College Admissions: 5 Ways to Get Ahead This Summer
Monday, July 02, 2012
1. Rising 10th and 11th graders should study for the PSAT, SAT or ACT.
Many schools administer the PSAT for the first time in 10th grade, and studies have proven that students who take the test more do better. So, starting to study the summer before 10th grade for the PSAT is an excellent idea. Grab a PSAT Prep book at your local bookstore and set aside an hour 2-3 times a week to complete chapters. Learning vocabulary, reviewing math principles and understanding strategies WILL improve your scores. And remember, there are scholarships tied to PSAT scores!
2. All high school students need to perform community service.
Colleges want to see a consistent commitment to volunteerism, usually 50 hours per year or more. Summer is a GREAT time to rack up hours quickly by volunteering one afternoon or day per week. Local animal shelters, The Boys & Girls Club, environmental groups, homeless shelters, food banks, religious organizations, nursing homes, museums, zoos and many other organizations need help. Look on volunteer websites like www.volunteermatch.org or simply pick up the phone and call local groups.
3. Rising seniors should complete college applications and essays done.
Trying to do applications in the fall when you have a full course load, sports or other extra-curricular activities is a bad idea. Essays end up looking rushed and hurt a student’s chances for acceptance. The best time to do applications is in the summer before senior year. Students should start with the Common Application essays in a word processing system, and then revise, revise, revise--until they are perfect. The Common App will be down for technology changes in July, and all info will be wiped out. BUT get your essays done now, and that will streamline the process in August. Also, watch for individual college supplements on admissions websites. Colleges usually release them over the summer which allows you to complete those early too.
4. Create a plan to succeed academically next year.
Whether you are entering freshman year or senior year, GPA is THE MOST IMPORTANT factor in college admissions—hands down. You can get around low SAT or ACT scores, but you can’t get around low grades. And according to the U.S. Dept. of Education, more than 30% of graduating seniors in the U.S. have an A or A- average. So, competition is steep. Summer is the perfect time to review grades from this past year, then look at courses for next year and set goals. What grades do you want to achieve in each course? Which will be hardest? Do you need to get the text book and begin studying now to get a head start? Should you line up a tutor for tough courses? What will your schedule look like with sports and extra-curricular activities? Make a colorful schedule of the week and when your homework study hours will be after school, evenings and weekends. I am a big believer in the old adage “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
5. Explore or find your passion.
As one college president from a highly competitive school said in a recent admissions session “What differentiates one high achieving student from another is passion. If you haven’t found your passion yet, NOW is the time to do it.” Summer s a great time to take a course on a college campus. Dive into something your high school doesn’t offer: archeology, philosophy, botany, robotics, photography, theatre, psychology. The list is endless. If a classroom doesn’t excite you, then think about a social issue that outrages you and do something about it. Start a group, raise money to help your cause, create an awareness campaign. Do an internship or shadow a professional in an area that interests you. Just find something you care about and pursue it with enthusiam!
Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic college counseling, SAT prep and athletic recruiting services www.collegeadvisorsonline.com.
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