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Countdown to college: More summer advice for rising seniors

Lee Shulman Bierer, Tribune News Service on

Published in Education News

If there is one tip I’d like to share with rising seniors, it would be to get organized this summer. Plan, revise the plan and then stick to it.

I know planning is almost antithetical to many teenagers, but the college admissions process presents an ever-changing landscape with lots of moving parts.

Things to think about over the summer:


The testing arena continues to evolve. Many colleges are continuing to be test-optional for the 2021-22 application season. I’ve suggested that my students prepare a simple testing grid that identifies which schools are test-optional and which have alerted students that even though they were test-optional last year, they will be requiring standardized testing this year. Many colleges that have yet to decide, so check each of their websites to find out where they stand.

Once you know the testing landscape of your college list, then plan accordingly. If you’re likely to have time this summer to prep for your testing, take advantage of it and register for the ACT in July or September, or the SAT in July. You will feel so much better if you don’t have the extra weight of test prep on your plate in the fall of your senior year.



Many of you have already asked your teachers for letters of recommendation, and now is the time finalize your résumé/brag sheet so that the recommenders can write a more compelling letter of recommendation. Make sure you’ve put together a resume that is in reverse chronological order, with your most current activities and most consistent activities at the top. I think it’s easier if you break your items into groups of extracurricular activities, community service, summer experiences, interning/job shadowing, employment and honors/scholarships and awards. If you really want to prepare your résumé for your applications, add how many hours per week and weeks per year you participate in each activity.


Now is the perfect time to mull over the Common Application prompts to see which ones resonate most with you and your life experiences. Read some articles and visit college websites for tips and strategies on getting started with your essay.

Don’t forget that there is a new prompt this year: “Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?”


The college admissions process has lots of moving parts, and one of the most confusing for families is deciding when to apply. Make sure you understand the differences between Early Decision (binding), Early Action (non-binding), Restricted Early Action and Single Choice Early Action. That's a lot of acronyms, but understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each and which schools offer which programs is important.

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