5 Summer College Application Tips for Rising High School Seniors


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Photo courtesy of Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock.com

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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May 2020

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Cost: $70/month

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Sponsor: ActivityHero
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Cost: $11

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Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
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Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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More information

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Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
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More information

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
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Farmers markets are essential to the livelihood of farmers and food producers and are exempt from the Governor's Stay at Home Order (page 6). Farmers markets offer an efficient way for residents to...

Cost: free

Where:
Holly Springs Cultural Center
300 W. Ballentine St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Farmers Market Coordinator
Telephone: 919-567-4010
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  Meet at the Waterwise Garden (first parking lot on right) Join our bird enthusiast, Vernon, for an easy walk while looking and listening for our feathered friends. Discover...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Parents, bring your child to class with you. Children 10 years...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
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Calling all Black tech leaders and visionaries! Are you looking to spur future collaborations, discover new business and career opportunities, and invest in this community? Join us for T.H.E. State...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Durham Convention Center
301 W Morgan St
Durham, NC  27701
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Contact Name: Tarryn Henry
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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The 16th Annual (Virtual) Beaver Queen Pageant, Beavers in the Stream! The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-423-1502
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
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The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
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