It’s me, Alexsis. But from the future. It’s weird; I know. Here, I can prove it to you. Right now your summers consist of sitting poolside, eating Pop-Ice popsicles, and having outdoor picnics, right? Aside from working a part-time job at Little Caesar’s Pizza located approximately 4 minutes from your house, life is good. You wake around 11 a.m., make frozen waffles, watch reality T.V., and hang out with friends until it’s time for work.
Of all of the summers you spent sleeping in, lounging by the pool, and watching T.V., your laziness reached an all time high and your relaxation piqued this summer. But you don’t feel bad; you’re a senior and you deserve it. Senioritis is a real thing and you believe that you’re entitled to a summer free of school work or any work involving the college application process.
I know the temptation of senioritis is overwhelming, but you have valuable free time during the summer that you just won’t get back during the school year.
Trust me; you’ll want to attend every football game, take as many AP classes as possible (and of course earn all 5s on the exams), secure the perfect dress for Prom, sneak in as many Dairy Queen and Daily Grind Coffee runs as you can, plus work a part-time job.
I’m not saying you should spend your entire summer working on college checklist items, but devoting a couple hours per week to narrowing down your college list and working on applications will really help reduce your stress level and maintain your sanity.
Here are 5 to-dos I’m giving you to accomplish before the end of summer:
Because we all know that you love a good challenge…
1. Visit colleges
I should give you some credit on this one because you will visit some campuses this summer. However, the schools you visit will be ones that your friends were considering, a family member attended or mentioned, and ones that are common to see on t-shirts growing up in Georgia. Not that there’s anything wrong with that strategy, but I encourage you to visit a variety of campuses based on size, location, and type (public vs.private) to get a feel for what is available.
Be open to schools you aren’t as familiar with or aren’t necessarily “brand name.”
2. Craft your resume
A resume is important for two reasons:
- You will need it for your activity section of your college application.
- You may need it to apply for a scholarship or job along the way.
It’s important to jot down involvement when it’s fresh on your mind. I know freshman year has been blocked from your mind (for good reasons), but go ahead and construct your resume now when you’re not also thinking about writing a 10 page AP Literature paper. Be specific. How long was the time commitment? Did you gain any leadership roles from the involvement? Remember, even things like working a part-time job or fulfilling childcare and other family obligations can still be considered an activity on a college application.
3. Write (at least a draft of) your college essay
DUH DUH DUH. I understand that even mentioning these words is extremely intimidating.
Inevitably, you will rush to complete your essay over winter break to make January application deadlines. Instead, my hope is that you can enjoy your break, spend time with family, and eat delicious food. Essays are a marathon, not a sprint.
While it may seem obnoxious to start a college essay over the summer while most application deadlines aren’t until fall or winter, it will likely take several brainstorming sessions and drafts to reach a final product. Most colleges (like Agnes Scott College that uses the Common Application) release essay topics over the summer and open applications.
If you’re struggling with what to write about, think about this analogy — if you dropped your essay on the floor of your high school, would the person picking it up know exactly who it belonged to based off of its uniqueness?
But it’s more than just being unique, it’s also about the why. Why are you interested in pursuing a higher education? What do you have to offer to a campus community?
4. Apply for outside scholarships
While there can be both merit and need based aid awarded from institutions, federal, and state entities, the reality is that most undergraduate students are contributing towards their education at both public and private four-year institutions. The best part of outside scholarships is that unless otherwise stated, you can use an outside scholarships at any college or university!
Another great benefit to completing a resume and college essay is that you can often use both of them to apply for outside scholarships (work smarter not harder). Although your college essay prompt may be slightly different than the scholarship prompt, you can build off of a preexisting essay instead of starting from scratch.
There are so many entities offering outside scholarships, many of which are open to rising high school seniors or high school students in general. For example, scholarships can be offered by utility companies, banks/credit unions, car dealerships, non-profits, community-based organizations, and corporations.
Agnes Scott’s website has a list of recommended outside scholarships. I also recommend creating a profile on scholarship search engines like Fastweb, Unigo, or College Greenlight (specifically for first generation college students). Another important piece of advice is to create a separate email account for scholarships and the admission process i.e. Alexsisgoestocollege@gmail.com.
Try to apply to a variety of scholarships locally, regionally, and nationally. It’s important to keep in mind that the more local and more specific a scholarship is, the more likely you are to receive it. Most importantly, you should never have to pay to apply to an outside scholarship.
5. Build a relationship with your admission counselors
Admission offices are happy to field your questions. It’s our job! I know college fairs can be intimidating, but if you’re able to go to any during the summer or even during senior year, please go and be intentional about asking specific questions. Avoid things like, “how’s your biology department” because every institution is likely going to offer a biology major and be able to brag about it. Instead, ask something like, “what kinds of research opportunities are there for science majors?”
At Agnes Scott, you will have access to your own admission counselor. Feel free to ask them questions about the application process, visiting campus, and connecting with a current student or faculty member to learn more about what being a Scottie is all about.
Our counselors are also well versed in financial aid, so they can help walk you through your financial aid package when the time comes.
Are you overwhelmed by this list yet? Hopefully not! I believe in you; you’ve got this!
A slightly older, wiser, and wistful You
While I had fun writing this letter and wish I could actually go back in time and read it as 17-year-old me, it’s important to acknowledge that I’ve already had my own college application process and college experience. Sure, there are things we all wish we could do differently, but our decisions shape who we are. Who knows, maybe my own college experience shaped my decision to begin a career in college admissions…
Please know that your application process and college experience will be your own and shape your identity, too.
I firmly believe that whether you’re 17 or 27, it’s never too late to enjoy sitting poolside, eating a popsicle, and enjoying a nice picnic in the park this summer. You deserve it.
Alexsis Skeen is a Senior Admission Counselor at Agnes Scott College. In her free time she enjoys cooking, listening to live music, and creative writing.