What should you be doing in summers to prepare for college application time?

College Tasks for Each Summer of High School These tips can help you to better position yourself for submitting strong college applications. By Tiffany Sorensen |



Plan to go on a few campus tours in the summer before your junior year of high school.(GETTY IMAGES) Don’t wait until the start of the school year to check off your many to-dos that can help get you ready to apply to colleges. Follow these tips to make the most of the summer before each year of high school. Summer Before Freshman Year One of the greatest challenges of entering high school is socializing. Some of your old friends from middle school may go on to attend different institutions, and you may see lots of new faces at your high school. But you can go into the first day already having friends if you get involved in a fall activity whose preparation begins in the summer. Sports teams and marching band are two examples of activities that meet over the summer, giving you plenty of opportunity to mingle with your peers and make meaningful friendships. Even though senior year seems far away now, the summer before freshman year is the ideal time to start mapping out a rough four-year class schedule. Many courses must be taken in a particular sequence; for instance, you may need to complete a chemistry course before you can enroll in physics. [ READ: How to Choose High School Electives ] If you fail to take courses in the required order, you may miss out on a later class that you would really like or that could make your college applications more competitive. Thus, when you meet with your school counselor as a rising freshman, discuss both your short- and long-term class loads. Summer Before Sophomore Year Since freshman year is mostly for adjusting to high school and junior year is arguably the most academically demanding, sophomore year should be devoted to exploring potential career paths. This endeavor can take on many forms, including engaging in volunteer work, job shadowing, fun after-school clubs and independent research. All these activities represent ways that young people can start to get a feel for what they enjoy and are good at. Take the summer before sophomore year to explore outlets for discovering your passions and talents. [ READ: Keep College in Mind When Choosing High School Activities. ] Like it or not, reading is a skill you will need to rely on heavily in high school and college. It is also a skill that is improved over a long period, not just days or weeks. Unfortunately, you will probably have to read lots of texts in high school that you are not interested in, making it harder to read them critically or even finish them at all. So that you do not fall behind in your development as a reader, use the summer before sophomore year to find an author or genre you enjoy and that challenges you a little. It does not matter what the books are. The idea is to discover a love for reading that will translate to a broader vocabulary, paraphrasing abilities, structural awareness and other skills that can carry over to the reading you must do for school. Summer Before Junior Year Many people view junior year as their ideal moment to shine academically and in extracurriculars before they apply to colleges in the fall of senior year. Therefore, they tend to load their junior year calendar with more difficult courses, additional clubs, professional internships and other pursuits that could make them stand out to colleges. Also consider how you could beef up your profile by taking another honors or Advanced Placement course, or ascending to a leadership position in a club you are a member of. Just try not to take on more than you can handle. Be realistic about your scheduling possibilities and energy level or you may soon find yourself burnt out. If you will be sitting for the ACT or SAT your junior year, the summer before is the time to kick your test prep into high gear. Find out whether you can take an ACT or SAT class at your local library or learn from a private tutor. If neither is possible, form a study group with peers who will keep you motivated. When all else fails, create your own independent study routine that you can complement with YouTube videos and online practice tests. [ READ: 4 College Prep Tasks for High School Juniors ] Finally, go on a few campus tours, as you may not have time to do so once the fall term begins. There are some downsides to touring colleges over the summer, such as the fact that few students will be around to talk to you. However, there are also key advantages: You are likely to receive more attention from admissions staff and can more freely explore the campus grounds. Summer Before Senior Year Use the summer before your last year of high school to get ahead on your college applications. Ways to accomplish that include drafting college admissions essays, updating your resume, asking about recommendation letters, planning to retake the ACT or the ACT, researching scholarship options and touring more campuses. The fall semester of your senior year is your last chance to put your best foot forward on college applications. Investigate last-minute ways to improve your chances of admission if you are not confident about how you look on paper. There may still be an open volunteer opportunity or elective course that could showcase your interest to admissions counselors.