Ahhh, summer vacation. It’s finally here. You’ve waited all year for a break from high school so you can sleep in, enjoy the sunshine, relax, and kick up your feet.
But for students who are entering their senior year of high school this fall, these aren’t the only things you should be focused on.
The summer before senior year is a critical time for college prep.
As important as it is to enjoy yourself this summer, there are things you should be doing to make sure your transition to college goes as smoothly as possible!
Dedicating just a bit of your summer vacation to preparing for senior year and beyond will pay off in the months to come.
Here are 5 key things you should be doing the summer before senior year.
1. Put the finishing touches on your college list.
If you haven’t finalized the list of colleges you want to apply to, summer is an excellent time to start narrowing it down.
When you’re creating your list of colleges, you’ll want to compare what they have to offer in relation to what you’re hoping to get out of your college experience.
Some of the factors to consider are:
- Academic fit
- Social fit
- Vocational fit
- Financial fit
(You can learn more about choosing a college that’s the right fit here.)
Begin by creating a big list of colleges (maybe 15-20) and categorize each of those schools by your likelihood of being admitted:
- ‘Safety schools’ are schools you have a higher-than likely chance of being admitted to because your standardized test scores and high school grades are higher than the average for admitted students. But they might not have all the things you want in a college.
- ‘Likelies’ or ‘matches’ are schools that you have a fair chance of being accepted to (maybe 40-60%) and they have most of what you’re looking for.
- ‘Reaches’ are schools that will be more challenging and competitive to be accepted into. Often, these schools check off all the boxes for what you’re looking for in a college experience.
Because the likelihood of being admitted to a reach school is lower than that of a safety or match school, you don’t want to include only reach schools on your list—but that doesn’t mean they should be excluded!
Focus on having the highest number of match schools on your list, but include reach and safety schools, too.
2. Consider starting your campus visits.
When students ask about the best time to visit college campuses, there isn’t one right answer.
If you visit campuses during the summer, you risk not getting a full taste of what campus life would be like during the academic year.
But for parents who can’t make college visits work during the rest of the year, summer college campus visits can be a great choice.
Senior year is a notoriously busy time in a student’s life, and adding college visits to that can be next to impossible in some cases.
If a summer visit to a college campus is the only time that will work for you and your parents, go for it!
Just be sure to plan your visit weeks in advance.
Many colleges have summer visit schedules, and you can choose between:
- Individual visits
- Open houses
- Self-guided tours
Depending on what the college has to offer, you can choose what’s right for you and what visit will give you the best idea of what life at that college would be like for you.
3. Set goals for the school year.
I advise students to set 3-5 foundational goals for each school year.
These goals help you determine your purpose, stay motivated, be accountable, believe in yourself, and know when to ask for help if you need it.
You can use your list of goals to check in on your progress as your senior year progresses.
What are some goals to include on my list?
Here are a few examples of goals you might want to add to your list:
- Maintain a _____ GPA.
- Meet with a teacher after school each week.
- Increase volunteer hours at _________________ by 1 hour per week.
- Start a ___________ club at my community center.
- Complete art portfolio with __ drawings by end of semester.
4. Pursue your passions and keep building your college resume.
The summer before senior year is also a time to focus on things that are productive, interesting, and challenging.
You don’t need to think about school 24/7, and in fact, I’d strongly advise students NOT do this!
Yes, you should put some work into preparing for college, but you also need to take advantage of the time off school to pursue your passions.
After all, pursuing your passions is a great way to build your college resume!
Maybe you’re passionate about working with children. Take time in the summer before senior year to mentor or tutor younger students.
Or if travel is your passion, consider volunteering abroad where you are not only helping others, but getting life experience and resume material at the same time.
Maybe you’re not sure of what your passion is yet. The summer before senior year is a great time to find out! And how do you do that?
By trying new things!
Attempting new tasks or activities takes you out of your comfort zone and helps you grow as a person. At the same time, you’re likely to meet interesting people and learn something new.
5. Begin drafting your college essay…at the end of summer!
As you’ve seen, the summer before senior year is a time to pursue your passions and build your college resume. The experiences you’re bound to have over the summer could prove life-changing, and would make great material for your college essays.
Waiting until the end of summer to begin drafting your college essays will allow you to give this task the attention it deserves. You’ll also be able to reflect on your summer experiences when you’re writing your essay.
Preparing for college life and beyond.
All of these things help you follow or determine your passion, and by doing that, you help build your college resume and prepare yourself for the life experiences to come.
Summer is meant to be enjoyed, but if you can make the summer before senior year fun AND productive, you’ll set yourself up for more success down the road!
Need a little more guidance?
For one-on-one support and other resources to help you or your child get into (or pay) for college click here.
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How To Motivate Your Teen To Visit Colleges…and Survive Visits As a Parent