06/17/2013 12:43 pm ET Updated Aug 17, 2013

5 Things High School Seniors Need to Do This Summer

Should rising high school seniors have to spend their summer working on Capitol Hill, discovering cures in a research lab or volunteering in exotic, far-flung locations in order to get into the school of their choice?

Now more than ever, high school students are encouraged to utilize their summers by participating in dazzling extracurricular activities designed to catch admissions directors' attention come November. As an admissions executive, I know how important it is for seniors to have a strong college application. However, I personally believe that students should take a more balanced approach. Often, students are incredibly stressed during this process because they try to do everything under the sun to boost their college applications. Summer should be a time for students to enjoy themselves while taking some solid steps to take the pressure off their senior fall. Below are a few easy, stress-free things that rising high school seniors can do to make the most of their summer and put a dent in their fall workload.

Start Narrowing Down Choices

If they haven't started already, rising seniors should spend a few minutes Googling specific majors and programs that interest them. A quick search can reveal lists of colleges that they may never have considered. Browsing websites and thinking about what they might like in a school is quick and easy and will give them a good picture of where they want to apply in the fall.

Get To Know Your College Admissions Rep

A good way for a student to separate herself from other applicants is to get to know the college admissions representative from her area or region. College admission reps are an often underutilized way to get on a college's radar because they are the people who will ultimately be reading the student's application. To find a local representative, students should look on the admissions website and use the contact page. By finding time to drop a quick email and ask a few questions, a student can get her name out there.

Search for Scholarships

It's never too early to look into available scholarships. A quick search of or Collegeboard can uncover some very interesting and specific scholarships. Also, students should ask local businesses and community organizations such as Kiwanis and Rotary International if they offer any scholarships for local students. The biggest obstacle to getting a scholarship is applying. Someone has got to win the scholarship, why not them?

Thinking About The College Essay

The college essay is a critical component of any application as it is the student's time to show his personality and writing skills. Since essay questions are often not revealed before the application goes live in August, the summer is a time to brainstorm potential ideas. Rising seniors should think about a meaningful event or topic that they would be interested in covering and jot down a few thoughts. It will only take a few minutes and will give students a great starting point during the fall.

What About the Campus Tour?

While a campus visit is always a crucial component of any college choice, the summer is not the best time to go. Campuses in the summer are often empty and it will be difficult to get a true feel for the campus like a student would during the academic year. However, if that is the only time that a rising senior and her family can visit, any visit is better than nothing.

The bottom line is that it's all about striking a balance. Students shouldn't make themselves crazy by trying to cure cancer or draft legislation, nor are they best served napping by the pool all summer. By taking small, constructive steps to prep themselves, rising seniors will be rewarded with a little less stress come fall.