Start Those College Applications

When the school year ends, rising seniors need some time to breathe after final exams and SAT/ACT tests. They should take a week or two to relax. But then it’s time to start working on college applications.

If you haven’t finalized your college list, this is the time to do more research. In addition to reading about academic programs and student life on the school’s website, be sure to check out the student newspaper. Even if the newspaper is not publishing over the summer, you can read stories from the academic year. The admissions office won’t tell you that students are upset about a housing crunch or cutbacks in library hours, but you will find out by reading opinion columns and letters to the editor. The school newspaper is a great resource for learning what students are talking about as well as what organizations are active on campus.

Be sure to register with the admissions office, and you will be invited to local information sessions. Most colleges will resume these local sessions at the end of the summer, but Colleges That Change Lives, a group of 40 student-centered colleges, has events scheduled through the summer.

Register with an e-mail address that makes it easy for colleges to identify you, preferably something with your name. You should use the same e-mail address on college applications, so that the schools will be able to track any demonstrated interest. For example, if you have visited a college or attended a local information session, and used one e-mail address for those contacts, but another e-mail for your applications, admissions officers may not know that you visited campus. Many colleges, especially private schools, use demonstrated interest as a factor in admission decisions, though the most selective colleges do not generally consider interest. For those that do, even the time you spend on a college website may be tracked.

While I recommend visiting colleges when they are in session, many families need to schedule college tours during the summer. You will see other high school students on the tour, and these potential future classmates will be a good indication of the types of students who are attracted to this college. But the campus atmosphere is completely different, and can even feel desolate in the summer, especially at small schools that don’t have summer sessions. You don’t want to rule out a college that would be very appealing if you saw thousands of students walking across campus. It’s also helpful to sit in on a class, which you can only do when school is in session. Many colleges begin in August, and if your high school does not start until the end of the month, you may be able to schedule some visits during the first week of the college semester.

In the meantime, even if you haven’t finalized your college list, you can start working on application essays, which always require several drafts. While the University of California application will not open until August, you can access instructions for the UC Personal Insight Questions now.

The Common Application will open August 1, but the Common Application Essay Prompts  are available now, and you can also access the Coalition Application Essay Prompts. Additional essay prompts for schools that require supplemental essays should be available in August. If you finish the main essays now, you can focus on the supplements in August.

The more you do during the summer, the less stress you will have in the fall.

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