What to do over the summer as a rising senior in high school

college admissions

Happy summer, rising seniors! I hope you are taking some time to enjoy yourselves. I'm here to tell you that you do not need to work on your college applications each day to have a successful college process. This is a great time to continue the slow and steady work you have already begun, but it is also important that you find time to rest and recharge over the summer before your senior year begins.

Continue to work toward a thoughtful and purposeful college process by tackling some of these items this summer:

1. Read a book! (Or 8!)

You will likely be asked in an upcoming college admissions interview to talk about things you have read and enjoyed (not for school). Some schools even ask about non-school reading in a supplemental essay. Start this summer by finding some great books. Wondering where to begin? How about this list? Or this one?

2. Consider your admissibility: Likely, Target, Reach, Unlikely

Now is a good time to start to consider your admissibility at the schools on your list. Admissibility is the likelihood that you will be admitted to the college. There are several ways to think about this. Here are a few that might help:

  • Using the scattergram in Naviance/SCOIR for students from your high school, where do your GPA and SAT/ACT scores fall in relation to other admitted students? Are you well above these? (Likely); Close but above these? (Target); Just under? (Reach); Well below? (Unlikely). Keep in mind that highly selective schools reject many students with perfect testing who are at the top of their graduating classes. Unlikely for you often means unlikely for everyone.

  • No scattergrams? Google “average GPA and SAT/ACT for admitted student to ----”

  • Do you have a compelling factor that might tip your admission to a particular school (legacy, athletic recruitment)? Move the school one category up (from reach to target, etc.).

3. Update your spreadsheet

Go back to the Google spreadsheet that you made last month. Now, add two columns to your spreadsheet and fill them in for each school:

  • Likely/Target/Reach/Unlikely for each college


  • How you determined the categorization

4. Narrow your list

Using your spreadsheet, try to create a new tab with a narrowed college application list. You should strive for a balance of an equal number of schools in each of the three main categories: Likely, Target, Reach. If you apply to an unlikely school, try to limit it to just one or two. Here are some good rules of thumb:

  • Remember that your categories are your own and will not match anyone else’s. they are due to the personal and individual features that make up your application (and only your application)

  • Your final list should be no longer than 15 (and maybe should be closer to 12)

  • Don’t delete! Copy and paste your list schools into a new tab on the same Google Sheet. Your mind might change; don’t eliminate the hard work you have already done. Just move or color code so it is easier to read.

5. Get started on your short answer statements

Have you switched high schools or taken any time away from school (for any reason)? Take the time NOW to write the education explanation statements for the Common Application, 250 words to address the question: “Provide details about the change in progression through secondary/high school that you indicated above," OR, “Provide details about why you left each of the above secondary/high schools.” Edit this statement and make sure it is ready to be pasted into your eventual Common Application.

Don’t be discouraged! You’ve got this! If you would like additional support, please reach out to us at info@cambridgecoaching.com.

Elise holds a BA in Political Philosophy from Williams College and an MEd in Administration & Social Policy from Harvard. She has spent the past twenty years working in top-tier independent schools.


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