5 Summer College Application Tips for Rising High School Seniors


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For many high school students, summers are a time to hang by the pool, work a summer job, or simply take some time off from coursework and extracurricular demands. Whether your summer plans involve serving tables, lounging on the shore, or obsessively watching every Olympic event, we recommend five simple steps that won’t overly detract from your summer vacation but will give you a leg up in the college admissions process. If you follow this advice, you stand a much better chance of avoiding a potential meltdown during the frenetically-paced autumn months that loom ahead.

1. Request Letters of Recommendation

Separate yourself from the panicked masses who, in a few months time, will be begging their favorite teacher(s) to crank out a recommendation 48 hours before their application deadline. Fact: Recommenders will appreciate your proactive approach and may even use the extra time to write a more thoughtful, detailed letter. Additional tips include supplying your recommender with a resume (tip #4) to better inform their testimonial as well as picking an individual who knows you intimately rather than someone prominent who doesn’t know you at all (admissions officers see mountains of generic letters from elected officials signed in autopen).

Some private schools like the Ravenscroft or Charlotte Country Day, for example, ensure that students receive recommendation letters through their college counseling program. The process is usually different in local public high schools such as Leesville Road or West Charlotte where the responsibility usually falls upon the student to go to their assigned counselor and/or teachers to request letters of recommendation. Be sure to check with your high school counselor to find out how you or your student should request recommendations.

2. Create a Common App Account and Write the Common App Essay

The Common App announced last fall that students will now be able to rollover their account for the 2016-17 application cycle, meaning that students can go ahead and create their account, even though the 2016-17 application won’t technically launch until Aug. 1.

Earlier this year, the Common App released their essay prompts for the 2016-17 admissions cycle, which means students can begin writing now. Of course, your first challenge is to brainstorm and pick a personal and compelling topic on which to write. Let’s define those words in the context of the college essay. By personal, we mean talk about something that happened to you, where you are at the heart of the action. If you write about a trip to Haiti and chronicle the culture of the Haitian people, then the essay is not really about you – it might as well be a homework assignment. Colleges want to know who you are and how you view the world – the essay may be your only chance to provide them with this type of insight, so it’s worth spending a fair amount of time to craft your message.

Notable NC colleges on the Common App:

  • Davidson College
  • Duke University
  • Guilford College
  • High Point University
  • Johnson & Wales University
  • Meredith College
  • North Carolina State University
  • Queens University of Charlotte
  • Salem College
  • UNC Asheville
  • UNC Chapel Hill
  • UNC Wilmington
  • Wake Forest University
  • Warren Wilson College

Other prominent colleges in the Southeast who are Common App members:

  • Agnes Scott College (GA)
  • College of William & Mary (VA)
  • Emory University (GA)
  • Furman University (SC)
  • Georgia Institute of Technology (GA)
  • Morehouse College (GA)
  • New College of Florida (FL)
  • Rhodes College (TN)
  • Savannah College of Art and Design (GA)
  • Sewanee: The University of the South (TN)
  • University of Miami (FL)
  • University of Richmond (VA)
  • University of Tennessee Knoxville (TN)
  • University of Virginia (VA)
  • Vanderbilt University (TN)
  • Washington and Lee University (VA)
  • Wofford College (SC)

For a complete listing of all current Common App member institutions, click here.

3. Demonstrate Interest

Carve out a few moments to show your prospective colleges some love by demonstrating interest. Trust us, with yield rates (the percentage of admitted students who enroll) causing admissions officers many restless nights, making schools feel wanted can leave a favorable impression. Whether or not a student showed interest through a campus visit, an email to an admissions counselor or by requesting information through the university website can become a factor come admission time. Colleges want great students, but they really want great students who are genuinely interested in attending their institution.

Local NC colleges where “demonstrated interest” is important:

  • Brevard College
  • Elizabeth City State University
  • Gardner-Webb University
  • Greensboro College
  • Guilford College
  • High Point University
  • Johnson C. Smith University
  • Mars Hill University
  • Pfeiffer University
  • Warren Wilson College
  • Western Carolina University

4. Complete the Students' Activities Resume

When it comes to listing your extracurricular achievements, the goal is not to fill a single-spaced page in 6-point font with a record of every single action you’ve ever taken as a human being. Admission officers are looking for depth over breadth and want to see evidence of leadership, commitment and flourishing passion that will carry over to their respective campus. In other words, leave off that afternoon as a freshman when you attended a Model U.N. interest meeting, only to embarrassingly realize that it was not, as you assumed, a club for building miniature replicas of embassy buildings.

Focus on listing your school involvement, such as clubs, sports teams, leadership positions, etc. Also, be sure to include off-campus activities, like babysitting, summer jobs or the time you helped with setting up an entire computer network at your relative's company. Be sure to also list AP courses, GPA, standardized test scores, work, volunteerism, and anything else that may be significant. Lastly, don't forget to mention those honors and awards you've earned during your high school career.

5. Finalize your College List

Developing your college list can be much more challenging than it sounds. It’s easy to get caught up dreaming about one’s top choice school, yet it’s important to have not just multiple irons in the fire, but the right irons (all you blacksmiths out there know what I’m talkin’ about!). Remember that admission to Ivy and other uber-selective colleges can never be taken for granted, so you’ll need to diversify that portfolio. Also make sure to pick at least one financial safety school in case you end up on the short end of the merit aid chase.

Rising seniors, enjoy this well-earned respite from hard work. Relish the opportunity to enjoy a late breakfast while taking in a Germany/Tunisia triple-OT handball matchup in Rio. However, if you can also spare a few hours here and there to work on the above activities, you will thank yourself in just a few short months.

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College Transitions is a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. As counselors and published higher education researchers, we aim to bring perspective (and some sanity) to college planning, and we strive to provide students with the support they need to enroll and succeed at a college that is right for them. Learn more at collegetransitions.com

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Calendar

January 2019

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Christ Episcopal Church of Downtown Raleigh is excited to announce its annual Run for Young 5K, a family-friendly race for the young and young at heart with a mission to raise awareness for teen...

Cost: $25-$30

Where:
Christ Episcopal Church
120 E Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Christ Episcopal Church
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Public bus transportation demystified! Find out how easy it is to map out a bus trip. Learn about door to door transportation and how to sign up for services. Uber and Lyft information will be...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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Children make treasured memories while increasing their knowledge of plants and animals. Ages 7-10. Register online. Choose course #121612.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Build a snowman for the wildlife this winter. In their book, A Stranger in the Woods, C. Sams and J. Stoick create an exciting story for young children to discover the joy of winter wildlife. Dress...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Nature Peekers: Bone Bones Dinosaur Bones Tuesday, Jan 15, 10:30-11a.m. Enjoy some sensory stations that let us look at dinosaurs- inside and out! We’ll read Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones by...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Discover the magical world of healing herbs to make lip balms and healing salves. Ages 5-10. Register online with course #119559.

Cost: $16/resident, $20/nonresident

Where:
Page-Walker Arts & History Center
119 Ambassador Loop
Cary, NC  27513
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Learn what wild animals do in winter as they hibernate, migrate and stay warm in the cold woods. Ages 3-5 with an adult. Enjoy a hike, make a craft and learn how to help...

Cost: $3; no fee for accompanying adult

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
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Ages 11 and older with special needs practice yoga and explore the many ways to do sun salutations. Register online. Choose course #121438.

Cost: $9/resident, $11/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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In honor of Squirrel Appreciation Day, come learn all about our familiar furry friends! NC is home to five different squirrels, we will have several mounts for viewing. Learn to pick out a...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-2117
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Celebrate National Popcorn Day at Yates Mill! Learn about different varieties of corn and what gives popcorn that unique POP. Take part in a creative popcorn-themed craft and enjoy some...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Hoo-hoo, who’s that owl? Join us as we soar into the world of owls through our story, All About Owls by Jim Arnosky. We will learn some amazing facts about the owls that live in this part of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Celebrate National Popcorn Day at Yates Mill! Learn about different varieties of corn and what gives popcorn that unique POP. Take part in a creative popcorn-themed craft and enjoy some...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Ages 5 and older enjoy an indoor presentation, then go outdoors after sunset to view the moon, stars and more with the preserve's telescope, weather permitting. Register online....

Cost: $3

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
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Enjoy fun, games, friendship and more every Friday.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
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This class is a chance for adventurous women to get together for a fun-filled workshop where we explore the basics of aerial silks. No need for a background in aerial yoga, this is a workshop...

Cost: $25

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 188-858-79530
Contact Name: hoa bui
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Hear award-winning storyteller and author Willa Brigham as she shares stories about some of the key leaders of the Civil Rights movement and enjoy crafts. Ages 4-10.

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
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Learn what wild animals do in winter as they hibernate, migrate and stay warm in the cold woods. Ages 3-5 with adult.  Enjoy a hike, make a craft and learn how to help wildlife...

Cost: $3; no fee for accompanying adult

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
Website »

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Each year, the friendly folks at Cranberry Tree Farm donate their unsold trees to the Conservators Center, which are given to the animals as a special form of holiday enrichment. Take the family to...

Cost: $20-$26

Where:
Conservators Center
676 E Hughes Mill Rd.
Burlington, NC  27217
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Telephone: 919-622-4915
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Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online. Choose course #121673.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Kelly Starling Lyons speaks about her book, "Jada Jones: Sleepover Scientist" for ages 6 and older. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209 Lassister Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Ages 11 and older with special needs enjoy a manicure and pedicure, face painting and more. Register online. Choose course #121078.

Cost: $11/resident, $15/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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Enjoy a family-friendly escape room, create LED wands, don Harry Potter-themed tattoos, decorate house cookies, make a prophecy ball, compete in catapult Quidditch and eat pizza from Alfredo's....

Cost: $25/family, member; $30/family, nonmember

Where:
Kidzu Children's Museum
201 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King as we carry his work forward. An evening of song and music featuring the Pleasant Grove Church Gospel Choir, harpist Winifred Garrett, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
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