Summer begins June 21. Even though that's about three weeks away, many high school seniors have already begun their “summers." They have graduated, completed their college processes and are now looking forward to ramping up their preparations for the start of college. This is a very exciting time, with a little bit of anxiety thrown in to make things interesting.
Senior year can be exhausting for those seeking college admission. The process these days certainly isn't like it was in my day. All I did was find a couple colleges that I liked that were fairly close to home, fill out a two-page paper application, and wait for the outcomes. Today things are as different from that process as a Tesla Model 3 is from a Ford Model T.
Today's college admissions process can seem like a marathon. Most of you college-bound seniors have completed your marathon and are now finishing up your final high school years, if you haven't already graduated. Of course, life presents a number of marathons.
Your educational journey so far has been a marathon, from preschool through this school year. Yet another marathon awaits: college. After college, perhaps the longest marathon of all looms. Maybe we should call it an ultra-marathon -- your life's work. It's something that extends for decades and has many twists and turns. So take a deep breath and get ready for some workouts!
My words of wisdom today are not so much about you, but about those who have helped you get to the end of both your educational and college admissions marathons. I also want to discuss the summer that lies ahead and how you can make the most of it.
Here at the very end of your senior year, it's important that you take stock of what you've accomplished and who has offered a helping hand. Take a look at the end of your high school career and make sure you stay on top of details.
One area that many seniors overlook is showing appreciation to teachers, counselors and even parents for all the support they provided during the college selection and admission process. Take a moment right now to think back over all those who helped you along the way. There may have been one or two special teachers who provided the inspiration you needed to decide on a specific college field of study.
There are those teachers who wrote recommendations for you. The art of writing a good recommendation is very special. If you had success getting into your first-choice college, chances are that the recommendations that accompanied your application played an important role in the admissions committee's decision to admit you.
Your college counselor may have also played an important part in your college process success. College counselors are supposed to be part coach, part teacher, part advocate and part friend. At some schools, counselors are extremely overloaded with students, thus making the building of a close relationship quite difficult. Sometimes, though, even under trying circumstances, students and counselors develop a special relationship that brings rewards to both of them. Maybe this has been your experience.
And what about mom and dad? Sometimes parents don't know a lot about the college process, but they give you plenty of support. High schoolers frequently overlook all the little things parents contribute to the college process such as helping with application preparation, traveling to prospective colleges, discussing your feelings and aspirations and so forth. So what should you do?
Showing your appreciation in some way is a quality gesture. Send a thank-you note to the teachers and your counselor. As for your parents, perhaps you could take them out for lunch, wash the family car or cut the grass. The important thing is to make sure that these folks know that you appreciate what they've done. Saying thanks for a job well done is something you'll never regret.
Plan for the Pre-College Summer
So now, what about your pre-college summer? Thinking about hanging at the mall with your friends and/or sending 300 text messages every day? Just what -- exactly -- is on your to-do list for summer?
Maybe you haven't really thought about what to do this summer between high school and college. If you haven't, I have some suggestions for you. The important thing is not to waste this summer. You can still do most of the things you have fantasized about (the mall, texting, social media, etc.) -- in moderation -- while you do some constructive things. So what are those “constructive" things?
Well, I did some research for you. Some of the most practical advice I found about pre-college summers comes from an older article by Jeremy Hyman and Lynn Jacobs, writing in the U.S. News education section. Their advice is still right on the mark today. Here are a few of their 15 Good Things to Do the Summer Before College that will allow you to “position yourself well for classes in the fall."
1. Go to orientation. If you're just starting out at college, get to the first orientation session you can. Not only does the school give you key information about where things are on campus, you get to pick courses which, come Labor Day, will be “wait-listed." And while you're at orientation, it wouldn't be a bad idea to check out the dorm and eating facilities, so you'll know what you're up against.
3. Friend your roommate. Initiate contact by email, Facebook or Skype. You might find your roommate and you share lots of interests and, in any case, you can set dorm “ground rules" about visitors, quiet/noise and lights out.
5. Improve your mind. Pick a book you've been meaning to read and read it. Before you hit the pack of required readings, it's nice to reconnect with the love of learning for its own sake.
7. Get wired. If you don't have a notebook, netbook or tablet, now would be a great time to get one. Retailers have specials every week, and you don't want to be the only one at college unable to take notes, do research and social network electronically.
10. Make a deal with your parents. Now's the time to avert any future conflicts about how often you'll be coming home, and how often you want to hear from your folks while you're at school. Make sure you're on the same page on these issues; it will save a lot of grief later.
13. Get yourself checked up. Along with your wheels, your body might need a tune-up. So get to your doctor and make sure everything is in order before you head out. It's a good idea, too, to have any prescriptions refilled. While colleges usually have health services on campus, they vary in quality. And you'll feel more comfortable talking to a doctor you already know.
These points, and the remaining nine, offer solid advice. By the way, are you thinking about a summer program to get a jump on freshman year? If so (and this can apply to both seniors and high school underclass students), here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How much of the summer do you want to commit to school? Programs can range from five days to eight weeks.
- Where do you want to stay? Do you want a residential program where you live in dorms with other students, or would you prefer to live at home, attending school only during the day?
- How much can you spend on summer school? If the answer is nothing, are free programs available in your state or school district?
Finding summer programs isn't as hard as it used to be. Here's an excellent place to start. You'll find top, affordable and fully paid programs among these search results.
So, seniors, summer and college loom. Be sure to end your senior year on a positive note by making sure that you've covered all the bases. Thank those who have helped you attain your college goals and give some serious thought to how the upcoming summer can become a contributing component of a strong transition to college. It will be good training for that next marathon!