Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Making a Splash This Summer: Student Edition

What are your expectations for the summer? Maybe you want to hang with friends, go to the beach or lake, or have guiltless, late night iChats. Perhaps you are exhausted from school and want to do absolutely nothing.
True, everyone needs a break. But after a while, doing nothing gets old. Here’s what you can get done this summer . . .

Application Materials and Supporting Information. You may have some friends who intend to get their applications done before Labor Day; you might even be one of them. That is a very commendable objective, but be sure to note the following change: the Common Application site won’t go live until August 1, 2010. Nevertheless, there are very manageable activities that will go a long way toward beating deadlines. For starters, take a look at the Common Application preview page. You’ll quickly get an idea of what information is required, and you can start charting your hours, activities and achievements. You can read the questions under Personal Essay and brainstorm what you’ll write about. Go to a favorite summer spot and get creative! You’ll also need a carefully constructed resume (often referred to as the “brag sheet”) which allows counselors, admissions officers and recruiters to quickly see what you’re all about. (You may need a separate one for athletics.) Get yours drafted and formatted now to save time in the fall! There may be a template on your website. If you can’t find one, use the Common App chart as your guide.

College Visits. If you’re a rising junior or senior, summer is a good time to walk the campus, although it may lack the complete look and feel of a regular semester. Nevertheless it’s a good time to take a tour and attend an information session to get a sense of whether or not the school might be a place you could call home. In the information sessions, you’ll also hear firsthand how admissions officers assess applicants. Make sure you or a parent takes notes. While the visit is still fresh in your mind, prepare a chart matching your strengths with the characteristics of a target school.

If time permits, try to find an attraction in or near the area of your visit. It can be a water park, scenic overlook, factory tour or quaint downtown. This is a sure-fire way to involve siblings and take the focus away from college for a while.

. Attention! Your fall semester counts every bit as much as your junior year. For your fall classes, there is liable to be some reading. Keep a graphic organizer for any assigned novels, charting key characters, tone and theme, quotes and important page numbers. It might save you in September! What if you’re signed up for some challenging courses? Invest in a quality review book and reading though it. REA publishes some of the best prep books around. They will introduce important issues and serve as an invaluable reference source during the school year.

Other Ideas. Still worried about being bored? Not sure what schools are right for you? Here are some additional ideas:
• Take a personality test and see how your strengths align with an array of career choices. Start with the free typology test on Human Metrics. Alternatively, use the Myers-Briggs site to find career path associated with their respective types. To select a matching major, check with the College Board. Next, use the site to find matching colleges.
• Try an online course to supplement your schoolwork or enrich your background. Maximize those hours in front of the screen.
• Start a blog on the subject of your choice (provided it’s appropriate for all audiences). Blogging is a phenomenal way to structure your thoughts and practice those writing skills. Some people use blogging to turn a hobby into cash – a highly sought commodity among teens and college students.
• Volunteer at a camp, summer school program or community group.
• Do the (dreaded) standardized test practice if you need to.
• Use the Internet productively. Try looking at Unigo to get a student's perspective on colleges and universities.

True, the Summer of 2010 may not be the most exciting summer you’ve had. But considering your schedule for the fall, a summer well spent may prevent fall burnout. You will be pleased with yourself, and your parents, siblings and counselor will thank you!

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