Summer Checklist for Rising Seniors

It’s basically August, which means that summer is essentially over. Yikes! Sorry! College application deadlines are approaching whether or not you like it, so it’s in your best interest to start preparing now. You probably have more free time during the summer anyway, so we suggest trying to check as many boxes below as possible before the first day of your senior year.

  • Register for any standardized tests that you need to take and/or retake in August or October.

We’re talking SAT’s, the ACT, and SAT subject tests. We’ll spare you the horror stories, but know that it’s important to sign up early. Research when your scores will be available and if you’ll have a chance to review them before they’re sent directly to the schools that you’re applying to (if you’re considering the October test dates.)

Writing a good college essay is a process that takes a lot of time. You’re going to be sending your common app essay to every school you apply to, so it’s not something that you should put off. In an ideal world, you would be finished with it by mid-August so that you can start working on the supplements as soon as they come out on August 1st. We have found that kids often find it stressful to have multiple essays working at once, and getting your common app essay out of the way is a good way to partially avoid that. Start by figuring out what personality trait or characteristic you want to portray, then write and edit until you’re happy with the finished product.  

  • Narrow down the list of colleges that you’re going to apply to.

In the interest of setting realistic goals for yourself, read this blog post on the difference between safety, reach, and target schools. Your goal is to build a balanced college list by the time school starts so that you aren’t applying to 50 colleges for no reason.

  • Decide where you’re going to apply early.

If you’re serious about a school, you should consider applying early. Look into their Early Action / Early Decision deadlines and make note of it in your master Google doc (more on this later).

  • Create your common app account and fill out all of the logistical sections.

We’re referring to sections 1-4. It’s the first step in creating your common app account, and a lot of students put it off because it seems overwhelming and too real. But you need to refine your resume and write about your activities, so start now. The rest of the information is simple to fill out.

  • Start writing the specific college supplements when they come out on August 1st.

A lot of these questions are essentially tiny research projects. Start familiarizing yourself with the questions, researching the schools you’re applying to, and drafting up your responses.

  • Follow up with teachers about your recommendation letters.

When school starts, make sure you’re going above and beyond with those who you asked letters for. Remind them why they should be writing you a standout letter. If you haven’t asked yet, this should be your first order of business when school starts, or consider shooting them an email now.

  • Review your senior year class schedule.

Are you taking the most challenging classes? Are you highlighting potential areas of academic interests with your course load? 

  • Read at least 3 books.

A lot of colleges are now asking students what they read during their free time, and summer is a great time to catch up on those books you downloaded but never read. Read this blog post about how to choose books that relate to your potential major.

  • Create a master document (saved in at least two places, and one should be a Google doc) with all of the colleges that you’re applying to.

Think of this document as the hub for all things college application related. List the deadlines for submitting test scores, what writing supplements you need to complete, number of recommendations required, etc. Be sure to look at any additional requirements that applying to certain programs might require, such as a specific SAT subject test for an engineering program.  

  • Schedule tours to your top choice colleges.

Aim to visit in September (especially if you’re applying early) so that you can get a feel for campus when students are there. We always recommend visiting schools before applying if possible. Bring our college visit notepad with you and do a brain dump immediately after you leave campus. The tours and information sessions fill up early, so register in advance.


We know how overwhelming the admission process seems, and we love helping kids stay organized. Contact us here if you need help.