21 Tips for College Prep During the Summer of Your Junior Year

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the rigor of junior year. Now, it’s onto the last year of high school. Senior year is filled with hard work, a healthy dose of nostalgia, and a lot of preparation if you plan to attend college. Before you focus on making memories during those final weeks of high school, you’ll have a long to-do list to complete. To help you get a jumpstart, we’ve put together 21 ways to get organized over the summer so you can take on senior year with confidence.

1. Research different types of schools 

As a high schooler, you might not be familiar with the variety of higher education options. You’ve certainly heard of traditional four-year, non-profit colleges and universities, but depending on your goals, another type of school might be better for you. Learn about community colleges, vocational schools, and other options before you start your college applications. 

2. Attend college fairs

A fun way to learn more about top colleges is to attend local or regional college fairs. These events bring together representatives from all types of institutions and provide an opportunity for prospective college students to ask questions in person. If college visits aren’t feasible for your time or budget, a college fair might be a perfect chance for you to chat with administrators from your top colleges and get a feel for each school.

3. Narrow down your college list 

Some students dream about their top school for years, while others might be lost amongst a sea of college brochures. Wherever you are on the college search spectrum, whittle down your list of schools this summer. And if you haven’t started a list yet: don’t stress. You still have plenty of time. Keep in mind that each college application will take a handful of hours – and cost money to submit. So, while you want to have a healthy mix of reach, target, and safety schools, don’t overextend yourself by applying to too many.

4. Reach out to friends who have graduated

Learning from those who have gone before you is worthwhile at any age. At this stage, it could save you a lot of time and energy in the college application process. Grab coffee with a friend who recently graduated and pick their brain about the admissions process. What went well for them? Did they make any mistakes that they could share? Ask thoughtful, respectful questions and you’ll probably walk away with a few insider tips.

5. Think about which classes you’ll take next year

While there are many aspects to a successful college application, demonstrating a rigorous courseload is chief among them. Use your time away from the classroom to brainstorm which classes you might want to take senior year. Are there any holes in your transcript you need to fill? Does it make sense to try to take an AP class to earn some college credit (which can save you money on tuition the next year)? If you’re interested in a specific degree program, does your school offer entry-level classes in that field? Start planning now and it’ll make your life easier come August. 

6. Research college majors

As you think through where to apply to college, research different majors and degree programs that the colleges on your list offer. If you’ve always wanted to be an architect, make sure you prioritize schools with architecture programs. It seems straightforward, but not every school offers every major, so it’s worthwhile to double-check. Not sure what to study? Don’t sweat it yet. You have plenty of time to figure that out, but it never hurts to start early. 

7. Map out college visits

Spending some time on a college campus can help you get a feel for how well you might fit at a certain school. Most schools allow prospective students to visit the campus and take a tour. Some may even allow you to sit in on a class, eat in the cafeteria, or spend the night in a dorm. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of schools, think through which ones you want to explore in person and set aside some dates for college visits. Can’t get away for an in-person tour? Many schools now offer virtual campus tours

8. Get to know your counselor

Many schools have guidance counselors who are solely dedicated to helping students navigate the college process. Reach out to your high school and see what type of resources they offer. Many school administrators have downtime during the summer, so this could be an ideal time to meet for coffee and get a jump on your to-do list. At the very least, you can send an email with a list of questions so that you can be prepared for senior year. 

9. Consider retaking the SAT or ACT

Hopefully, you’ve already taken the SAT or ACT at least once. If you haven’t had a chance, find the next testing date that works for you and sign up. If you’ve already taken the test, you might want to consider retaking it. On average, 63% of students improve their score with a retake. As a result of the pandemic, many schools stopped requiring test scores. However, a strong score could improve your overall application so taking a standardized test at least once is a smart idea.

10. Put together your resume

A stellar college application showcases more than high GPA. Most colleges and universities want to see students who have interests outside the classroom. Put together a first draft of your resume and evaluate how you appear on paper. Have you held part-time jobs? Do you take part in extracurricular activities? Have you spent any time giving back to your community? Identify where you can improve in the eyes of a college admissions officer, and use this information to inform how you might spend the rest of your summer. 

11. Get a summer job or internship

If your resume is looking light, consider finding a part-time job or internship. Summer jobs can be meaningful opportunities to earn money, add some depth to your resume, and give you insight into future career paths. Many students might think they’re interested in one field and then realize it’s not right for them after a summer job. Or, your part-time job could confirm your interest in a certain career path, which might be a prime topic for a college essay. 

12. Plan your extracurricular activities

Looking at your resume, identify the extracurricular activities you might want to get more involved in. Or, if you need to add some extracurriculars to help your application shine, decide what those could be and research how to sign up. 

13. Volunteer 

Another extracurricular that looks great on college applications? Community service. Find causes that you’re passionate about and give back. There are plenty of national organizations looking for volunteers, but you’ll be surprised at how many local ones could use the help if you ask. No matter if you supervise kids at a day camp, walk dogs for an animal shelter, or gather your friends for a beach clean-up, a commitment to the world around you will help your college and scholarship applications shine (and make you feel good, too). 

14. Brainstorm your college essays

From college essays to scholarship essays, the college application process requires a lot of writing. Start brainstorming different essay topics and use the space from schoolwork to get creative. Think through what makes you unique. Identify meaningful life experiences. Read successful essays and study how to approach essay topics. If you’re really feeling proactive, you might even get a jump on writing a first draft or two. 

15. Discuss finances with your parents

Don’t let the sticker price of a degree prevent you from pursuing your education. It’s never too soon to start having financial conversations with your parents about how you’ll afford your degree. While talking about money can feel uncomfortable, these conversations will have a massive impact on your college planning process. Do your parents plan to contribute financially to your degree? How much are they expecting you to contribute? Are student loans something you might want to pursue? Ask your parents to be as honest as possible and don’t shy away from tough questions.

16. Organize financial documents

After you’ve nailed down the specifics about your family’s finances, get organized. If you need a cheat sheet for senior year, Going Merry put together a College Planning Checklist that can help rising seniors stay on track for each season. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) usually opens on October 1st, but was delayed until December 30th 2023. Before starting your application, locate necessary financial documents like tax returns and bank statements. Sometimes these can be hard to track down, so get a headstart and create a folder where you can reference these at one time. Make sure you don’t miss out on any financial aid (because some of it is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis).

17. Start the scholarship search

Speaking of affording your education, college scholarships can provide a meaningful amount of money to put toward tuition, books, and more. The summer of your junior year is the perfect time to start identifying and applying for awards. Search for scholarships, create a list, and get a headstart on your applications. There are a number of scholarship opportunities out there for all types of students – and Going Merry curates only high-quality scholarship awards

On Going Merry, you can create a profile and we’ll match you to awards that you’re already eligible for. Then, we’ll even help you save documents and apply to groups of scholarships all with a few clicks of your mouse. 

18. Create a calendar of deadlines

From college and scholarship applications to SAT tests and prom, there are so many deadlines and important dates to keep track of during your senior year. Create a master calendar of application deadlines and due dates. You might even consider putting together a college application schedule to plan out when you’ll plan to complete each part of your application. With all these dates mapped out, it’ll be easier to stay on track, and you won’t have to worry about missing the homecoming football game because you’re up against an application deadline.

19. Think about letters of recommendation 

Like well-written essays, a well-written recommendation letter can be what takes an application from good to great –– and the key to the best recommendation letter is asking the right people. The ideal writer is someone who knows you well, understands your future goals, and can speak to your character. Before school starts, think through the various adults who you could ask for a letter of recommendation. The criteria for each application will vary but safe bets tend to be teachers, coaches, mentors, or bosses. 

20. Ask your parents for help

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, ask a parent or guardian to step in. There’s a lot your parents can do to support you during this time — and reaching out for help will make them feel involved and respected. Plus, working on college applications together can be a memorable chance to bond and learn new things about each other. 

21. Rest, recharge, and have some fun 

In less than a year, you might be going away to a college far outside your hometown. And high school is an important life chapter – so try not to get too bogged down by your work. While it’s smart to use the summer to get organized for college application season, don’t forget to relax, recharge, and have some fun this summer, too. 

Get matched to scholarships with Going Merry

The final year of high school can be taxing. This summer, get ahead of your senior year to-dos and save yourself some stress. One thing you can take off your plate today? The scholarship search.

Going Merry curates thousands of lucrative awards to help you afford your college degree. And we make it easy to find the right scholarship programs just for you. Simply sign up for Going Merry, create a profile, and populate it with your details. Then, we’ll match you with scholarships you’re already eligible for. Ready to start? Get your first scholarship matches today.


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