Courtesy of Iowa College Aid
The books have just closed and the vacations are finally under way. But summer also offers the chance for students to get a jump on building a game plan for choosing and applying for a college. For incoming high school seniors, things are about to get real busy where college readiness is concerned. Beat the rush and get ahead of the game by following this summer college planning preparation checklist :
Finalize a list of target schools.
Summer is a great time to whittle down the list of schools that a student might attend. Still not sure which schools make the cut? Take advantage of vacations to tour schools.
Discuss finances in depth as a family.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can seem daunting. Taking the time to prepare now will make the process less time-consuming. Also consider the costs of target schools now to properly prepare for what students and families will need to succeed at that dream school.
Plan campus visits.
While summer might offer more free time, visiting target schools in the fall gives a chance to see what student life is like during classes. Don’t miss out on these opportunities by scheduling campus tours in advance, as reservations can fill up once the school year starts.
Take advantage of volunteering opportunities.
Volunteering is valuable and important not just for seniors looking to find work experience in interesting fields, but for students of all ages looking to establish a resume that will reflect well on their community involvement when applying to colleges down the road.
Stay on top of testing.
Choose the ACT or SAT based on spring scores, register for the fall test, and consider test prep. Knowing the test and score requirements of target schools will also help families develop a strategy for test-taking.
Line up your targets.
Develop a spreadsheet of target schools with deadlines for Early Decision, Early Action and Regular Decision. Applying early to a school shows an admissions office that a student is dedicated to the idea of being a student at that school. Make sure that students don’t overextend their early decision applications by applying to too many schools.
Don’t put off thinking about the Common Application.
Review application requirements and essay questions for each college on your list; open an account with the Common Application and get a head start filling out the easy parts. While it may be too soon to write that killer essay (there’s still a lot of living to do), filling out many of the parts of the Common Application will help students who otherwise might try to shove college applications in between busy homework and schools schedules.
Review scholarship application requirements and essay questions.
Many scholarships post requirements well ahead of time so that students have the opportunity to find the information and apply. Millions of dollars of scholarships go unclaimed annually. Hunting out and applying for scholarships can make the difference between attending that dream school or having to pass.
Think about recommendations.
Consider which teachers, counselors or coaches might write a letter of recommendation on your behalf, and reach out to them with a request. Just like students, teachers are far less busy in the summer than in the fall. Reaching out to those teachers that might right the best recommendation now not only reflects a student’s interest, but also respect for the teacher’s time. That alone might result in a higher quality recommendation.
Prepare to work hard.
Do your summer reading for the fall semester, and mentally prepare to continue working hard senior year. College is the goal. But there’s still that senior year to get through. Don’t overlook it.