How to Prepare for the College Process Over the Summer By Kristina Carroll, CollegeWeekLive

It’s the middle of summer—and you might be tempted to spend every day relaxing at the beach. But, senior year is right around the corner, and you’re about to be thrown into the whirlwind of college application season. By preparing now, you’ll be relieving yourself of a lot of unnecessary stress. Here are some things you can do to help make the college process go more smoothly in the fall.


Campus Tours

While you don’t need to visit every school you’re interested in, it’s a good idea to go on a few campus tours before senior year starts. Not only will it help you build your college list—it will also help you determine the qualities of a college that are most important to you. However, college visits should not take up your whole summer. Here is some advice on how to make the most of campus tours.


If you’re taking the SAT or ACT exams in the fall, you’ll need to prepare—and that can be hard to do once your regular classes begin. First, decide which test is right for you, and then start studying. Whether it’s memorizing a few popular SAT vocabulary words every day, or taking online practice tests, there are many ways you can prepare yourself during your free time. Here are some tips from TestRocker for ways to score highly on both exams.

List of Wants vs. Needs

Before you even start building your college list, you need to determine what you need and what you want from a college. Once you figure out things you absolutely cannot live without (like specific sports or academic programs), you’ll be able to narrow down your search and come up with a list of schools. Then, you can start comparing schools to see which ones satisfy the most of your “wants”.

College Essay

Your college essay will probably be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to write. Just coming up with a topic can be daunting, but College Essay Guy Ethan Sawyer can help you find one in less than 20 minutes. Then you’ll have to evaluate yourself and determine what about you admissions officers would be most blown away by. Check out College Essay Specialist Sarah Gloo’s webcast with tips and tricks for writing an eye-catching admissions essay.

Volunteer Hours

Getting some volunteer hours in is the perfect way to boost your resume and college application before the school year starts. Admissions representatives are constantly looking for students that are active not only in their school, but in their communities as well. The more volunteer hours you have by the time you submit your application, the stronger it will be. Some options include being a camp counselor or a tutor, or volunteering in a hospital.

Apply for Scholarships

It’s never too early to start applying for scholarships, and the more scholarships you apply to, the better your chances are of winning. Look for scholarships that are targeted toward incoming high school seniors, and apply to as many as possible (as long as you fit the eligibility requirements). It’s a good idea to make a calendar or spreadsheet that lists all of the scholarships you are planning on applying to, since they all have different due dates and require different amounts of preparation. To start, check out our Summer Scavenger Hunt Scholarship!

Research the College Process

If you have questions about any aspect of the college process, now is the time to get answers! Make sure you look into the different deadlines and requirements that are coming up in the fall, and start poking around the Common App after August 1st! If you still have questions after researching the college process, jot them down so you can ask your guidance counselor when school starts back up.

Talk to Admissions Reps

You might have a few schools already in mind, or even a top choice. In that case, start talking to admissions officers! Whether it’s in person or via online chat, don’t be scared to ask them any questions you have about the college or university you’re interested in. Many of them will give you their contact info so you can reach out to them personally with questions. And by communicating directly with admissions representatives, you’re making yourself more memorable as an applicant.

Summer Reading

Reading is a great way to keep your brain active over the summer, and it’s something you can do while you’re on vacation! Many schools assign summer reading, so kick back and relax with a few of the books that were assigned to you this year. Not only will it help you improve your writing skills, but it will also help prepare you for your classes this fall.

Think About Teacher Recommendations

If you haven’t secured your teacher recommendations already, you’ll need to do that soon after the school year begins. Think about teachers that you’ve had in the past few years who have seen you grow and improve. If you’re going to have a teacher in the fall that you’ve had already, they could be a great option—because they’ll be able to speak to admissions departments about how you have changed over several years. If you’re not sure who to ask, check in with your guidance counselor. Depending on the college, you might be able to use them, or another role model such as a coach.

While you don’t need to tackle every single one of these steps this summer, picking a few will definitely make life easier for you in the fall. But remember, summer is also the time to relax and regroup before the biggest year of your high school career. So be sure to manage your time smartly, and have fun!