just a few minutes and then turn your attention to studying. Whether you take a review course or just hit the books on your own is up to you, just make sure that you take the prep seriously!
3. Start working on your college applications
Even before you finalize your list of colleges, you can start working on the application process by filling out the Common Application. Established in 1975 by 15 private colleges, the Common Application today provides online and print versions of one common application used by nearly 400 higher education institutions in the United States. Odds are some of your leading contenders are on the list. The summer is also a great time to start working on your college essays, many of which are included on the common app.
4. Apply for scholarships
If you haven’t already started, it’s time to get working on your scholarship applications. Unless your last name is Rockefeller, no one these days can afford to turn down free money to pay for college. Whether you are a star athlete, a violin virtuoso, or just a regular Joe, there is probably a scholarship or two out there that’s perfect for you. Start by signing up with one of the free scholarship search engines, check out our weekly Scholarship Friday post with three scholarship announcements, line up your references, and begin working on your scholarship essays.
5. Set up your College Visits
One of the best ways to narrow down your list of prospective colleges is to make a visit. Check out the dining halls, the lecture halls and the dormitories. Talk to professors and students. Hang out at the campus center. Don’t just rely on your neighbor’s opinion or something your guidance counselor said. Really take the time to find out if you jibe with the school you’re considering spending the next four (or five) years at. To learn more about how to make the most out of your college visit, check out this post from last summer about planning your college tours. And by the way, if you would rather make your visits for the fall, so more students will be on campus, you can still schedule your appointments and book your trips now. In fact, it would be a wise use of your time this summer!
What’s on your college to-do list for the summer? Will you be taking any road trips to see prospective schools? What about completing the common application or filling our scholarship applications? Do tell!