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By Michal Strawn

Many students don’t begin thinking about colleges until late in their junior year or early in their senior year of high school. The perception is that until the applications are open, there isn’t much you can do. Boy is that a misconception! In the months prior to the start of senior year, there are many steps that students can take to help reduce the stress of application season and help the entire process move smoothly. Consider making our to-do list your to-do list for the summer.

1. Finish that list

Filling out applications isn’t actually all the difficult, it’s just time consuming. What can be difficult is finding the colleges to apply to! Take time over the summer to find a handful of colleges at which you can see yourself being happy and that have a strong program in your chosen field. Look up their admission requirements to make sure you have a few “sure things” on your list so that you’ll have options no matter what!

2. Visit

If you didn’t get any visits in during Junior year then need to happen now. The next break you have from school will be at Thanksgiving and that’s too late. Visit at least a few colleges to get a good feel for what you like and what you dislike. Adjust your list from there.

3. Prepare for the ACT or SAT

You’ve likely already taken these tests once or twice. The summer before senior year is the final big push for any improvements that you want to see. Fall of senior year will be your last chance to take these tests and get your scores back before applications are due.

4. Write your essay(s)

College applications may not be due until the late fall or early winter, but essays tend to pile up. It can be a lot of work to complete a few main essays plus a dozen supplementals for all the colleges you wish to apply to, especially on top of school work, sports, and other school year commitments. You can get a head start by completing the common application essay (and any others you know you’ll need) over the summer.

5.Start the scholarship search

Many students assume that they should first apply for colleges and then figure out how to pay for it. Nothing could be further from the truth! Many scholarships have deadlines that are early in senior year. Make sure they’re on your radar early or you may miss out!

With these things completed you’ll have a head start on senior year and be prepared for success in your college application process!