Finding a College This Summer: 5 Quick Tips for Juniors

In your final weeks as a high school junior, you're likely more concerned with exams or looking forward to some time off than focused on finding a college. Because we know you've got a lot going on, we're going to keep things simple with five steps you can take right now—before the summer starts—to make the most of the next few months!

Finding a College image

1. Create your college search schedule.

No one wants to spend their entire summer scrolling through college websites, practicing for standardized tests, or writing essays. Then again, no one wants finding a college to come down to a few stressful weeks during senior year.

The greatest resource you have at this moment is time. Right now, you can make a decision that will let you have a great summer, make your senior year more fun, and make your college search successful. Here's how:

  • Get in front of your calendar.
  • For each week during the summer, pick one or two days during which you have free time. Block off a few hours as "College Search," and keep that time for yourself.
  • Create a checklist with every activity that might help you with finding a college and applying for admissions. Below is a list to get you started!
  • Use the time you have blocked off to work on this list. Even if you can only spare an hour or two, that commitment will help you tremendously as you enter senior year!

A Sample List You Can Use for Finding a College This Summer

  1. Write down what I think matters to me in a college: location, size, and more.
  2. Use a college guide or college search tool to find colleges that match this profile.
  3. Research the colleges I found using their websites, guidebooks, college social media pages, and discussions with friends / family.
  4. Start a list of colleges to which I may apply.
  5. Visit colleges this summer.
  6. Refine my list of what I want in a college.
  7. Schedule time in the fall for campus visits.
  8. Prepare for standardized tests.
  9. Read a few admissions applications and practice filling them out.
  10. Review potential topics for my college admissions essays.

2. Ask seniors about their experience.

If you have friends who are seniors in high school, now is a good time to ask them for their advice on finding a college. Yes, you can always connect with them when they head off to school, but it's a good idea to catch them beforehand because…

The college search is still fresh in their minds. They can talk about what worked for them, what didn't, and what they wish they had known before.

You may not have time later. As a senior, you will be in the middle of your own college search, and it will be harder for you to track everyone down to get their thoughts.

Getting their advice now will help you in the fall. The first few months of your senior year are super-important to your search. Talk with your friends now, and you'll be able to make the most of this time.

Since you're having conversations about college, we also recommend that you schedule an appointment with your college counselor or educational consultant before the summer. They may have helpful resources you can use over the next few months.

3. Schedule time for summer college visits.

One of the most effective tactics for finding a college is to make a campus visit! We recommend scheduling your trips now; waiting until summer is underway can make it harder to find the free time you'll need.

To get started, take a look at your work or activity schedule and see where the openings are. Also, talk with your parents to make sure that they are available if they will be joining you on the trip.

If you don't have the days free for an extended trip, visiting local schools can still help you in finding a college by giving you exposure to different campuses. Our article, "University Tours During the Summer," offers even more advice about planning your visits.

4. Choose activities that can help your admissions applications.

Chances are that you've already scheduled some extracurriculars for this summer. Maybe you are working full-time, participating in sports leagues, or attending a camp. All of these are great!

However, you should also think about how the activities in which you take part will be viewed by admissions offices and how they will help in finding a college. Activities can:

  • Suggest ways that a student will contribute to campus life
  • Demonstrate character.
  • Hint at future professional interests.
  • Show how you handle adversity.

Our article on extracurricular activities talks about this in greater detail. If the way you are spending your summer isn't furthering your college plans, take some time now to explore activities that are a fit for your interests and that match your college aspirations.

5. Save Your School Papers for Help Brainstorming Admission Essays

If you're considering colleges that ask for an essay response, one great source for ideas is the academic and personal writing you've already done.

An important point: we aren't advocating that you just copy and paste something that you have written into a college essay. It's a much better idea to submit something fresh, personalized to the school to which you are applying, and extensively reviewed.

However, you may already have the starting point for a great college essay, whether it's a fictional short story you have written, an analysis of an event in history, or research you did in science class. Take time before the end of your junior year to save these papers somewhere you can review them later.

Good luck this summer!

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