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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College Transitions

Expert advice for finding the right fit


About This Blog

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

June 2019

Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty sun catcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

This celebration of toys features interactive attractions, vendors, toy experiences and more. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $12/person. Free for ages 2 and younger.

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy stories with Amy Godfrey.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

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
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

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Enjoy food, activities, music, and water sprayer fun for kids. Sixteen vendors will offer African clothing, jewelry, beauty products, voter registration, HIV/AIDS education and testing,...

Cost: Free

Where:
East End Community
Wake Forest, NC  27587


Website »

More information

Learn more about our amazing star, the Sun. Safely view the Sun through a solar telescope, hear about how the Sun and other stars affect life on planets, and about current solar science...

Cost: Free

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
121 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »

More information

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 15.0px Calibri; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} Safely view the Sun through a solar telescope, hear about how...

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Discover Historic Yates Mill - a place of business, community, and exciting local history! Watch a brief slideshow, then explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of water...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (6 - under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Enjoy ice cream made by the Children's House program and splash in the water table and kiddie pool.

Cost: Free

Where:
Nido: Coworking & Childcare
902 Broad St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Durham Refugee Day celebrates the contributions and cultures of our refugee and immigrant communities and provides an opportunity to stand in solidarity with these neighbors. This is a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Make colorful jellyfish with wiggly tentacles. Age 2-6 with caregiver. Register online. Choose course #125005.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park Community Center
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
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Enjoy stories with Amy Godfrey.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Drop by the cybrary for storytime with a librarian. Activity Room 4. Preschool and kindergarten ages. No registration necessary. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Carrboro Cybrary
100 N Greensboro St
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-918-7387
Contact Name: Cybrary
Website »

More information

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
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy stories with Amy Godfrey.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

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
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 15.0px 'Times New Roman'; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 15.0px 'Times...

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs sing favorite songs, karaoke-style. Register online. Choose course #125030.

Cost: $3/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy stories with Amy Godfrey.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

See a fun mashup of classic fairytales. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Carrboro Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

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
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Sally Ride will take audiences on the ride of their life in this dynamic performance about space exploration. Through music, audience participation, and narrative, kids will see just how far...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Orange County Main Library
Website »

More information

Enjoy tea time for the whole family. Samples of hot tea, cold tea, and kombucha will be provided, along with games and family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
Website »

More information

Sally Ride will take audiences on the ride of their life in this dynamic performance about space exploration. Through music, audience participation, and narrative, kids will see just how far...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Orange County Main Library
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Meet a staff member at the information desk and follow your guide outside to the garden exhibit or into one of the museum galleries. Look around and listen to a history-related story. Ages 3...

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 6-9 discover the different types of turtles that live at the Preserve.  The focus will be hands-on outdoor investigation and the study of living things in their habitat.  In...

Cost: $5

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


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

More information

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
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Explore the ocean through books and trivia. Make your own travel-sized magnetic fishing game. Grades 3-5.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs play bocce, cornhole, croquet and more on the lawn. Register online. Choose course #125353.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Page-Walker Arts & History Center
119 Ambassador Loop
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Walk through the Cretaceous period, the Jurassic Period and the Triassic period and experience what it was like to be among living dinosaurs. See life-size replicas of adult and baby dinosaurs, dig...

Cost: $22-$36

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Meet live owls and other raptors, learn the secrets about their lives in the wild. Grades K-5.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Join the TreeRunner staff at Raleigh for a magical night in the park. Dress as your favorite prince, princess, wizard or another fairy tale character and come climb in the trees. Take pictures with...

Cost: General Admission

Where:
TreeRunner Raleigh
12804 Norwood Rd
Raleigh, NC  27613
View map »


Sponsor: N/A
Telephone: 919-410-7347

More information

Ages 4-10 enjoy an evening with hiking, crafts, music, games and s'mores. Register online. Choose course #124331.

Cost: $23/parent and child pair; $12 additional child

Where:
Bond Park, Kiwanis Shelter
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Walk through the Cretaceous period, the Jurassic Period and the Triassic period and experience what it was like to be among living dinosaurs. See life-size replicas of adult and baby dinosaurs, dig...

Cost: $22-$36

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. Choose course #124952.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Take your family for a fun day of making slime, playing with slime, watching live demos on how to make slime, buying slime from Instagram slime stars, and much more! Kids under 3 admitted free....

Cost: $20-$70

Where:
Kerr Scott Building of NC State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

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
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Please join us for the SouthEast Crab Feast event this summer in Raleigh, NC.  This event offers the Low Country Coastal Heritage of outdoor cooking of fresh seafood.  This highly...

Cost: $10-$30

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: SouthEast Crab Feast Inc.
Telephone: 980-202-1142
Contact Name: Jamell Hamilton
Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (ages 6-under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Search wetlands and forests for birds. Ages 13-15. Register online. Choose course #124934.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Hemlock Bluffs/Stevens Nature Center
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

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