Timing IS everything… get with the program this summer

The old adage is true, especially when it comes to the college admissions timeline.

You may wonder… “Is it really that big a deal? You pick a few schools, write a few essays and you’re done — what’s everyone getting so anxious about?”

What you do, how you do it and sometimes most importantly when you do it really does matter. Keeping track of all the moving parts and deadlines in the college admissions process is what turns normally level-headed, savvy adults into nagging, insomniac timekeepers.

Here’s a brief outline with many of the crucial steps that high school juniors need to accomplish during the summer break. 

• Testing: Juniors should now know whether they are “SAT Kids” or “ACT Kids” – i.e, which is the best standardized test for them. At this point they have likely taken both tests and hopefully have a preference. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having waited too long and having no testing information, I recommend you research organizations that provide a diagnostic which provides an opportunity to see results from both tests. 

Check to see if the colleges you’re considering require or recommend taking any of the SAT Subject Tests (formerly known as SAT IIs). Note that not all SAT Subject Tests are given on all test dates.

Schools use these tests in a variety of ways including placement in courses and “placing out” of required classes.

• Transcript review:  Meet with your guidance counselor to review your senior year schedule. Confirm that all graduation requirements will be met. Understand how the GPA (Grade Point Average) is calculated and how your senior year courses can affect your first-semester GPA and rank in class (if your high school ranks students). Remember that from a college’s perspective, nothing is more important than the rigor of a student’s curriculum and their performance in those classes. What that means is that students who receive straight A’s but have failed to take any AP classes will be considered less desirable than students who choose to challenge themselves and receive a smattering of B’s. 

• College Search: Review your preliminary list of colleges that interest you and research each of the schools using the Internet, talking to friends, family and alumni. Visit colleges over the summer if sports and extra curricular activities will prevent you from visiting or re-visiting colleges during the fall.

• Summer Plans: This is not the summer to be working on your tan.

Make this summer count. Do something meaningful, volunteer, get a job, travel, take a class on a college campus, intern, job-shadow, create your own summer camp or design a website. There are hundreds of opportunities out there.

Try to identify something that you’ll both enjoy and be certain it will add value to your college application.


• Choose your summer activities by design, not by default.

• Check out www.youniversitytv.com for a video low-down on colleges.

• Make sure students have a Social Security number. It is required on many college applications.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte: lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com;

www.college admissionsstrategies.com