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Avoid the “Senior Scramble”

by: Karen Daluga

April has many parents and students looking forward to summer and the end of school worries for a while. For high school juniors, summer is the ideal time to work on college applications. Why? Once high school classes start in the fall, seniors often find themselves juggling school work, clubs, sports, and planning for college. To avoid the “Senior Scramble,” juniors and their parents should use the summer to explore colleges and prepare for the fall college application season. 

Your college wish list
The first task is to decide what your teen needs and wants from a college. Criteria might include campus size, distance from home, academic compatibility, majors offered, religious or political affiliation, athletics, and urban or rural location. The Internet and college guidebooks are good places to start to find schools. A college’s web site should have information about its application process, academic disciplines and faculty, student profile, campus life, and other useful information.

Go for a visit
Summer is a great time to visit the colleges that interest you and your teen. Not only does a campus visit provide you with first-hand knowledge about the school, but it also strengthens your application. Many colleges like to see that you have more than a casual interest in their school by asking on their application if you have visited the school.

Extra credit
Most college applications have a section that asks students about their activities. Spend some time during the summer writing down a list of everything your teen has done from freshman year through the end of junior year, as well as what they plan to participate in senior year. This list is often called the student resume, and should include extracurricular activities and community service, leadership positions held, and awards or recognition, as well as the dates and time spent on those activities. Include both high school and outside activities.

Summer also offers students a chance to add volunteer work or a paying job to their resume. In addition to gaining valuable insights about their individual interests and personality traits, a summer experience may give students more clarity on a possible college major. Gaining life experience contributes to the student’s knowledge of themselves and of the world around them. Another possible benefit of a summer experience may be to serve as a topic for a future application essay.

Application essay
Although not every college requires an essay, many colleges do. The purpose of the college essay is to allow admission officers to learn something unique about applicants that they would not learn from reading an application and transcript and to see a writing sample. A strong college essay can be a very important component of a student’s application, so it is essential to devote adequate time to completing this part of the application. The summer before senior year is the best time to start brainstorming what your student may want to write about and writing one or more essay drafts. There are many Internet resources and books students can consult for information and guidance about essay writing.

Stress less  Completing college applications is time consuming and can be stressful. Summertime is an opportunity to get started in a more relaxed way, when your student has more free time. Starting on the nuts and bolts of the application process will eliminate some of the stress of applying to college and put your teen ahead of the game.

Karen Daluga is an independent college consultant. She can be reached at


Quintessential Careers offers “Writing the Successful College Application Essay: Tips for Success"(Quintessential Careers)’s College Admissions Advice page has good tips for essay writing. has a wealth of information about applying to college and offers virtual tours of hundreds of colleges to help families narrow their choices before making physical site tours.


The Best 371 Colleges, 2010 Edition (The Princeton Review) bases it information and rankings on student surveys on such factors as academics, school administration, student life, student attitudes, and more.

Fiske Guide to Colleges 2010 includes academic, social, and quality-of-life ratings for each school. It also has tips from current students about the ins and outs of their school.