As you start the summer before your senior year, your thoughts should be focused on applying to college. And while you’re certainty in the homestretch of high school, there’s still work to do if you want to get into the college of your choice!

Of course, this is good news if you’re not sure how strong your application is right now. There’s still six months before college applications are due, which means you still have time to improve your chances of college admission — and these tips can help!

Don’t Let the Summer Go to Waste

What you do with your summers can be just as important to colleges as what you do during the school year. Don’t spend your whole summer lounging around by the pool!

There are tons of great activities you can participate in over the summer to impress potential colleges from getting a part-time job to volunteering with a local organization. It’ll be trickier to find something now that the season has already started, but don’t be discouraged!

Ask around at local shops, eateries, and volunteer centers — you might be surprised at how many are still looking for summer help. And don’t forget to reach out to friends and family who might know of the perfect place for a summer job or internship.

If you’ve already lined up a summer job, make the most of it! In fact, we’ve got great tips to help you stand out in the work place, no matter where you’re devoting your time this summer.

Keep Your Grades Up

It might be tempting to sit back and relax now that your GPA is pretty much set. Sure, a few average grades probably won’t change it much at this point. But colleges will still see your letter grades at the end of each semester.

In fact, the most competitive colleges are paying close attention to senior year grades, because they know that many seniors slack off right about now. So if you want to avoid getting on their radar for the wrong reasons, keep up those good grades!

And if you’re nervous your current GPA might be a little on the low side, now is also the perfect time to improve it. Even just going up a point or two can be helpful in showing potential colleges your serious about your future.

Don’t Fill Your Schedule with Joke Classes

Just as with your overall grades, it’s important that you don’t slack off senior year when it comes to class selection. This is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to your education.

Although it might be tempting to pick that “real-world” math class where you basically watch movies all year, if you’re looking to up your chances of college admission you’d do better to keep challenging yourself academically. Instead, why not opt for that honors Algebra II class?

Even better, if possible enroll in an AP class or two. Not only will this help to demonstrate you’re continued commitment to your studies, but you’ll also get the opportunity to take AP tests, which can count towards college credits.

You can still take part in some fun electives (especially if they demonstrate your interests and passions) just make sure your entire schedule isn’t filled with easy-A courses.

Become a Leader

Hopefully, you’re already involved in a few high school extracurricular activities. But maybe you’ve just blended in with the crowd over the last few years, attending club meetings or sports practices whenever possible without taking on too much commitment.

Well, now is the time to change that!

It’s your senior year, and you need to stand out to colleges, which means it’s time to step up and become a leader. Find out how to become a team captain, club president, or take on any other leadership position in high school. Then campaign your hardest and excel at the job once it’s yours. Not only will this improve your college application, but it will also give you some leadership experience that will help you in college and beyond!

If you’re not involved in any extracurriculars, there’s no time like the present! Don’t worry about going crazy joining tons of different teams and clubs, just commit to the ones you’re most excited about and work hard to leave your mark this year.

Retake Tests in the Fall

If you took the SAT or ACT your junior year, you should have your test results back. Compare them to the average scores at the schools you’re considering applying to.

If they’re pretty close and you feel you did the best you possibly could, you can relax and focus your efforts elsewhere. But if your test scores are below the average, or if you know you could do better, retake the test in the fall.

Fortunately, there are fall testing dates for both the SAT and ACT. Sign up for them now and start studying today so your test scores become a strong part of your college application.

Pro Tip: If you think you’re SAT or ACT scores aren’t likely to improve, consider applying to some accredited test optional schools — there’s over 800 of them.

Write a Killer Admissions Essay

One of the most important, in fact some might say the most important part of your college application is you personal statement or essay. This is your chance to show colleges who you are beyond academics and test scores.

Take time this summer to start drafting potential essays. It’s important to find the right topic — something that sets you apart from other applications and isn’t just another run-of-the-mill mission trip essay.

Almost anything can make a great admissions essay topic, as long as you approach it from the right angle and make applicable connections. Remember that Costco essay that got so much attention in 2016? Weird admission topics work! Go with your gut and you can’t loose.

And don’t forget! Once it’s written, make sure you have a teacher or mentor read it over for clarity and grammar.

Show an Interest in Your Top Choices

Many admissions departments do take into account how interested applicants seem. After all, they want to make sure you’re likely to accept their offer of admission. So make it clear that you really want to go to the schools you’re most interested in.

Senior year, you should schedule trips to all your top picks. Make sure you check in with the admissions officers once you arrive so they can answer any questions you have, and also so that they’re aware of your visit. You might even want to consider scheduling an overnight visit.

In addition, if there are any optional aspects of the application process, complete them. For example, you might have the option to submit a portfolio or have an interview. Doing them – and doing a great job, of course – will not only demonstrate your interest, but also help the admissions team see more of who you are as a person and not just a number.

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