Here's my suggested timeline for high school students by grade on how you can use your summer to get ready for college:
Rising Freshmen and sophomores
Check out online databases like U.S. News and World Report and College Navigator to find schools you are potentially interested in applying to. Be sure to also look at individual schools' websites, paying close attention to their mission statements, quick facts, and program offerings.
If you live near a college or university, take a walk around the campus. Even if you are not interested in attending, it's good to get a feel for what you are looking for in a campus.
And here's why - it becomes extra important as an upperclassman to be intentional about the classes you take and the activities you pursue. If you have an idea about what schools and scholarships you want to apply for next year, be aware of their requirements and ensure you are meeting their criteria over your junior and senior years (if you haven't already).
This summer, make a list of colleges you are interested in, as well as scholarships you think you have a good chance of winning. Note all relevant deadlines and put them on your calendar for next year so that you complete all applications on time.
Decide if you are going to take AP classes your junior year and see if the schools you are applying to accept AP credit.
Schedule your ACT and / or SAT for your junior year. Note what your target score is based on the admissions criteria of the colleges you are interested in.
Take your ACT or SAT if you haven't already, and choose which AP courses you want to take as a senior.
Make formal calendars for your college application deadlines and scholarship deadlines. Meet with your guidance counselor before school is out if you have any questions about the applications process.
You can also call colleges you are applying to and ask to meet with admissions reps, financial aid officers, or program coordinators if you want to know more about the school before applying.
Rising College Freshmen
Decide where you are going to college and send the school your acceptance and the required deposit. Make housing arrangements for next fall, and start thinking about your budget as a college student.
If your school lets you register for classes early, note when registration begins and choose which courses you want to take for the fall semester.
If you haven't already, please (please!) submit your FAFSA and see what kind of federal aid your family is entitled to.
- Get a job to earn money for school
- Find an internship that lets you explore a possible career path
- Ask to shadow a professional in the career you are interested in
- Volunteer with a charitable organization
- Learn a new skill such as a computer program or a language
- Take a class at a local library, community center, or college
- Enroll in a weeklong pre-college summer program
Check out my free printable College Application Checklist below for a list of what to do, when for both parents and students. I offer also more guides here.