Making a list and checking it twice…
No, it is not the winter holiday gift-giving season yet. It is a summer holiday that requires a different type of list — a to-do list. From a college admissions standpoint, the summer break is the ideal time to endure a little short-term pain for some long-term gain … a chance to take care of a bit of college admissions business so these tasks don’t overwhelm you in the future.
Although some college counselors and families may start earlier (course-planning, etc.), the process really revs up the summer before junior year of high school. So let’s begin there.
Summer to-do lists for college admissions
* Rising juniors
1. Visit, visit, visit; see as many schools as you can. Use a family vacation as a jumping-off point to tour some campuses or plan a series of tours to colleges in a general area — the Bay Area, Southern California, Oregon. If travel is not an option, research colleges online and keep track of what interests you.
2. Start making your college list; zero in on about eight to 12 colleges that interest you. Sign up on their websites to receive information. Private schools in particular track this “demonstrated interest.”
3. Brush up on testing requirements. The junior year is the year of standardized testing (or as I call it “the Year of Living Dangerously”). It is worthwhile to familiarize yourself with the content of the various tests (PSAT, SAT, ACT, APs, Subject Tests) to better understand what will be expected. Consider your strengths and weaknesses and whether or not you want to do test prep (either with a class or online for free) over the summer to be prepared for the rigorous testing schedule.
* Rising seniors
In addition to visiting colleges and doing test prep if needed, rising seniors actually can get applications started over the summer. I know this is not what you were dreaming of doing this summer. But trust me, it’s worth it.
1. Work on essays. Many essay topics are available now. Begin these essays over the summer. Having time to develop drafts and make revisions dramatically improves the end result; besides, it is often challenging for students to set aside the amount of time needed to complete essays of high caliber once senior year heats up.
2. Put together a résumé. This is helpful for two reasons. First, some colleges ask for a résumé as part of the application process so it’s nice to have it ready to go. Second, you will need to have your activities, awards and achievements summarized for many applications and for letters of recommendation. Much better to get it done ahead of time rather than scrambling at the last minute.
3. Plan whom to ask for letters of recommendation. Most private school applications and some public school applications require several letters of recommendation. Brainstorm whom to ask, and be ready to ask when high school starts in the fall. It is best to ask recent teachers from core subjects.
4. Begin applications. For the first time, the UC application will be available online on Aug. 1. The Common Application (which houses more than 500 schools’ applications) is also available then. I strongly recommend (and yes, even beg!) that students set up these accounts and fill out as much as possible in August. How nice to have all this input saved and ready for those finishing touches to be easily added once fall comes around and life gets busy.
* Graduating seniors (Sorry. There is still some housekeeping to do.)
1. Finish up strong and send in a final transcript. Keep grades up and remember to order an official transcript to be sent to your college before high school is over. The UCs, for example, require it by July 1.
2. Meet entry-level placement exam requirements. All two-year, most public four-year and some private colleges and universities require students to meet some minimum English, math and writing criteria before school begins. If students do not meet these standards, they may have to do remediation in the summer or take certain entry-level classes in the fall. Check each college’s website for more information. See box for details on in-state public schools.
3. Tie up loose ends. Confirm that your housing situation is squared away. Go through your financial aid package and make sure you have met all the requests. Get a physical. You may need vaccinations. (Recall the meningitis outbreak at UC Santa Barbara and Princeton last March and April.) Introduce yourself to your roommate. Have fun!
— Jennifer Borenstein is an independent college adviser in Davis and owner of The Right College For You. Her column is published on the fourth Tuesday of the month. She lives in Davis with her family. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.therightcollegeforyou.org.
Until next time
With summer just around the corner, I will be taking a July hiatus and will return to College Corner when school starts. Enjoy the summer and remember, there is a right college out there for you!
Exempt from CSU/UC entry-level requirements
1. CSU EPT (English placement test): Need 500 on SAT CR; a 22 on ACT English test; or a 3 or above on the AP composition and literature or AP language and composition
2. CSU ELM (entry-level mathematics): Need 550 on SAT math; 23 ACT; or 3 on AP calculus AB, BC or AP statistics
3. UC entry-level writing requirement: Need 680 on SAT CR; 30 on ACT English/writing test; or 3 on AP English