5 Summer College Search Prep Tips

Published by Wendy Nelson on

Much has been written about what high school students should be doing the summer before senior year to prep for the final college search and college application process.  These are my top 5 tips for parents who have a rising high school senior and parents who want to plan ahead for when that time comes.

College Search Prep Tips for Summer Before Senior Year

  1. Find a great college summer camp/program – Colleges all over the country offer summer programs for high school students.  These are usually interest/major focused, like art, architecture, creative writing, engineering, etc.  These programs are often open to younger high school students also, but the summer before senior year, you want to really focus in on the right one.  The right one will most likely be at a school your student hopes to attend.  This gives your student great exposure to the school and the school great exposure to your student.  For a competitive school and/or program, summer program attendance could give your student a “leg up” in the college application process.
  2. Plan college visit road trips – Summer vacation often involves college visits when you have a rising high school senior.  There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you plan in some fun too.  Summer road trips are the easiest way to see schools that are farther than 4 hours from home and it’s often possible to hit a few schools in one trip.
  3. Study for final ACT/SAT tests – Sit down with your student to decide whether or not he or she needs to take a final ACT or SAT test in the fall of senior year.  This usually depends on how satisfied he or she is with current highest scores.  If it would be beneficial to take one final shot at the test, summer can be a great time for focused test prep.  Help your student find the best test prep resources and agree on how much time per week should be devoted to study.
  4. Start college application preparation – Have your student start writing down ideas for college essays and activity lists.  I saw this great post recently from College Essay Guy about brainstorming “everything I want colleges to know about me.”  Your student should start researching the college application process required for colleges he or she wants to apply to.  You should be able to find the applications online (or find out the school uses the Common App) to review the requirements.
  5. Finalize the college list – Talk to your student about how many schools he or she wants to apply to.  Most counselors will recommend a mix of “safety” schools, “match” schools and “reach” schools.  The College Essay Guy recommends applying to 9 schools and breaks them down like this:  3 match (61% chance or greater of admittance), 3 maybe (26-60% chance of admittance), 3 reach (5-25% chance of admittance).  Others often recommend 5-8 schools.  No matter how many your student will apply to, finalizing the list before fall is beneficial so that he or she can jump right into the college application process.

The summer before senior year offers your student an opportunity to do lots of advance preparation for the upcoming college application process.  The more you can narrow the college search and prepare for the steps ahead, the more stress you can avoid during senior year.