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Welcoming Summer: Tips to be more productive this summer (for a happier you in fall)

This message goes out to all of the rising high school seniors. Let’s be honest with ourselves: your junior year wasn’t exactly ideal. Nor was the end of your sophomore year. We’ve finally made it to summer, and hopefully you get to take a break and relax.

For those of you who read the title of this post and immediately groaned, let me say it now: I get it. The past year has been stressful. You want to relax, hang out with friends, and do things you couldn’t do in the height of the pandemic.

What you don’t want is some admission person telling you that you need to work on your college applications over the summer.

So why am I telling you to consider it anyway? Well, I’m going to be honest with you: the fall of your senior year is busy. Think about the schedule of classes you’re planning on taking. Think about your extracurriculars, athletics, jobs, hobbies, etc. Now add in several hours of college application work on top of that. Is the math working out for you?

But never fear: I’m not here to tell you you should spend several hours a week on college applications. No, I’m here to give you five things you can do that won’t take you a lot of time but will seriously help you when you get started on applications in the fall:

  1. Prepare your Activities List: Some people will tell you to make a whole resumé. While having a resumé ready to go is undoubtedly helpful, you do not have to go that far. Spend some time writing down (on paper, on your phone, whatever works best) every extracurricular activity, athletic team, volunteer opportunity, academic honor and award, and everything else you did outside of the classroom for each year of high school. Suddenly doubting you remember everything from 9th grade? That’s why we’re making the list. Then, when it’s time to fill out the activity list section of your application, you can pick the most important things and be done.
  1. Essay Brainstorm: Not every college application requires an essay, but many of them do. Especially if you know you’ll be applying to a school via the Common Application, you can already see what your prompt options are. Start thinking about these prompts. You don’t need to start writing your essay, but you can think about what is important to you. Anytime you remember a story about yourself, a personal value you think schools should know about you, or a goal you have, write it down in the notes on your phone. Later, you can use this list to let your essay grow. Check out our Essay Workshop from August of last year; at the end we give some brainstorming exercises you can use to get the creative juices flowing.
  1. Make your “Musts” List: There are a lot of colleges and universities in this country and internationally; how do you know which one is right for you? This is where your “must” list comes in- your list of things that a school needs to have for it to be your dream school. Here’s the challenge: nothing on your list should be a major or academic program unless you want something hyper-specific and rare. Think a little more broadly. What truly is a must to you? Examples might include: a diverse student body; football games on Saturday; other people who like couponing; a place where I can read outside; within 30 minutes of a stable for my horse; has a Quidditch team; etc. etc. etc. Your “Must” list will never match anyone else’s; that’s the point!
  1. Visit campuses! Visiting a college campus in the summer is very different from doing it during the school year. You will likely see fewer students, and it might be a little harder to get a sense for the community. However, the summer is a great time for exploration because you tend to have more free time that you won’t have when you’re working around assignments and tests. Also, remember your virtual options as well; you can always join a few campuses for virtual info sessions or tours to figure out if they fit the items on your “must” list. (And hey, if you’re interested in either of those at Agnes Scott, check out our options here.)
  1. Consider the elephant in the room. I don’t want to beleaguer the point; your high school experience has been weird in a way in which very few living people can relate. While it might be easier to not think about that, it is important to know how it’s affected your high school experience. Admissions offices, in general, consider everything about your application in context, but we can’t do that if we don’t know the context. Jot down notes you have about how your experience was affected. Did you struggle with virtual classes one semester? Were your curriculum options limited? Did you struggle with mental health? Any of those are important for admission offices to know, so just be aware of them.

There you go: a short list of things you can do this summer to make your life easier in the fall. And it might go without saying, but in between those checklist items? Take a break and try to relax; you deserve it.

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