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UPDATED: Your Student's Summer Game Plan for Submitting College Applications by Fall

Your student is almost finished with their junior year and is eagerly awaiting summer. College applications are still safely resting on the back burner. College application deadlines (typically Nov. 1 for early decision and early application, and Jan. 1 for all others) may feel far away. Well, we’re here to tell you that it’s time to get cooking! 

We all know that summertime flies by, and once senior year starts it’s only a matter of weeks until those first college deadlines sneak up on students. That’s why most families we work with get the bulk of their student’s application done before summer ends. Trust us, your future self will thank you!

Here’s our roadmap for how your incoming senior can get the heavy lifting done on their college application before school resumes in the fall:

In May:

  • Determine the story they want to tell. At MN College Essay Coach, we start every student with the Deep Dive, a casual interview for us to get to know your student. With comprehensive questions covering all aspects of life, from extracurriculars to personal identity, we build a big picture of your student. From this, we create your student’s Key Messages, synthesized themes from your student’s life that highlight their values, character, accomplishments, and, overall, what makes them a wonderfully unique person. Read more about why Key Messages matter.

In June:

  • Fill any last gaps. In the process of documenting everything your student has done so far in their high school career across academics, extracurriculars, work, volunteering and more, your student may notice that some categories are lighter than others. Summer is a great time for them to boost their involvement where needed. Encourage them to dedicate some time to volunteering or participating in a local club, or to get a summer job. This is their last chance to join activities and organizations that will show up on their college applications.

  • Write the Common App essay. Now that their Key Messages are set, your student can start writing their most important essay — the Common Application Personal Essay. Almost every school uses the Common App, which means they’ll look at this essay — a 650 word (max) opportunity for your student to stand out against the enormous applicant crowd. They have seven prompts to choose from and should pick one that best enables them to share one or more of their Key Messages. 

  1. For example, if overcoming obstacles has been a big part of your student’s life, they’ll pick prompt #2, which gives them the opportunity to tell a story about what they learned from facing a challenge. This seems obvious, but we’ve seen so many students write essays that don’t connect to the prompts or their Key Messages until we start working with them and help them approach the process more strategically!

  2. At MN College Essay Coach, we know exactly what admissions officers are looking for in a Common App essay. They want to see that students are self-aware about their own growth, specifically, how their unique life lessons have shaped their character and values. Structuring the essay to reflect this growth trajectory is one of the toughest parts for students to do on their own. We work with your student to develop an outline for their essay, at the same time helping your student to better understand their own life story. 

  3. One great thing about doing the Key Messages work upfront? Your student won’t have to stare at the dreaded blank screen when they sit down to start their essay. They can paste in their key messages and start working from there to respond directly to the question and add more details. Trust us – the psychological benefits of having source material are enormous!

In July:

  • Narrow down their application list. All the work that your student has done up until now with their Key Messages and the Common App essay is relevant to their applications for almost every school across the country. Now, they’ll need to focus on the specific schools on their application list. In our work with students at MN College Essay Coach, we design a spreadsheet to organize the schools on their list along with corresponding application deadlines and supplemental essay requirements. This visual representation is a great tool, showing some students that it’s maybe not realistic to apply to 35 schools, and highlighting for others the need to add a couple more middle-ground options to their list. 

  • Write their supplemental essays. Depending on where your student plans to apply, they will likely need to write additional, supplemental essays that generally range from 100-650 words. These can be as straightforward as describing why they’re choosing their major, or as random as sharing their favorite way to eat a potato (not kidding). This is an opportunity for them to highlight other Key Messages, building on what they already shared about themselves in their Common App essay response.

In August:

  • Create their Common App account. The Common Application officially opens on Aug. 1. We recommend that you have your student set a timer for 15 minutes and create an account, filling out the easy details about themselves that don’t require much thought. That simple action is easy to do but serves an important purpose – it means they’ve started their college application. It no longer has to be something they’re putting off or that’s weighing on their mind, and it will be easier to come back to it later to tackle the harder stuff. Encourage them to schedule several short sessions like this throughout this month to fill in their activities, test scores and grades, etc. The Common App publishes an application guide for first-year students that can help them register, add colleges to their list, and more.

  • Apply for Scholarships. Done with the Common App essay and all supplemental essays, your student is confidently ready to apply to every school on their list! The reward for getting a headstart on this work is not only finishing applications prior to their senior year, but also the chance to turn their attention to scholarships. There are many ways to source scholarships, from online databases to specific university offerings. We help your student find relevant scholarships to apply to, and of course, assist with any essays they need to write for their applications. The extra bit of work it takes to apply for merit-based scholarships can really pay off!

Clearly, there’s a lot your student can – and should – do this summer to get their college application rolling. With some thoughtful planning, these steps can be tackled in a manageable way over the next four months so they can still enjoy their time off of school. While it’s tempting to blow all of this off until regular routines resume in the fall, the students we work with are ALWAYS grateful to have their college applications mostly done by the time their senior year begins.

Want help to ensure your student approaches their essays strategically, stays on track with deadlines, and understands what college admissions officers want to read? We’d love to work with your family – learn more about our approach or get in touch today! 

To encourage juniors to get started with the process today, we’re offering $100 off our 1:1 unlimited essay coaching package when you sign up by May 31st. Follow the steps to register on our website, and enter the code 100OFF at checkout. Trust us, you and your student will be grateful to have started early!

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