Junior year is known to be the hardest academic year in high school. However, senior year is normally the busiest and most exciting year of high school because of college apps, keeping grades high, taking one last SAT/ACT, senior ball, graduation, etc. In order to have a less stressful and more fun senior year, it is important to make the most of the summer after junior year.
Our counselors recommend that students have a solid Personal Statement by the end of summer. We have found that because the Personal Statement is used for multiple schools on the Common App, and can be rewritten as a UC essay as well, it is one of our rising seniors’ top priorities.
Writing the Personal Statement should take time—you don’t want to rush the essay that allows colleges a glimpse into your personality and life. Throughout the month of June, students should brainstorm ideas and have a basic first draft of their essay. By July, the theme of the essay is solidified and editing can begin. And finally, by the time school starts, seniors will have a completed Personal Statement that they can save and add to the Common App when the time is right.
Students should also begin finalizing their college list, having their top schools picked and taking any last minute trips to campuses to help make decisions. Every college has their own list of supplemental essays students will need to complete, as well as different deadlines based on how a student wants to apply (Early Decision, Early Action, Regular, or Rolling). Having a solidified college list early on in the summer helps students to plan out their essays and can help them prioritize their top schools.
The Common App has a general information section where students and parents can fill out personal, academic, and family data. Getting this section completed, at least partially, can save the student time and stress during the school year and allow them to focus on any grades, tests, or scholarships. These sections aren’t long; however, it is important to fill them out properly and with care, so the school can learn about your awards, extracurriculars, and background. Parents should set aside time to help students correctly fill out the financial, education, and family information.
Lastly, rising seniors should think about gaining experience in their potential area of study by finding a job or an internship. This will help colleges understand the student’s level of commitment to the field of choice and allows the rising senior to experience firsthand the industry they are interested in. Some places students should look for jobs and internships are local businesses, asking family friends about their careers and any possible shadowing opportunities, and volunteering around the community. If a student does not yet know what they want to study in college, getting any job can be helpful to show that they have work ethic, customer service skills, and the drive to succeed.
In order to have a fun senior year where students can enjoy all the extra activities their high school puts on, rising seniors should prioritize their summer activities. Of course students should still take time to enjoy their summer vacation, but they should also check off some of their to-do list in order to make their senior year the best year it can be.
The number one priority should be writing a solid draft of their personal statement, taking the time to make sure they are showing the college a new perspective into their life and personality. Parents should take some time to sit with the students and discuss the college list, fill out the general information sections on the Common App, and figure out when your family will be out of town so students can look for a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity accordingly.
Most of all, enjoy the summer and this upcoming school year—senior year is a blast!