College Pete

How To Overcome the Summer Doldrums & Do Something Positive That Will Help You Get Into (& Pay Less For) College

How To Overcome the Summer Doldrums & Do Something Positive That Will Help You Get Into (& Pay Less For) College

We’re in the 2nd half of July, which means we are closer to the first day of the ‘next’ school year than we are to the last day of ‘last’ year. And that means that too many soon-to-be 12th graders (or more likely, Moms and Dads who love them), are entering a code red, heightened state of college anxiety. This is especially true if you haven’t made much (or any) headway on your college applications this summer.

I hope this isn’t you, but if it is…know that you’re not alone (I promise) — and that you still have about 3 months before the first priority deadline hits. But, also know that the only antidote to this type of anxiety is to take action. My students (and my own kids for that matter), know that I say this ALL the time, but I’m gonna say it again here:  Progress begets more progress. To finish something, you first have to start!!

The Common App doesn’t open officially until August 1, and it will close for a few days beginning on July 27. Before this happens (one week from today), all rising 12th graders can (and should) make major progress, which will…  yep… beget more progress.

Here’s what can easily be accomplished (low hanging fruit, if you will):

1. Your rising 12th grade child can, at a minimum, go to Commonapp.org, create an account (WRITE DOWN their password), and complete the College Search Section (where they can add schools). They can also work on several sections, including the Profile, Family, Education, Testing, Activities, and yes, the Writing Section. Most of these are basic data entry fields (except the Activities and Writing – more on that below) so there’s no reason NOT to fill them out over the next 7 days.

NOTE: they should not complete the individual college sections as they will reset when the Common App reopens on August 1.

Now as far as the more complex, nuanced components of the college application (namely, the Writing section), Carla and I have been working with our students on their apps since mid-May…and last week one of them said something to me about a draft essay that was very simple, yet quite profound:

“The most important part of a draft is that it exists.”

How true this is! Writing a college essay is difficult. Writing multiple college essays as most students will now have to do can be overwhelming. But it need not be. Yes, some students have a knack for it and they can churn out words with aplomb (rare). Most students struggle to come up with a topic much less write a specific story that supports what they want to convey to an admissions officer. That’s why it’s so important for kids to get started early…which brings me to the second action students can take before school starts up.

2. Put down the video games and instead put words on the screen (I used to say “put pen to paper”, but that’s a relic of a bygone era).  Any words. Over the next week, commit one hour every day to put away the video games, or the Netflix, or Tik Tok, and write…anything. If you need a prompt, try this: What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you so far and what did you do to survive it? Motivation is nice…but discipline is critical: The only way your child can complete their first draft is to have the discipline to write it – set aside one hour every day to write and they’ll have a first draft, which can turn into a 2nd draft, which can ultimately turn into a final essay. Again, progress begets progress. Motivation is good – discipline is the key.

Yes, these are the dog days of summer, which is something I wrote about a couple of years ago. At this point in the calendar, some students may feel a bit burned out by the monotony of summer, especially if whatever summer activities they were pursuing are winding down, so the following suggestions would benefit all kids (regardless of school year), both generally for college AND to help get them ready for the next school year. While I would bet that not a single student at this point is eager for the first day of school (28 and 32 to days from today in Dade and Broward Counties, respectively), we all do benefit from a reason to get up in the morning and to have a purpose.

Here are some ways that students can take advantage of the last weeks of summer, if you’re not already occupied with a job, class, travel experience, internship, SAT prep or volunteer work. And even if you are, these suggestions are still  worthwhile:

Read a book (or 5, or more!): There is no better way to exercise the brain than to read. Reading also helps with SAT prep because the test itself is mostly a reading test. Some colleges (i.e. Columbia, Wake Forest) ask on their application what books you have read recently. Some interviewers may ask the same question. I frequently ask students what they are reading. As for me, I’m a history dork and like to read historical biographies – I recently finished Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, the book that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write a musical that you may have heard of or seen recently. Right now I’m getting ready for the year and reading a great book about higher ed called Poison Ivy: How Elite Colleges Divide Us. I know, it sounds riveting. You should read what inspires you.

Reach Out to A College Admissions Officer or Visit a local college – Summertime is a great opportunity to visit campus and meet with your regional admissions officer. College Admissions Officers, in particular, are the human faces of your dream school. Emphasis on the human – they are generally young, enthusiastic about the school they represent – and fairly extroverted. And, they will likely be reading your application and are thus influential in whatever decision is made about your fate. Don’t let the first time they see your name to be when they read your application. Reach out this summer, introduce yourself and let them know when you’ll be visiting (if you will be) or ask them if they’ll be visiting your area this fall. Note: parents, stay out of this part – Only students should interact with the Admissions Officers. If you are able to visit a school in the next couple of weeks (local or otherwise), the admissions office will most certainly be open and eager to receive you. If you are not able to hop on a plane and travel a long distance, then at the very least try to visit a local campus and take the official tour. This is something that all high school students and parents can (and should) do, not just rising seniors.

Last night we finished our Summer College Application Bootcamp. Congratulations to our participating students – you’re almost there! As for those of you who may still have teens struggling with where to apply, or how to put together a stand-out application that boosts their chances (or if you’re like most of us who want to pay LESS than the sticker price for college), we can help. Now is the time to reach out…before school starts and before my roster becomes full for 12th graders. There is no worse feeling than having to turn away a 12th grade family in October. So, if you’re the parent of a high school student, and you believe your child will benefit from guidance on the college admissions and application process, then reach out to us. And if you’d like to tackle the complex financial aid process so that your child will maximize opportunities for grants and scholarships, then let’s connect. This is your opportunity as a parent of a 10th or 11th grader to still take action this summer so that you will make progress before summer ends (and of course, progress begets progress).

Literally thousands of other families have utilized our services, and they have benefited both by having multiple admissions options and by receiving multiple scholarship offers for their children to choose among!  I invite you to do the same for your family. Reach out to me and we can discuss your child’s goals, your concerns and how we can meet the former and alleviate the latter.

Oh, and one footnote: yesterday Wesleyan University and the University of Minnesota both joined a small but growing number of schools that have ended their practice of Legacy Admissions. This fits with a trend that I predicted in my commentary about the Supreme Court’s recent decision on Affirmative Action. I expect more colleges to follow suit.

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