What to Do Today to Get Into College

Successful admission to competitive colleges requires longer term planning. Following these tips can help you increase your chances of being admitted to the colleges where you will apply.

Summer 2014

Rising Seniors

  1. Get organized! This is the summer you need to prepare your application planning calendar of timelines and deadlines. Develop flowcharts with your colleges, usernames, passwords and all the elements required for admission. This is a great time saver.

  2. Select your final list of colleges. By the time school starts, you need to have your list pretty much finalized. This is important because to know your colleges is to know the prompts for their supplemental application essays. And, your teachers will need to know where to send their recommendations.There is still time to do college visits, but we recommend planning those for the fall when students are actually on campus. Otherwise, it just becomes a tour of buildings.

  3. Fill out a sample Common Application (www.commonapp.org). The version of the application you will use to submit to colleges comes on line August 1.

  4. Send emails to the teachers you select to write your recommendations. Forms, surveys, etc. that they request from you can be completed this summer.

  5. Complete the personal statements for the University of California and college essays for the common application by the end of summer.

  6. Participate in a summer program, take a college course, volunteer or do community service. Accounting for your summers is important to your college admissions.

  7. Study for your upcoming SAT/ACT/Subject Tests.

  8. Decide which colleges – if any – you will apply to early action or which one you will apply to early decision. Sometimes a better strategy is to wait until the regular decision deadline, especially if you need to show colleges a higher gpa for this fall.

  9. Develop a resume. The resume is useful for the college admission interviews, counselors and teachers writing the recommendations or pursuing a job or internship.

  10. Show the colleges your grit and what you got!

Rising Juniors

  1. Develop your resume. Putting all your activities on one page helps you see what you have done, not done yet and what more you need to do for your ramp up to college.

  2. Do something extraordinary. Participate in summer programs, volunteer, do community service, get an internship or a job. Colleges want you to account for your time during the summer months.

  3. Find activities that you can start this summer which can continue into the fall. Select activities where you can become a leader of the sport, group or organization.

  4. Visit colleges if this is the only time you can do it. Most colleges rent out their facilities to private organizations and sports camps in the summer months. If possible, best to see colleges when they are in session so you get a full flavor of the campus culture. All colleges have open houses in the fall. This is the best time to visit a college as everyone you need to meet will be there.

  5. Take a test prep course. At minimum, set time aside this summer to take as many sample tests as possible! Be sure to take the test in October.

  6. Take a sample test of the PSAT in early summer. Results of the sample tests will tell you if test prep for that exam is necessary. If your scores are high enough, this may qualify you for National Merit. Scores from the October Junior year sitting of the PSAT determines whether or not you become eligible for scholarship. Colleges drool over students who are National Merit Semi-Finalists or Finalists and many offer their own merit based scholarships for these applicants.

  7. The best way to build your test scores is to read. Google topics and find a book that would hold your attention. It doesn’t matter what it is. Research shows that high scores in Critical Reading are not necessarily related to the grades in high school. Often, it comes down to how much you read on your own.

  8. If you have summer homework for next year’s classes, complete the assignments at least 2 to 3 weeks before the start of school. That way, you will have time to review the material before the fall.

  9. Prepare for your fall curriculum – especially for the AP courses – by getting a copy of textbooks over the summer if you can. Better grades come from being fully prepared.   Covering the material in the fall for a 2nd time will more likely mean higher grades in those courses.

  10. Do something unexpected. Spend time with someone in need.

Rising Sophomores

  1. Develop a resume and add to it. The resume is a good visual for you to see what experiences you have had outside of class. Colleges like to see student participation and leadership in the early years of high school if not before.

  2. Volunteer and do community service where tracking hours is not as important as the activity itself. The hours will accumulate by virtue of the fact that you like what you are doing.

  3. Take a sample test of the PSAT. There are many websites that offer these for free. Score and grade it to predict what your score may be when you take it in October this fall.

  4. Take a sample test of the SAT. Test prep this summer may be appropriate, but the strategy is to do the ramp up to junior year which is typically when students score the highest.

  5. Visit local colleges in the area or where you vacation. Drive throughs are not worth the time. It is a tour of architecture, not of what the school offers. Best to make reservations, take the tour, listen to the admissions presentations.

  6. Take a class at a community college, four year school or on line in a subject which may or may not be taught at your high school. Discovering new fields of study can help you determine your college major later on.

  7. Complete your summer homework for next year’s courses 2 to 3 weeks prior to the start of school. You will then have time to review your work which may mean higher grades later on. Slow starts with low grades at the beginning of the term create unnecessary stress.

  8. Even if you have summer homework for next year’s courses, prepare for them by reading ahead, do the math problems in the first couple of chapters, etc. Taking a class or hiring a tutor can help you stay ahead in the fall.

  9. Read. Research consistently shows us that there is a correlation between the amount of time a student reads and their Critical Reading test scores.

  10. Do something unique, something you never thought you could actually accomplish. Challenge yourself and the assumptions you have about your capabilities.

Rising Freshmen

  1. Get the textbooks for your fall courses ahead of time if you can. Read at least the first 3 chapters. Best to start strong in your first semester of high school. Preparation over the summer will help you know what to expect.

  2. Volunteer, do community service which can continue into next year. Long term commitment is important to colleges. Best to join, belong and become a leader of a club, sport or organization that you will really like. .

  3. Take a sample PSAT. Sophomores take this test for the first time in October. It’s great practice for the PSAT junior year which counts for National Merit scholarships and can be a real boost for your application to your colleges.

  4. Read. Read. Read. Research consistently shows us that there is a correlation between the amount of time a student reads and their Critical Reading test scores.

  5. Do something unique. Something that would be slightly out of your comfort zone. These experiences can open doors to new ways of thinking and how you view yourself and your capabilities.