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Get A Summer Jump on College

For high school students, summer provides the chance to get a jump on applying to college. High school and college educators offer these suggestions to look good and use the vacation months to your advantage.

Show Interest

“After grades and test scores, admissions officers look at interest (in the college),” says Elise Crowthers, school counselor for Downingtown High School East in Exton, PA.  If a student doesn’t visit a nearby college, “it will look bad,” she says. “If it’s far, you can send an e-mail and say, ‘Sorry, I wasn’t able to visit, but I am interested.’”

Jim Plunkett, executive director of admissions for LaSalle University in Philadelphia, encourages students to request an interview and talk to admissions officials at a college night or open house. “Make sure the school is able to put a face to the name,” he says.

College Planning Resources

The ACT website has sections on college planning, test prep and financial aid. 

The College Board provides a college planning guide, SAT practice and help finding colleges, financial aid and applying for colleges. 

The College Planning Network provides information on college section, admissions, financial aid and scholarships. 

OfftoCollege.com offers college planning guides at tips. 

Visits give students the opportunity to ask questions and to get a feel for the environment. “Ask yourself, ‘Do I see myself here?’” says Erin Hill, admissions director for Delaware State University in Dover.

Summer To Do: Schedule college visits and request interviews.

Be Yourself on the Essay

Start writing application essays. Colleges use the essay as a way to get to know a student’s style, creativity and other qualities that can’t be revealed through test scores and grades, says Shanyn Fiske, PhD, director of the Writing Program at Rutgers University in Camden, NJ.

“Too many students are told to write what they think a college is looking for,” she says. “These essays are often the least interesting.” The essay can set apart the most interesting applicants from ones that look great on grades but lack substance,” says Dr. Fiske. 

Plunkett advises to not be modest. “We’re raised to downplay our achievements, but the application is definitely not the time to do that,” he says.

Show where your passion lies rather than presenting a laundry list of activities. “Schools want to see the kid that has a genuine interest,” says Crowthers.

Summer To Do: As you write an essay, ask yourself what really matters to you, what passions define and shape your perspective.

Get Going!

Plunkett suggests using the summer to gather data that will be necessary for the application: GPA, transcripts and information on parent's employment and schooling. Also, focus on letters of recommendation. “Get out in front of the pack; the earlier the better,” he says.

Avoid procrastination. “I’ve had students with amazing grades and test scores, but they don’t realize that the rules still apply to them,” says Crowthers. “Applying in January is too late. The deadline in my head is Halloween.

Students will meet almost any deadline if they shoot for that.”Missing a deadline, says Hill, “is not how you want to bring yourself to the attention of the admissions office.”

Summer To Do: Begin to fill out applications. Ask for letters of recommendation.

Jo Rizzo is a local freelance writer.

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