College Countdown: What to Do Over the Summer

If you're a rising junior or senior in high school with college on the horizon, summer is no time to leave your university prep at the beach. Now is prime time to make sure your activities are in line with your goals, and will go a long way in helping to make sure your applications are in great shape when the time comes to send them to your top-choice schools.

So, what to do? Our friends over at collegeeducation411.com have come up with some summer college prep tips to keep you busy.
 

If you're a rising high school junior:
Decide if an ARmy ROTC scholarship might be right for you.
An ROTC scholarship will give you money for college and provide an ideal transition to active duty. Talk to a recruiter and learn more here.
 
Get your grades in top shape.
If your GPA leaves something to be desired, it's not too late to turn those numbers around. Take summer school classes to improve lackluster grades and study up for your upcoming courses. Your junior year is prime time to solidify your academic record, so if you want to turn the tide, now is the time.

Start prepping for standardized tests.
Sign up for an SAT or ACT prep course or invest in quality online study materials. You'll want to take the tests by the middle of your junior year, so you still have time to retake the tests at least once if you need to improve your scores. And, pro-tip: Make sure you know which test is required by your top-choice schools! Speaking of which...
Start narrowing down your list of top-choice colleges.
Make sure you know what you're looking for in a college or university and start making your list. Online or on campus? Tuition range? Geography? Reputation? Majors available? Financial aid options? Know what you're looking for, and then start looking closely.
 

If you're a rising high school senior:
Make sure your extra-curricular activities are up to par.
By now your academic record is what it is. That's not to say you can't improve it (or ruin it), but in general you've set a trend. Take steps to nudge it in a positive direction to give you that extra edge, and if it's already excellent, stay on your toes to keep it that way. Where you can make a significant difference in your college applications at this point is in the extracurricular category. Granted, admissions officers will want to see a good track record, but it's not too late to add volunteer activities, or arts and sports programs to strengthen your application. Summer counts, so look into vacay activities that will make you look good -- and not just in a bikini.
 
Visit your top-choice schools.
Visiting a college or university during the academic year is ideal to get a sense of the student body and campus life, but visiting during the summer will also give you an opportunity to check out the school when it is less crowded, and you may have more time with admissions officers who are less busy during summer hours.
Narrow down your list of top-choice schools.
By now you should have a list of the colleges and universities that you're interested in. Summer is a great time to start narrowing that list down to the three or four schools you really want to focus your attention on.
 
Choose mentors to write your recommendation letters.
Now is a great time to keep an eye out for the teachers, community leaders and mentors who would write great recommendation letters for you. Go ahead and ask them if they would be willing to do so at some point over the coming months, and make a positive effort to keep and strengthen those relationships now.

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