Derenda King, CFP®/CDFA®
What to do During the Summer to Boost your College Application
With the global pandemic, college-bound students have found themselves thrown into a “new normal” regarding college application processes. For incoming classes, summer presents unprecedented challenges, ranging from uncertainty surrounding the SAT and ACT exams, less access to college counselors, the inability to conduct in-person campus tours, to limited or no opportunity to obtain employment to help with college expenses.
Despite these unique experiences, this is not the time for rising seniors to sit back and wallow in despair over the challenges that COVID-19 has created. Instead, use this time to create a Summer College Plan of Action. One way to do this is to create a “To-Do List” of pre-college tasks to complete, which will ultimately help alleviate some of the stress that the senior year can bring. Below are few recommendations to consider for college summer planning:
Selecting the colleges to apply to is not only likely to be the biggest decision to make but is also one of the most important “to-do” items to complete before the Fall. As you craft the list, include schools that fall into one of three categories: a) reach or dream, b) target or match, and c) safety schools. Students who take their time to research and create a balanced list of schools are more likely to have a less stressful application process than those who apply to dozens of schools. They not only end up with a list of colleges that they’re excited about, many of which are well with the possibility of admittance, but they also tend to feel more in control of their college destiny. Why? Because they have applied to a range of schools rather than a long list of highly selective colleges and are therefore not at the mercy of admissions decisions. So, it is very important to dedicate ample time to research your schools of interest.
New media resources and education are constantly being introduced, one of which includes a free offering of college courses that are taped or streamed from universities. With tons of subjects from American poetry to robotics, students have the opportunity to obtain an unbiased look at how a class is conducted. Witnessing how professors interact with students and how advanced the content may be can truly aid in deciding which schools to include on the list and which ones to omit. Check out sites such as edX, Coursera, or iTunes University.
Obtaining a letter from a teacher or counselor during the rush of back to school season is difficult during normal times and may be even more challenging given all of the uncertainties. Getting a head start by asking immediately after junior year has ended often provides the letter writers more time to reflect on the interactions and experiences they have had with the student and ultimately devote the attention that the letter deserves.
The main essay topics on both the Common Application and the Coalition Application have been released for the upcoming admissions season. Also, many colleges that do not use either application (i.e., any University of California schools or certain small private colleges) will open their applications and release their supplemental essays this summer—so begin working on those as soon as they are available. Continue to review and revise the essays because doing so over time often provides a newer and fresher perspective. Also, seek input from others—this can prove to be an invaluable benefit.
“Demonstrated interest” is very important to many colleges when making admissions decisions. Although the pandemic has shut down in-person campus tours, it is important to connect with the schools virtually. In addition to registering for virtual tours, sign up for online college fairs as well as any Q&A sessions held with current students and faculty members. All of these will count toward demonstrated interest when admission officers are evaluating applications. Also, be sure to sign up for Zoom or Skype calls offered by your high school.