Summer is officially here. Woohoo! And collectively the world is trying to re-emerge and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of course, this is going to be a slow process and it will come in fits and starts. Some experts even predict it will be more of a “two steps forward, one step back” dance for quite some time.
Regardless, you are still getting closer to peak application season – fall of your senior year. And that isn’t going to change.
So the question becomes: How you are going to use your summer well?
Take advantage of the time you have now so your fall, whatever its shape, is as happy and sane as you can make it.
The summer is really a pivot in the college application process, where you shift from focusing on building your credentials to presenting your credentials. And along the way, you have to make some big decisions about where you are applying. In a big picture sense, here’s how we suggest you map out your summer and allocate your time:
Map Out Your Summer
June is a transition month and it shouldn’t be too hectic. But there are still things to do.
Wrap up your school year, start your summer activities aimed at credential building (see this recent blog post for ideas for what to do this summer), and stay ready to take standardized tests in the fall (should that be possible or advisable).
Start doing deep-dive research into the colleges you are most interested in and start your Why College X essays for those (more about that in a future blog post); identify where you need to round out your list to ensure you have good choices at the end of the process (need more target schools, more safeties, more reaches?)
+ Confirm your recommenders. See how to do that in our blog post from a few weeks ago.
+ Write your story and your resume. These are things that you need to do BEFORE you start drafting essays, so now’s a perfect time. We’ll have more posts on those soon.
+ Gather samples of your academic work and put together an audition video or portfolio (if you are an artist or maker).
+ Create your account on both the Common App and also the Coalition App if your school counselor recommends that. Fill in the basic information about yourself because that content will rollover into your account for next year. You don’t need to work on essays yet. If you need or want help with your Common App information, you can download your copy of Inline here.
July is a full-steam ahead month. Make sure to keep following this 52 Weeks to College series that will take you step-by-step through the application process. You’ll see that it breaks your work down into manageable chunks and you’ll get pro tips for every element of the application.
Same as above.
Finalize your list of 8-12 colleges where you intend to apply; have Why College X essays ready for each (we’ll have a post about those); and research what early application options are available. Be sure you read the fine print and be prepared for colleges to have new policies for this coming year.
Use your story to generate topics for and draft the main personal essay on the Common App, the Coalition app, or the university’s own app. Do NOT bother with working on the essays beyond the main essay unless the college has released the topics for the 2021 application cycle – you don’t want to waste precious time on crafting a beautiful essay in response to a question that won’t remain in the application! If you are an artist or maker, keep working on your audition video or portfolio.
August is kick-into-overdrive month. You want to have a couple of applications largely done by the end of Labor Day weekend, so that you are positioned to go back to school and keep up with both school work and college admissions without pulling all-nighters (the surest way to prevent a senior year meltdown is to get good sleep).
Wind down your summer activities, do whatever summer homework you have for school, and prep for/take standardized tests (if that is possible or advisable).
Decide where, if anywhere, you are applying early, and prioritize completing those applications ahead of the others.
Most applications will go live for 2021 in early August. That means it is game time for producing standout college applications. There are no shortcuts. You just have to put in the time and make smart choices along the way. Take it application by application. This 52 Weeks to College series will help you pace yourself so that you can produce your best applications while staying sane. Less stress, more success is the goal, but we won’t lie; it will be stressful. That’s a given, so pacing is critical.
That’s the big picture for the next three months. Take a deep breath and get to work. You’ve got this!
Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.