nb–Please note that my views about this might be different than advice you hear from other sites. I believe there’s no such thing as one size fits all, and that it’s good to hear different thoughts and ideas, so you can then make decisions about what works best for you.  



Get involved with stuff:

  • Yourself (exercise healthy habits, personal hobbies and projects, READ real books,  practice mindfulness, meditation??‍ ).
  • Your family (help with sibs, grocery shopping, clean up around the house, take care of dinner one night a week).
  • Your community (community service—can be totally individual projects and/or organized group projects).

Get a summer job.

  • Just an old fashioned summer job. This will give you all sorts of skills you won’t gain by volunteering and also demonstrate leadership, diligence, a willingness to step outside your comfort zone, and determination. 

Practice and prep for the PSAT. ??

  • You take it in October and it helps you qualify for national merit if you score high enough.

Practice and prep for the ACT and SAT. 

  • Take a couple of practice tests and see which one feels better to you and which one you score higher on. Then move forward with that one.
  • Consider taking one in December of junior year.  
  • Definitely take one in early spring semester. It’s nice to have testing completed before you start senior year.

Take SAT subject tests

  • especially if you are considering applying to highly selective schools.
  • Take one or two in August that fit with classes you’ve just studied.  

Start Your Resume.

  • If you haven’t already, make a list of all your activities you’ve been involved in since freshman year.  
  • Keep in mind that basically anything you do outside of class time, homework, and test prep counts as an EC, so that includes old fashioned summer or part time jobs, home and family responsibilities, elderly and child care, personal projects and hobbies, and independent research, in addition to the more traditional research, internships, and in and out of school clubs and sports.
  • If you use coalition app, you can start on your locker. Lee this list updated throughout the next two years.

Enjoy your summer. ?

  • This is super important.  You need to take time to recharge your batteries?.
  • That’s part of being Involved with yourself.
  • Be sure to just take some time completely off from school and college admissions stuff.


Pretty much all of the summer stuff applies still.  Add to that:

Take the hardest course load you comfortably can.

  • Colleges say that your course rigor is more important than your grades and test scores.
  • Remember they evaluate you in the context of your school. So don’t worry about classes that aren’t offered.

Get to know your teachers. 

  • Visit them at office hours. This will help your relationships and grades.
  • You will be asking them for teacher recommendations later.

Keep up your grades.

Read. Read. Read.

  • Reading will improve your test scores and your essay writing.

Stay involved with everything I listed for summer and also get involved with your school.

  • Join a club or two that interests you.
  • Create a club if you don’t see one that interests you.
  • Or just do individual activities that add to your school environment.

Keep prepping and practicing for ACT and SAT.  Start testing in the late fall or early spring.



Letters of Recommendation

  • Ask two or three teachers who know you best to write your letters.
  • I encourage you to ask junior year teachers who teach you in core academic subjects.

College Visits

  • Start visiting colleges if you can.  
  • Look around in your city or town. Visit large schools and small schools. It doesn’t matter if it’s a college you think you would consider or not.
  • Just go to start thinking about what feels right to you.  Just hang out on campus. You don’t have to do a tour or info session if you’re not ready for that yet.
  • If you can go on College Visits for schools you might find interesting, do so. Be sure at this point to sign in and go on the tour and info session, but also just wander around.
  • Sit on a bench and eavesdrop on conversations.  Do you like what you hear?
  • Talk to students. Ask them what they’d like to change about their school. Or what they do on a Wednesday night? Don’t be shy. They remember what it was like to be a prospie and even if they are annoyed by your questions, who cares? They don’t know you and won’t remember you. Just move on and find a kinder person.  
  • Check out the dining hall and the gym.
  • Look for the area near campus where kids hang out if there is one.
  • Lots of kids try to go on spring break trips to visit colleges if it’s affordable. If you can’t afford to visit out of your area, at the very least check out the colleges near you to get the feel for the kind of vibe that works for you.

College List

Start thinking about what you want in a college and compile a big ole list.  It’s ok to have a ton of schools on this initial list. As you explore yourself and the colleges more as you go through the admissions journey, you will naturally begin to filter schools out.

Think about these six fits:

  • Financial : will you need full financial aid? Will you qualify? Will you qualify for any aid? Do you need full merit aid? These are important considerations.  You and your parents need to spend some time thinking about this and going through net price calculators on various college websites.
  • Geographic : what areas of the country appeal to you?  Open your mind here, too. I can’t tell you how many kids say no Deep South or Midwest without really thinking about it, and in doing so, they are depriving themselves of some amazing options and merit aid. Also, do you want urban?  Do you want rural? Do you want an enclosed campus or one that’s incorporated into the cityscape? Do you want beaches? Mountains? Corn fields? Do you wanna get out of your comfort zone here or stay with the familiar?
  • Weather:  also important. If you really really hate the cold, then moving to Boston or Chicago or Maine might not appeal to you. If you have to have four seasons, then the Midwest or the northeast might have good options.
  • School Culture : are you looking for that stereotypical American big college experience with the big game ?on the weekends? Or are you looking for the quirky school? Or something that has it all?
  • School Size:  do you want a big ole state school with loads of options? Or are you looking for something smaller or even mid sized? Do you want discussion based classes where you can develop strong relationships with your professors or are do you want to be in big lectures where you can take notes or go to sleep?
  • Potential Major:  if you don’t have one, don’t worry. You have plenty of time to figure that out and it actually frees you up a bit.  If you do think you know, research some schools that might be strong in your major. Maybe touch base with a professor or two.

This requires putting a lot of thought ? into what you want out of your experience and about who you are and who you want to be. It doesn’t require pulling out USNWR and listing the top twenty schools.

Essential Books about College Admissions:

  • The Fiske Guide
  • Colleges that Change Lives
  • Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be.  


  • Make a No College Talk Zone in your house.  At my house it was our dining room table.  This will help you and your parents keep your sanity during the next year.  

New College Email Address ?

  • Make a new college only email address to use for college applications and communications.
  • Make it appropriate!  This is important because then all your info from colleges wont get mixed up in your other emails.
  • I encourage you to allow your parents to have access to it if you feel comfortable with it.  
  • Be sure to check your junk, trash, and spam inboxes so you don’t miss important info!

Get in touch or make contact with your high school counselor.  

  • They have a lot of knowledge and can guide you along the way.  

College Info Sessions

  • If a college comes to your town or close to your town or your school, go listen.  Make sure you sign up and sign in.

College Fairs

  • go to them! Talk.  Ask questions. Learn.



All the same stuff as junior summer.  (So, rising seniors, read the junior summer info).

Finish up testing. SAT, ACT and subject tests

Summer Job

Be involved

Take time to recharge batteries

Take time to care for your mental health and your body.  ??‍??‍

  • Learn more about meditation, mindfulness, or yoga.  
  • Get outside and walk or run.
  • Listen to music.
  • Have dance parties in your room.
  • Breathe.  
  • Listen to books or podcasts.
  • Hang out with friends.


  • Write like a motherf*cker as one of my favorite writers, Cheryl Strayed says.
  • Write about yourself.
  • Don’t worry too much about the essays just yet.
  • Just write. Everyday.
  • Get used to your voice. Figure out who you are.
  • Use themostdangerouswritingapp.com to force yourself to just get words on paper.
  • This will help you get that Personal Statement ready to go by October 1.  

Think and Practice Writing the Personal Essay

  • Remember–no matter which prompt you choose or which kind of vehicle or conceit you use to relay your message, the topic is YOU.  
  • Just focus on teaching the admissions officers about who you are.
  • Don’t worry about being unique; worry about who you are.
  • Don’t worry about standing out; worry about sticking with the reader.  You do that by creating connections and bonds. Those are created by opening yourself up and letting them inside.
  • Let the reader know what’s happening inside you. They want to know what you think about, what you believe, and what you value.  
  • They don’t need to hear a whole lot more about what you’ve already told them in other areas of your application.
  • Focus on More Expressing, Less Impressing.
  • If you’ve read this far and you’re interested in some more materials for creating a less-stress Personal Statement, get in touch.  

Make a common app and coalition account.  

  • Start filling out the details like activities, family info, and educational background.  

Update your resume.

Sign up for information from any college you’re interested in

  • even if they’re already sending you stuff.

Visit Colleges if you can.

Your List 

  • Start narrowing down your list—including a wide range of selectivities.

Make sure you have a SFSS (sure fire safety school) ?

  • This is one that guarantees you auto admission based on your stats, that is a financial fit for you, and in a place where you can see yourself.
  • Don’t take this lightly. This is a very important school–maybe even your most important one.  

Keeping in touch with Colleges

  • Sign up to “request info” from the colleges if you haven’t already.  
  • Also, I recommend that you follow the admissions offices on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for your colleges on your list or potential list. They often put out a lot of helpful information for what’s happening in their offices.
  • I suggest following Common App, too.  
  • Also, it’s ok to contact your regional college admissions officers or the general front desk with questions.



All of the above….

Finish up any college visits

  • especially for Early Decision possibilities.

College List:

  • Begin to narrow your college list.
  • Make sure you have one or two surefire safeties that you love and that will be good financial fits, and then a collection of matches/reaches.  

College Spreadsheet

  • Make a spreadsheet for all your colleges.
  • Add application deadlines.
  • Supplemental Essay topics–and look for overlap.
  • Testing info.
  • Contact info for your regional officer.

Early Action

  • Try to apply to as many schools by Early Action as are available.
  • Make a calendar of deadlines and work through them one by one.  

Letters of Recommendation

  • Check back in with your recommenders.  
  • Send them a reminder email and stop by if you can.  
  • Be sure to give them a big thank you!

High School Guidance Counselor

  • Check in with your guidance counselor or college counselor if you aren’t in regular contact.  

SAT/ACT/Subject Tests

  • Finish up any testing you have left to do.
  • Send scores to your colleges if they require you to send them through the testing agencies.


  • Start writing your essays.
  • Focus first on your Personal Statement.  
  • Then categorize your supplemental essays by due dates.
  • How many Why College Essays do you have?
  • When’s the first one due?  
  • Then, organize the Why Major Essays and the ExtraCurricular Essays.
  • Think about whether you want/need to write an Additional Info essay. And then group the others.  
  • Try to get the Personal Statement done by October 1.


  • If you are deferred Early Decision, be sure to write a LOCI (Letter of Continued Interest).



Finish up applications

Sure Fire Safety School?

  • Make sure you have a sure fire safety school. If you don’t, look for good fits for you that are still accepting apps.

Keep up your grades

Take time to care for your mental health and your body

  • Learn more about meditation, mindfulness, or yoga.  
  • Get outside ? and walk or run‍.
  • Listen to music ?.
  • Have dance parties in your room ??.  
  • Waiting for those decisions can be brutal.
  • Breathe.
  • Acknowledge that once those little baby ?? applications have flown away from your computer, you no longer have control.

Emotional Planning

  • Plan for the worst, but hope for the best ?.
  • Recognize that many colleges you might be interested in are extremely selective, and even if they’re not, they might be holistic.
  • Don’t get too connected to any college except for your surefire safety.  


  • Think about what you are grateful for.  
  • What are the good things in your life?
  • Try to make a mental list every day.

Enjoy these last few months of high school. Connect with friends and family.

Whew! I think I’m done!