I hate to be “that person,” but for the betterment of your senior year, I will suffer the reputation. I’m not about to tell you that summer shouldn’t be fun, relaxing, indulgent: because it should be. What it should also be, however, is the perfect opportunity to prepare yourself for the oncoming chaos. School seems so far away, but once that first day comes along, you’re going to have to hit the ground running. Here are five things that you could be weaving into your schedule to help alleviate the stresses of that first semester back.
1. Start Thinking of Essays
This doesn’t have to be as instantly terrifying as it seems. One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever heard regarding college essays is to carry around a pen and paper with you and simply jot down anything that happens to come to you, whether it’s a single sentence, a lead-in, a general topic, point you want to get across, etc. You don’t necessarily need to have access to specific essay prompts yet. Think about important, interesting moments in your life that speak to some part of your character. Think about the kinds of personal statements that you want your reader to takeaway from your words. Most importantly: don’t dismiss any idea. What may seem stupid or silly to you now could be the first inkling of something brilliant in a few weeks time. Plus, the more material you have to work with, the better.
The 2015-2016 UC application officially opens on August 1, but they have reused the same set of essay prompts every year. If you’d like to look at them, here is the link. Also, the Common Application already released their 2015-2016 essay prompts. You can find those, and some tips for writing them, here.
2. Figure Out Necessary Testing
If you aren’t satisfied with your SAT or ACT score, you still have time to try again. (If you haven’t taken the SAT or ACT yet: you need to get on that.) As a senior, you should be able to take the SAT in October, November, or December, and the ACT in October or December. Save yourself from the risk of forgetting, and register now (or mark on your calendar when you can). Here are the links to direct you to SAT and ACT registration, respectively:
It’s generally nicer to be signed up for the earlier months to guarantee that you will be receiving those scores and will have the option to include them within your applications. That being said, colleges will often accept applications without scores on the condition that you to send them in separately as soon as they are made available to you. Once you have the exam dates mapped out, spend some time determining when and how you will be studying beforehand. There’s no use expecting a better score if you aren’t willing to put in the additional work.
3. Letters of Rec
This one should just be on your radar. While UC schools (and many other public universities) do not want letters of recommendation, just about every private institution will. Consider who you’re going to want to ask to write you one. As a rule of thumb, it helps to get a good word from the teachers that match up with your desired major (if you’re aiming to be an engineer, math and science teachers are going to be the way to go). Of course there will always be exceptions if you have a really strong, personal connection; that ultimately becomes your judgment call.
No matter who it is that you’re leaning towards, simply having a handful of names in mind can give you a head start over your peers during the college application frenzy. It isn’t unusual for teachers to put a cap on how many letters they will write, and asking for a letter relatively early on gives them the chance to put together something noteworthy.
4. Construct Your List
Maybe (hopefully) this one was a given. There are thousands of schools out there, and it’s going to be impossible to sift through all of them. So start putting together your criteria of what you’re looking for in a college experience. Prioritize what’s important to you – write it down somewhere – and begin researching. If you can get to the point of categorizing schools into safeties, targets, and reaches, you’ll be in a good place once applications open this fall.