THE BLOG
07/08/2014 07:38 pm ET Updated Sep 07, 2014

What Should Rising Seniors Do to Get a Jump-Start on the College Search?

The time is now for rising seniors to get a jump-start on their college search. There is no doubt that fall semester will be a lot less stressful if the college search and application process is well underway when school begins. Below are ten things rising seniors can and should begin working on now.

Go Ahead... Get A Jump-Start!

Here are ten things rising seniors can do to get a jump-start on the college search:

1. Write at least one college admission essay
Applying for college can take up as much time as a regular class during the senior year. By preparing a generic essay in advance that can be tailored to different applications, the rising seniors can spend more time on studies and extracurricular activities once school begins.

2. Complete one college admission application
This application can serve as the prototype for all other applications. The Common Application is accepted by hundreds of colleges and may be a good place to start.

3. Collect reference letters
Normally reference letters come from junior year teachers who have taught the student for the last full year. Teachers usually appreciate having the extra time over the summer to write a reference for rising seniors when the memory of the student's achievements is fresh.

4. Visit (or plan to visit) campuses
While summer is not the ideal time to visit campuses because there aren't many students there, this is the time rising seniors are free and parents' schedules are usually more flexible. These visits can also be made in the early fall and should include sitting in on a class, looking at the
dorm rooms, eating in the cafeteria, and meeting with coaches and professors in areas of interest. Visiting colleges is a great way to conduct the college search.

5. Develop preliminary list of colleges
Call, write or use the Internet to request information. Some colleges may even give out names of alumni in the student's neighborhood who may be willing to share experiences. Use this information to help with your college search and create a list of colleges to which to apply. Be thorough in the college search and learn what distinguishes one college from the next.

6. Participate in interesting activities
Summer is a time to act on interests through internships, volunteer work, clubs or paid positions. Try something productive and creative, preferably in an area of interest.

7. Keep a journal
A journal can help rising seniors chronicle their activities as well as determine what they want and need for the next few years. Journals also serve to help improve communication skills, critical for later success.

8. Plan to take SAT, ACT, SAT II
Rising seniors should have taken SATs and ACTs at least once by this point but may want to look at when they're offered again in the fall. Those taking SAT II subject tests will need to decide which subjects to take. If SAT prep courses are planned, sign up now for early fall.

9. Begin scholarship search
Use books and web-based services to begin a search for private money.

10. READ!
College experts point to reading as the best way to improve vocabulary and prepare for standardized tests. While reading, have a dictionary handy to look up unfamiliar words.

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