high school juniors

The Summer Before Senior Year

March 16, 2020

It has been a crazy couple of weeks. We know how hard it has been for everyone emotionally and physically. Students are dealing with disappointment, frustration, and uncertainty as their school days have moved to online learning. Seniors in college have had an abrupt end to their senior year. High school seniors who are in the midst of deciding on their next academic adventure are dealing with a host of emotions given college campuses are closed. Educators are trying to quickly shift to a new model of online learning. Parents are struggling to manage work obligations and childcare issues. Our world is dealing with a pandemic. As a community, we are working hard to support each other as we transition to this temporary learning and living environment. College Scoops will work hard these next couple of months to continue to provide valuable content to help our community during these challenging times. Please reach out to us to share your thoughts and ideas as we would love to hear from you.

Kate Sonnenberg, an independent educational consultant for Montclair-based KS College Succes, has shared her expertise and thoughts once again with College Scoops to help high school juniors prep for this summer.

summer activities
Courtesy of Unsplash

The summer between junior and senior year is an important one – the last “high school” summer – and students spend it in a myriad of ways: taking summer courses on a college campus to get a “taste” of college; participating in enrichment programs in the U.S. or abroad; volunteering, interning and working. In addition to pursuing their passions, here are some other useful things students can do the summer before senior year.

Start to Tackle the Common Application Essay

1) Write a draft of the common app essay. The Common App has announced the prompts for the 2020-2021 application cycle will be the same as they were in 2019-2020. Even the most talented writers can find themselves stymied with this essay (often because of the unnecessary pressure students feel to make it “perfect”) and having a solid draft before the school year starts is always a plus.

high school juniors
Courtesy of Unsplash


Extracurricular Activities

2) Complete the “Activities” section of the Common App. This section of the application is important and often can be an afterthought because so much time is spent writing essays. Students will thank themselves if they have completed this section of the Common App before school starts. Make sure to have someone review the section.

Teacher Recommendations

3) Ask two teachers for a recommendation. Many students leave this to the fall of senior year, sometimes learning that a teacher has already committed to writing letters for other students and cannot add any more to their roster of recommendations. Be sure to give teachers a resume to aid them in the letter writing. Follow up with the teachers to ensure the recommendations have been submitted. Send a thank-you note.

College List

4) Refine the college list. Students can research online and call colleges to ask them to send information. Contact current students to learn more about their school and why they choose that particular school. Create a college template with the important dates for admissions, financial aid deadlines, and all the pros and cons to each college on your list to date. Write any thank you letters and or schedule any remaining interviews for the fall.

Standardize Tests

5) Review standardized tests to determine if they need to take/retake the SAT, ACT or Subject Tests. Be sure to check the testing requirements of the schools on the preliminary college list – many colleges and universities no longer require the Subject Tests and many are also moving away from requiring the SAT or ACT with writing/essay.

helpful college resources
Courtesy of Unsplash


Research Available Scholarships

6) Begin a scholarship search. There are many tools and online search engines that can help guide students toward private money. Reach out to experts in the field, talk to your college counselors, contact the financial aid offices at colleges, search the internet, connect with local religious or community organizations, and submit the applications early.

College Visits

7) We know now is not the right time to take a road trip but there are virtual tours online one can use in the meantime. However, when the situation is safe to travel again – take a road trip and visit colleges. Pay attention to off-the-beaten-track places on campus or in town. Keep a journal about the visit. Many colleges have a “why us” essay so on a campus visit think about what to include in that essay. Those essays can be extremely important, and one that discusses how a student connects to the college – whether it be about a favorite course, a professor with whom they wish to study or an obscure community haunt that makes them feel at home can make that essay truly stand out. This is an excellent reason to use a College Scoops guide and find out some best-kept secrets that can inspire a fun and compelling essay.

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Kate Sonnenberg, Author

Kate Sonnenberg is an independent educational consultant for Montclair-based KS College Success. Prior to launching her own consulting company, she was an application reader at Princeton University’s admissions office where she read thousands of undergraduate applications. Kate also volunteered for nearly a decade with the Princeton University Alumni Schools Committee and chaired the committee that interviewed students in northern New Jersey. She has also taught legal writing in law school and English composition at the National University of Singapore.

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