In this article, admissions expert Brynlee shares tips on how to spend your Junior Summer to get into college. To build a strategy for the summer and your college applications, sign up to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.
As your last summer of high school approaches, you may be wondering how best to prepare for your college applications and your senior year. Good for you for looking ahead!
While you certainly cannot (and should not) do everything on this list, here are some ideas for activities to keep you busy and get you ready for application season. Some of these resources have deadlines of their own (such as standardized tests, summer programs, or college classes), so plan early!
Prepare for Standardized Tests
If you haven’t yet taken your SATs, ACTs, or SAT Subject Tests, your junior summer is a good time to study, take some practice tests, and take the real exams without the pressure of school and extracurriculars. The SAT is usually offered in June and August, and the ACT is usually offered in June and July. Although we don’t yet know what testing requirements colleges will use for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle, preparing to take these exams early will give you time to retake the tests if necessary. It will also give you more flexibility when deciding whether to send your scores. Consider signing up for an SAT prep course, or just use free resources like Khan Academy!
Start Writing College Essays
The Common Application opens on August 1st every year, so school-specific supplementary essays are usually not available until that point. However, the main Common App essay (or personal statement) is based on prompts that stay largely consistent from year-to-year.
Your junior summer is a great time to start working on your CommonApp essay. Spend some time working with one of CollegeAdvisor.com’s Admissions Coaches this summer, and you can have a polished personal statement before school starts in the fall!
Build Up Your Activities List
Most college applications require a list of your extracurricular activities, jobs, and other responsibilities. The Common App has ten slots for your activities, and we recommend trying to fill them all. That doesn’t mean you need to be the president of five different clubs, though! The most important thing about the activities list is to show commitment and to be able to identify “big picture” lessons from your experiences.
Be creative about ways you can use your junior summer to either add more activities to the list or deepen your commitment to the activities you’re already involved in. If you’re a club officer, can you set up a training session for new members? Is there a service project you can plan and execute through the National Honor Society or another service club? Can you mentor a younger student in your favorite sport, hobby, or other activity? If you add a new activity, make sure that you can show some serious commitment to make up for the relative lack of time you will have spent doing it.
See some ideas for new activities below.
If you love research and want to get some experience before college, junior summer is a great time to pursue that interest! If you are a student in an International Baccalaureate (IB) program, you will want to spend your summer working on your Extended Essay. Additionally, if you’re not an IB student but you are interested in research, talk to teachers or counselors at your school about various research opportunities at local universities.
Participate in Summer Programs
Many colleges, cultural institutions, and government agencies (such as the State Department) host summer camps and programs for high school students on topics as varied as intensive language study, sports, business, creative writing, leadership, music, politics, and so much more. They usually last at least a week, but they can extend up to two or three months.
If you participate in one at a college you are interested in attending, these programs can be a great way to get a feel for the campus and identify unique features that you can write about in supplemental “why this school?” essays.
It’s important to note that these programs can often be expensive. Some scholarships are often available for low-income students, and sometimes you can save money if you live locally and won’t be staying in the dorms, but you should be aware that these resources are usually fairly limited. Furthermore, colleges usually see programs that require an application (such as Girls’ State) as more impressive than programs that are open to any student with the money to pay tuition. Your school counselor or career center may also have some good ideas for local low-cost programs.
Finally, for the summer of 2021, keep an eye on the program websites to see if they will be held virtually, hybrid, or in-person—it will likely vary depending on the institution.
Do you live near a university, 4-year college, or community college? Why not sign up for a class or two? Especially with many in-person opportunities likely to be limited this year, taking classes can help you show that you are capable of doing well in a college setting. It can also help you get rid of some requirements so you can free up more time for subjects you really want to pursue in college. For example, one of my college roommates took calculus at her local university over the summer so she could save some money on tuition and give herself more time during her first two years to focus on her other pre-med coursework.
If you do decide to take summer classes, be sure that your total number of college credits (including credits from AP, IB, or dual enrollment classes) will be less than 30 so that you can still apply as a freshman. Individual colleges and universities may have different credit limits, so it’s best to check their websites if you’re worried.
Find a Part-time Job or Internship
Many students worry that part-time jobs at your local fast food restaurant or clothing store won’t look impressive to colleges. This is not the case! Not only is working a necessity for many students, but it can also teach important skills that are as applicable as ones you would learn from participating on the tennis team or in Model UN, such as teamwork, working under pressure, and finding solutions to problems.
Alternatively, if you are able and willing to work for free, you can look into part-time internship opportunities in your community. Sometimes these are paid positions, but especially in the public sector, internship compensation is usually limited to college credit or travel reimbursements.
You should know that internship programs often prioritize applicants who are currently in college. However, many high school students are still able to successfully land positions with political campaigns, local governments, or local businesses. Reach out to opportunities near you—it doesn’t hurt to ask!
Start Working With An Admissions Coach
Junior summer is the perfect time to start working with an admissions advisor. Not only will a personal advisor be able to help you design a strategy for the upcoming year, but they’ll also be able to help you plan ahead for your essays, courses, and teacher recommendations.
An advisor can help you craft an application that stands out—the earlier and better you get to know your advisor, the more they can help your personality shine. Go to CollegeAdvisor.com to be matched with a personal college admissions expert!
Not that you should spend your whole junior summer binging The Office (again), but taking time to rest and recover from a tough junior year is important to prevent burnout. During the fall of your senior year, not only will you be busy with classes, but you will also be working on college applications. Be sure to build in time to get enough sleep and do the things you love so you can start fresh again in August!
This informational essay was written by Brynlee Emery, Georgetown ‘19. If you want to get help with your college applications from Brynlee or other CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Experts, register with CollegeAdvisor.com today.