The summer before a student’s senior year of high school is akin to taking a spot at the starting line for college. The next five years will seem to pass as quickly as a 100-yard dash and alternately seem like a long-distance race.
The summer break is the optimal time for the student, in concert with his/her parents, to identify or assess interests and goals, review options and/or begin preparations for the college application process. This groundwork will make it less harried and less stressful for the entire family in the ready-set-go autumn.
Here are five helpful items for a student summer checklist:
1.) Identify or hone your course of study interests that could develop into a career path.
What are you interested in? Health sciences, graphic design, robotics? Or maybe forensics thanks to the CSI TV franchise? Have you been prompted by God to explore Christian ministry?
Primarily linked to technology, there are a multitude of career branches that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago. And more technology- and need-based career saplings will flourish in the next decade because of Web 3.0.
The point is if there’s a subject of interest to you or ministry you’re passionate about, there’s either already a college program of study or one you can tailor to meet your objectives. There are undergraduate programs that are structured, such as Engineering and Nursing. Others, such as Communication, have a core that allows for multiple electives that augment the major or can be taken for fun.
2.) Narrow your prospective college list.
Studies indicate that about 40 percent of students decide to attend a particular college before their senior year of high school. Don’t feel as if you’re being left behind; a college choice is a big decision and requires inspection and introspection. Time is a consideration, however, as most colleges have application deadlines or rolling admission guidelines.
After discerning a course of study, identify the schools that offer the major and how effective they are at seeing you succeed (graduation rates, internships, professional exam pass rates, full-time employment).
There are a number of steps that can be taken this summer, including:
- Research and request information
- Make an in-person visit
- Research financial aid opportunities
Comb the websites of schools under consideration, which should provide detailed information about majors and course descriptions, their mission, student-to-teacher ratio, service opportunities and their accreditation, among other items. An admissions counselor will be able to answer questions, too.
An on-campus visit will give you a good idea of whether you like the campus, whether you could envision yourself attending this school, and whether the school would be a good fit for you. Ask pertinent questions, talk to a financial aid representative, staff and students, and take in the surrounding area. If you’re weighing several options, scheduling a campus visit for early fall will provide the opportunity to see the school at full speed.
3.) Take a college course online.
Many colleges offer half-price online courses to high school students, which is a great opportunity to get college credit for an introductory class and/or dual credit. Check if the credits are transferable to another college.
Also, it will provide an understanding of what’s expected from a college course and sharpen your study habits.
4.) Take or retake the SAT or ACT.
If you haven’t earned an SAT or ACT score that you are comfortable with yet, this summer or the first semester of your senior year will be your final opportunity to retake the test for a higher score before your college applications are due.
SAT and ACT scores are one measure that colleges use to consider candidates, and often test scores are tied to scholarships and grants offered by the school.
5.) Draft an application essay/personal statement.
The personal statement might be the most difficult part of the college application because it is the most open-ended and has the least guidance. Research online the guidelines for what makes a great essay. Basically, it requires structure and execution—knowing how to tell a good story that is free from technical (grammar, spelling) errors with a starting point and conclusion.
A reader can learn a lot about you from whatever you choose to focus on and how you describe it. So, jot down ideas that would make an eye-catching personal story and commence writing on a rainy day. When you are developing an essay to submit as part of a college application, you’ll be prepared to tailor it to the prompt.
By Dave Lewandowski for Marketing Communications at Bob Jones University, which is committed to providing an outstanding accredited Christian liberal arts education purposely designed to inspire a lifelong pursuit of learning, loving and leading. Visit bju.edu for more information.
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