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The Do's and Don'ts of your Junior Summer

Summer is almost upon us and many of my students -- particularly my Junior students -- are already stressing about how they should spend their summer. On one hand, they want to relax with their friends, go to the beach, catch up on the latest Netflix series. On the other, they want to make sure they do everything they can to boost their resume before applying to colleges. And, oh yeah, maybe they should get a jump on their college apps. Or prep for one last shot at the ACT.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution to how you should spend your Junior summer, here are a few suggestions that can be beneficial to almost any student.


  1. Make a plan of attack for college applications: Applying to college can seem overwhelming. But they it doesn’t need to be.

  2. In June, start by listing all the colleges you’re interested in. Then determine which ones are feasible to visit over the summer. Schedule a campus visit with those schools. Meanwhile, create a Common Application account and a Naviance account. For any schools they don’t use the Common App, make additional accounts (Grr, just use the common app already all colleges!). Finally, make a list of all the essays required for your list of colleges. Make sure to include the supplementary essays. Often these can be difficult to find and for some colleges they are more difficult than the main essay. Put all the essays in one Google Document file and start thinking about possible topics.

  3. In July, start working on your essays. Remember: College want to hear what you have to say. Not what your parents think you should say. Be yourself but make sure that you have plenty of people read your essays to provide advice and editing. Also: Avoid the cliche. No one needs to read another essay about how much you learned from the students you worked with on your volunteer trip. We get it. The trip was amazing. Now come up with a fresh topic to write about.

  4. In August, start finalizing your essays and fill in the “busy work” sections of the common and college-specific applications. Most of the application questions are standard. However, it is good to get help with the extracurricular section. Make sure you have someone read through the application for any mistakes. Hot tip: You can print the applications before submitting them. It’s always a good idea to print and then read through them. There’s no need to submit the applications this early unless you are applying Early Action or Early Decision. However, getting all your busy work done in August will make your senior fall much MUCH easier.

  5. One last dance with the ACT: If you aren’t satisfied with your ACT score, July is a great time to start prepping for the September exam. In particular, math and reading take a while to develop. Summer is a great time to boost these sections because you aren’t bogged down with school work. The biggest piece of advice is to read, read, and read.

  6. Have Fun: This is your last summer as a high school student. Make plans with friends. Go to the beach. Watch your favorite show. Read your favorite book. Ok, maybe that last one is just my idea of fun. Also, give your parents and siblings a break and spend a little time with them. Once you’re off to college in a few years, life will get busy and you’ll spend less time with family. I know how cringeworthy the ‘rents can be. But throw them a bone, and spend a little quality, cringeworthy time with them this summer.

  7. Do something with your summer: Get a job. Go on a trip. Volunteer. Work at a camp. Heck, go to camp. Go camping. Mow your neighbors yard. Finish the final last Harry Potter book. Have dance parties with your friends. Don’t waste your whole summer staring at your phone or watching Fortnite videos wishing you had something to do. Go do it instead.

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