- Make your College Shopping List. You can articulate the elements of college life that are important to you if you invest some time to think them through. If you want to major in one of the sciences, do you know what your favorite college's plans to develop laboratories? If you want to be on a rural or suburban campus, do you really want to maintain a car? Once you've outlined what you're looking for in terms of academics, location and type of community, you can test these ideas pretty easily. Most colleges have built extensive websites that include online video tours. These tours are a valuable first screen for what the campus feels like and what the college states is really valued on campus. Learn more about our learning styles-based approach to college search.
- Get 'Em While They're Hot. Or more exactly, warm. The end of the school year is the best time to ask your favorite teachers to write letters of recommendation for you. These teachers will have a better and warmer recall of what you accomplished in class, more time to focus on the letter and can really invest themselves to do a better job. Juniors, if there's a chance you'll be applying early decision anywhere in the fall, this can be a critical step to getting a well-thought-out, persuasive letter before the November 1 deadlines. Ask now! What if one of your favorite teachers changes schools, move away or even change careers during the summer?
- Visit Colleges. Many colleges are active and interesting places to visit in the summer. Faculty will still be tending to their research projects. Summer schools and camps will bring students to campus and admissions people will be less harried. All colleges run one or two guided campus tours each day and you'll have good odds of arranging an interview with a relaxed admissions person. Coaches in many sports also run camps for their teams and high school athletes.
- Prepare for Admissions & Alumni Interviews. Each college has a different view of what an interview means in their admissions process. If a college you'd like to attend offers interviews, they are telling you they value them. You should schedule one. But you should interview only if you're prepared. There's no substitute for rehearsing with someone who has conducted interviews. We have pages of comprehensive interview advice in our Admissions Interviews section.
- Writing a Draft Essay. Yes, try one on. Try writing one draft essay response to a typical application essay topic. The topic is not as important as how you feel about the process and the result. Are you confident that it sounds like you? Does it get at an important part of your personality? That doesn't mean it has to be intensely personal; it means that you should pick a topic that's easy for you to be excited about and is something that you appreciate in a unique way. Since this approach will be common to a number of colleges, you can make this essay specific to each college later. That includes editing later to state why you're interested in majoring in a given subject, playing an instrument or excelling in a given sport at each of those colleges. In short, focus on nailing the question of how you will add something good to the life of that college. We have detailed advice on Writing Essays.
Attend a Unique Summer Camp. There are countless summer camps, most of which provide fun and satisfying experiences. For students who want a sense of college life and coursework there are many college-based camps. If you'd like to be able to demonstrate a unique level of knowledge about a given subject or about yourself, there are a few great places. We can help you evaluate some of these uniquely-positioned camps. There are a few guidelines that can help make these good experiences. Odds are, it's a good camp if it:
- Is on a college campus, in that college's housing;
- Is run by that college, staffed by faculty or coaches;
- Is at a college you'd like to attend;
- Offers college-level coursework; and
- Offers a unique type of experience.
- For students in the Western US and Midwest, there's a great plus to spending a summer at one of the traditional East Coast colleges, literally just to see if they fit.
Find other ways you can build your college admission strategy this summer, contact CollegeLab.