With summer break fast approaching, it’s important to remember that summers are important times to build your college admissions portfolio. Though students must prioritize decompression, mental wellness, and enjoying time with their communities, summer can also serve to explore more in-depth projects, and passions that interest and excite students. Particularly for rising seniors, the summer between 11th and 12th grade can alleviate the stress of the upcoming application season and strengthen students’ admissions portfolios. Below are some tips for maximizing summer without compromising rest and community as a priority.
This seemingly easy task becomes easy to neglect as students’ schedules pick up. Ideally, use summer as a time to research and prepare your prospective college list. Even setting aside a half-hour in the morning can solidify the schools that align with your finance, values, and career path. By engaging this groundwork early, you’ll free up time in the Fall to move the focus to the actual application materials and tailor each component to schools with more intention. Creating the college list is an important, often overlooked step in the process and not something to rush. The extra time in the summer allows you to research schools to make sure schools are a strong fit, which increases the impact of your application.
To build out your college list, we recommend creating three buckets—safety schools, prospective (sometimes referred to as match) schools, and reach schools. Safety schools are colleges where admission is likely skewed toward students’ academic profiles. This means that your numbers should fall between the top or middle 50% of admitted students. Further, the selectivity of a safety school is also an important factor. If it has a high acceptance rate (60%) and your numbers are above average, it likely fits the criteria as a safety school for your list.
A prospective or match school is typically understood as an excellent fit for the student academically and socially. These schools generally are not difficult to get into for the average student, but you’re not guaranteed admission. A strong match school means that admissions and test scores fall between the 25th and 75th percentiles of students enrolled at the colleges. To build a good college list, ideally, you’ll want to apply to three to four match schools to ensure that you’ll have a handful of options when the time comes to make your college decision.
Reach schools are schools that you may have difficulty getting into with your current resume. These schools typically accept 20-30% of students. Common examples of reach schools include Ivy Leagues and selective private institutions. However, just because you don’t meet the criteria doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply. With many schools moving to a more holistic admissions process, applications have become far more than grades and test scores—even at more selective schools. Technically, reach schools are not essential to your application, so you can apply to as many or as little as you’re able to. For these schools specifically, you’ll want to focus on creating a standout essay and highlighting what makes you unique from other students.
Often the topics for essays become available long before the application deadline. Once you’ve taken time to determine the list of schools that are right for you, check out the Common App and begin drafting the essay. This doesn’t mean you have to spend the summer writing the essay but keep the questions at the front of your mind and take time to reflect on them over the summer. If you’re someone who sees extended family during the summer months or spends time with siblings, talk to them about these questions to generate potential essay ideas.
To get a jumpstart on applications, you’ll likely need to wait until August 1st, when many schools release their apps for the prospective class. You can save yourself a lot of time now by populating your application with personal information before the school year begins. Though this may seem trivial, familiarizing yourself with the applications portals early and plugging in your information can alleviate the stress of applications during crunch time. Most importantly, write down all your passwords and usernames for each application portal to later save yourself a headache.
With school out, summer is when many groups and organizations are creating more opportunities and looking for extra volunteers. Use this time to explore groups and organizations that share your passions and ask where you can lend a hand. Consistency and quality always speak volumes over quantity, so commit to what your schedule allows for an extended period. It’s more beneficial for both you and the organization if you can demonstrate a long-term commitment. Even if this means taking on something once a week, some help is always better thanno help.
If possible, students should update their resumes after every semester of school. If you haven’t updated your resume in Bringing Colleges & Students Together a bit, summer is the perfect opportunity to organize your achievements and save yourself a lot of stress during the applications season. Resumes encompass a list of activities, service, honors, work, achievements, and summer activities. Make sure to add everything you’ve done, no matter how insignificant it may seem. You can always par down later—if needed, but you can’t add what you forget. Most importantly, never embellish. Keep track of hours served—especially over the summer.