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If you’re a rising 12th grader, summer is the perfect time to start working on college apps. You probably have some activities and commitments, but chances are, you have far fewer now than during the school year. Fall will be extremely busy with schoolwork and college applications, so get a head start now. Here are eight ways to get moving on your college applications.

 

 

1. Prep for the Common App or Coalition Application

Both the Common Application and Coalition Application become available in late summer, usually around early August, but you can start prepping even earlier. For instance, you could make a list of extracurricular activities, awards, and accomplishments to consult while you’re completing the corresponding sections on your application.

 

Once the applications are available, create accounts, and do a walkthrough of each app. Make lists of documents and anything else you’ll need to complete them. You should also decide which app to use based on the schools that accept each one and personal preference. For help deciding, check out Common App Vs. Coalition App: Which to Use?.

 

 

2. Brainstorm your essays

It’s not too early to start mapping out your essay, and brainstorming ideas for topics is a great way to begin. You may think you have nothing to say, but time is on your side is you get going early. Check out What If I Don’t Have Anything Interesting to Write About in My College Essay? for tips on narrowing down a topic.

 

You can also work on planning how you’ll express yourself in your essay. Consider using a personalized metaphor to describe your experiences. The good news is that fewer distractions will give you time to think and plan out your essay. Not convinced? Read Why Summer Is the Perfect Time to Write Your College Essay for more reasons.

 

 

3. Review and finalize your college list

Hone your initial college list based on visits, research, and other data you’ve gathered. Take care to make sure you have a good balance of safety schools (those to which you have a high chance of being admitted), target schools (those where you have a 50/50 chance of admission), and reach schools (schools to which you have a low chance of being admitted). We recommend including 2-3 safety schools, 4-5 target schools, and 2-3 reach schools.

 

Even if a school is a “safety” school for you, you should make sure you have a fit with it and can picture yourself there. You shouldn’t just include a college because of its prestige or likelihood of admitting you. Aim for 7-10 colleges total.

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4. Visit colleges

Try to visit schools before you apply to them since there will be more pressure if you’re visiting schools to which you’re accepted later on. You can learn a lot from visiting a college, such as its culture and fit.

 

When you do visit, make sure you go beyond the tour. Check out the surrounding area, visit a dorm if you can, talk to current students, walk around campus, and try the food. Read What Student Tours and Admissions Meetings Won’t Tell You About a College for more tips on exploring a campus.

 

If you can’t visit, make sure you research each school thoroughly. You don’t want any surprises when it’s down to the wire and you have to choose a college to attend.

 

 

5. Review deadlines

Go through apps and individual college admission websites to make sure you know all important dates for your application. It’s best to write down key dates in a planner or Google calendar to keep track of everything. Note scholarship, interview, recommendation, financial aid, and other important deadlines, and set reminders to stay on top of everything. Read Don’t Miss These College Application Deadlines for some important dates.

 

 

6. Write your resume

Some colleges allow you to send a resume along with your app. Others don’t. Either way, writing out your resume is a good exercise, because it can be a reference tool as you describe your achievements on your apps. It will also be useful for other activities, such as looking for an internship or job. For tips on how to create your resume, read Five Things to Put on Your Resume in High School.

 

While you’re at it, make sure you set up a LinkedIn profile. This is many employers’ first stop when considering you for a position, and it’s a good idea to have an online presence now.

 

 

7. Study for the SAT/ACT

Fall is your last chance to inch up your scores. Make the most of the summer by studying for the SAT, ACT, or subject tests.

 

Think carefully about whether you want to retake the SAT or ACT, considering your target score, how many times taken it before, and whether you’ve made any changes (such as studying strategies) that could impact your score. Take a look at Top Tips to Consider Before You Retake the SAT for advice on how to go about preparing for your next sitting.

 

 

8. Organize

Organization is essential for easing the stress of application season. Here are some organization tips:

 

Tip 1: Make a spreadsheet of colleges you want to apply to with key dates, adding some columns for interviews, recommendations, and transcript requests.

 

Tip 2: Get organization apps and a planner.

 

Tip 3: Set deadlines for yourself beyond the set application deadlines, breaking them down into achievable components. For instance, you might set a date for completing the first draft of your essay.

 

Tip 4: Create to-do lists for the summer and each individual day.

 

Tip 5: Make a schedule for the fall.

 

For more advice on organization, check out Eight Tips to Use Your Time Efficiently and Stay Organized in High School.

 

 

Get Moving

Next year will be busy—very busy. Getting a head start on applying for college now will ease a lot of the stress you’ll be dealing with in the fall. While you can’t do everything, you can make a huge dent and set yourself up for success later.

 

Looking for help with your college applications? Check out our College Application Guidance Program. When you sign up for our program, we carefully pair you with the perfect admissions specialist based on your current academic and extracurricular profile and the schools in which you’re interested. Your personal specialist will help you with branding, essays, and interviews, and provide you with support and guidance in all other aspects of the application process.

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine

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