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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
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Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

11th Graders: 9 Productive Things To Do This Summer Before Senior Year

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If you’re an 11th grader about to start your college applications, you have a big summer ahead of you. This is your last chance to do something noteworthy to build your college resume. When we say noteworthy, we mean that you need to do something that will stand out to colleges and set you apart from the other applicants.


At the same time, the summer before your senior year is the perfect time for you to get everything in order before you start your college applications. By the time August comes around, you ought to have some idea of where you’re applying and be ready to fill out your applications in a timely manner. While it’s not required for you to start college applications prep this summer, doing so will make things easier for you in the fall.


If you’re not sure what you should be doing this summer to get ready for college applications or you’re unsure how much you can get done, this is the post for you. For a comprehensive list of tasks for this summer to get you started on the path to college admissions success, keep reading.  



Start Drafting Your College Essays

Most college applications won’t be released until around August, but you can still start prepping your college essays with some generic prompts. You’ll notice that many universities try to keep their prompts vague, so you’ll probably be able to make the essay during the summer fit in at least one application.


Here are some commonly used prompts to get you thinking:


  • Why do you want to attend (insert university name here)?
  • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking, and what was the outcome?
  • Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth.
  • Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve.


Alternatively, you can get started on the actual essay prompts for the CommonApp if you’re applying to a school that uses the CommonApp system. To learn more about the CommonApp essay prompts for the 2018-2019 school year, check out our blog post that explains and analyzes each of the prompts.



Study For Your Last Chance Standardized Test Date

If you haven’t earned an SAT/ACT score that you are comfortable with yet, this summer or the first semester of your senior year will be your last opportunity to re-take the test for a higher score before your college applications are due. Thus, you really need to buckle down and study hard this summer so that you can finally achieve your goal score.


Fortunately, we at CollegeVine have already developed a comprehensive guide to how you should approach your last chance standardized test. If you want to know how you should be studying for this final SAT/ACT test, check out our previous post.



Finalize Your College List

Before you start applying to colleges, you should know which colleges you are planning to apply to. There are thousands of colleges offering undergraduate education in the United States, and there are even more college options abroad. Narrowing down a list of which colleges you are going to apply to is going to take some serious research and introspection on your part.


Many high school seniors apply to anywhere from 5-10 colleges spanning a wide range of competitive schools, safety schools, in-state colleges, out-of-state schools, and more. When forming your college list, try to get a wide variety of colleges on there. However, you should also be cognizant of factors like your family’s financial capacity, location preferences, and educational quality when deciding which colleges to apply to.


Here is a brief list of things that you should consider when finalizing your college list:


  • Career prospects if you attend the university: does that university produce a lot of full-time employed people in your intended career path?
  • Academics: Does the university in question have the major you want? How highly ranked is the college in your department of choice?
  • Competitiveness: Some schools are more selective in their admissions than others. You want to have a good mix of schools that you think you have a good chance of getting into and schools that may be a bit of a reach given your profile and application.
  • Social Life: Is this a college where you see yourself fitting in and making friends?
  • Campus Facilities: Is the school old/run down? Does the campus seem like a nice place to spend a lot of time?
  • Quality of Housing: Will you be able to find affordable and decent housing either on-campus or around campus? Is the majority of housing located in a safe neighborhood?
  • Student to Teacher Ratio: How much personalized attention can you expect to receive from professors and teaching assistants in each of your classes?



Do Something To Build Your College Resume

As mentioned above, the summer before your senior year is the time when you need to take on a job or big project that will make you stand out from other college applicants. Here are some big tasks, projects, and jobs you can consider:


  • Apply for and obtain a summer internship. Not sure how to obtain a competitive internship as a high school student? Check out our expert advice on how to procure an ultra-competitive internship.
  • Get a summer job. Our post on how to navigate your job search may be a good place to start if this is the path you want to take.
  • Take summer classes to get some college credit and work towards your college degree. Not convinced that taking summer classes is the way to go? In our previous post, we discuss whether you should take college classes over the summer.
  • Do Volunteer work. If you don’t have a specific volunteer project in mind, see 32 Community Service Ideas for Teen Volunteers.
  • Conduct Research: if you’re on the pre-med or pre-health track, try reaching out to a local college, pharmaceutical services company, or other business that conducts research, and see if you can join one of their studies.
  • Pursue a Personal Project: These projects can include starting your own business, writing and publishing a novel, pursuing your own research project, etc. As long as you have something to show for your personal project at the end of the summer, this can count towards your college resume.

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Do College Visits

If you need help narrowing down your college list or you aren’t sure about a college, try to visit the college and take an admissions tour. This will give you a good idea of whether you like the campus, whether you could envision yourself attending this school, and whether the school would be a good fit for you.


Luckily, we at CollegeVine have compiled tons of information to make sure you go about your college visits in the most productive way. Here are some of our previous blog posts on the topic:


5 Things You Can Learn from Summer Campus Visits

Don’t Visit Any Colleges Without Reading This First

The Perfect Outfit For Your Most Important College Visit

College Visits: When (and if) to Make Them



Start Thinking About Your College Major

At this point, you’ve taken most of the classes that you are going to take before you select a major for your college applications. Thus, use the summer to reflect on the classes that you have taken and narrow down what field of study you have most enjoyed and would be interested in pursuing further.


Don’t make the mistake of selecting a major because you’ve had great teachers in those subjects before or because you really liked a certain class. You should choose a major because you are genuinely interested in the content that a certain class covered. Try to separate the class environment and the teacher from the field of study.


If you can’t decide what you want to major in, you can apply to most schools undeclared. Just know that this may make choosing your first semester of classes a little bit difficult because you won’t have any sort of degree plan to work off of. You will also have to figure out what major you want to pursue by at least your second year of college.


Start Looking at Scholarships and Financial Aid

The earlier you start looking for opportunities to get financial aid, the more financial aid packages you are likely to find and apply for. You may even be able to finish some scholarship applications during the summer and have some financial aid lined up when applications season starts.


If you’re unsure where to start with your scholarship and financial aid search, perhaps these previous blog posts can help:


Helpful Scholarship Resources and Tips

Getting a Head Start on Your Scholarship Search

15 College Scholarship Resources for High School Students

What are the Best Financial Tips For a High School Student?



Get Ahead on Your Extracurricular Projects

By the time you get to your senior year, you probably have secured a few officer positions in various clubs and activities. The earlier you start planning events, fundraisers, and other initiatives for those clubs, the more likely you are to be successful in executing these plans once the school year starts.


Since high schools are pretty much closed over the summer and teachers like to have their vacations too, don’t worry about reaching out to anybody or doing any hardcore planning until you get closer to the start of Senior Year. During the earlier summer months, just brainstorm some project ideas that you think would be feasible.


Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because it is your senior year, you don’t have to try as hard in your activities. Any project, event, or other activity that you lead during the first semester of your senior year can be a great talking point during a college interview or even a college essay.



Explore Your Passions

Colleges don’t just want to see that you are academically inclined. They want to see that you have hobbies and interests outside of the classroom. Make sure that you are keeping up with your hobbies and other activities that you just do for fun. Hobbies, in this case, means fun activities like playing an instrument, creating different forms of art, dancing for fun, etc.


Why? For starters, colleges will want to know about your passions and interests, so listing those hobbies and having something to say for them can help colleges better understand you as an applicant. Secondly, once you’re in college, you won’t have as much time for hobbies as you did in high school. So enjoy this time while you can and have a little fun.



Final Remarks

While we at CollegeVine encourage all rising seniors to make this the most productive summer yet, we also want to stress that the summer before your senior year will be one of your last opportunities to spend time with your family and cherish your time together. Once you are off to college, you’ll only be home for a few weekends here and there and major holidays. In other words, your current family dynamic will end pretty soon. Enjoy the way things are while you can.


For more help finalizing your summer activities, check out these previous blog posts:


Step Up Your College Apps Profile With These 11 Summer Activities

50 Summer Activities for High School Students

The 6 Things You Should Do the Summer Before Senior Year

Effective Summer Activities


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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!