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RISING SENIORS - UP OUT OF BED, COLLEGE AWAITS I know it seems unfair that you haven’t even finished your junior year and here are tips on what you should be doing for next year! But the truth is that you can save yourselves a lot of stress if you use the summer before senior year do some preparatory work ahead of time. Here are a few tips to make the process run more smoothly and maybe save your parents’ sanity along with avoiding some crisis times.

1. Write a generic admission essay
Almost all colleges are going to require essays of some sort. They usually fall into one of three categories – academic, non-academic and/or personal. You will have a rough draft to work from if you prepare a generic essay in advance that can be tailored to different college applications. Use some of the essays from the Common Application for ideas and practice.

2. Complete one college admission application
The Common Application is accepted by hundreds of colleges and can be used as a prototype for others. Practice on one.

3. Collect reference letters
As I mentioned in last week’s College Tips on Recommendations, it is a good idea to ask teachers at the end of your junior year. Many teachers will appreciate having the less stressful time of summer to write them.

4. Visit college campuses
While summer is not the ideal time to visit campuses because most students are gone, there are usually some campus tours and information sessions. Summer is also an ideal time for parents and students when schedules are usually more flexible.

5. Develop preliminary list of colleges
Now is the time to really work on your college list. While you have the time, call, write or use the Internet to investigate schools and request information. Get the list down to a manageable number. (Save these on a list in Naviance under ‘my colleges’.)

6. Participate in interesting activities
Summer vacation is a time to act on interests through internships, volunteer work, clubs or paid positions. Don’t waste this time staying up late and sleeping until lunchtime.

7. Keep a summer journal
A journal can help you think about who you are and what you want your future college experience to be like. It can also give you seed ideas for essays.

8. Plan to take SAT, ACT, SAT II
Hopefully you have taken the SAT and/or ACT already. If not, or you plan to take them again, be sure to know the fall schedule. Registration for the October test is usually within the first week of school. If you didn’t take the SAT II tests in June, then study for them over the summer and take them in the fall. Try to set aside some time to study on your own and to take practice tests.

9. Begin scholarship search
Use books and web-based services to begin a search for private money.

10. READ!
It can’t be stressed enough that the best way to improve vocabulary and prepare for standardized tests is to do large amounts of reading. Books, magazines, periodicals, newspapers will all serve this purpose. And, surprise, it is recommended that a dictionary be at your elbow so that you can look up unfamiliar words.
Senior year is going to be a very busy and sometimes very stressful time. The more productive you can be this summer, the more enjoyable your senior year will be and the fewer panic attacks your parents will have.

Judith Christie
College Planning Consultants