Use summer to prepare for college applications | On College column

Though it is a much needed opportunity to catch-up on relaxation that is so hard to come by during the school year, summer is also the perfect time for seniors and families alike to create a game-plan as the college application season looms.

Without the time constraints of sports, clubs and other extra-curriculars, students have a change to get organized and avoid being overwhelmed and caught off-guard later on as deadlines rapidly approach.

The first step for beginning to prepare is to visit the webpage for each school of choice and more specifically, explore the admission page.

In my own practice, I have students create a tracking form—any generic spreadsheet will do—and list each school’s policies on early decision, early action and regular decision, whether or not it is on the Common App, which tests are required, whether or not interviews are conducted, if specific majors ask for different materials, etc. Some schools, like Dartmouth, require a recommendation from a peer and summer is a great time to ask a close relation when he/she is likely to have more time to devote to it. Also, spending some time studying the admitted student profile is an efficient way to understand which schools are even within the realm of possibility and which ones might not be worth pursuing.

Beginning Aug. 1, the Common App is open for registration. Students can create a login and then enter schools to see what supplemental questions are required on top of the standard essay.

I often advise students to print out all the supplemental prompts, lay them out, and then see which questions overlap and where material can be recycled to minimize the workload.

This is also a great way to get an accurate sense of the rigor of the upcoming essay-writing process and just how much time needs to be set aside before students start piling on too many commitments come September.

Finally, students should create a organization system, like a binder or marked accordion folder, to store research about each school, materials received in the mail as well as a comprehensive list of passwords for the myriad of online resources such as Naviance, the Common App and College Board in order to have all the information in one place.

Though this may seem like a lot of work during the summer, the reward comes several months from now when the college application process feels manageable and late nights spent stressing can be eliminated.

Joan Franklin is the owner of MI College Support, an independent college counseling practice ( She can be reached at (206) 232-5626 or

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