Niche Resources

Rising Senior? Here’s How to Make the Most of Your Summer

Senior year of high school will be one of the busiest and most exciting times of your life so far. Between college applications, prom, exams, classes and homework, figuring out financial aid, and more, you’ll have a lot on your plate during your final year of high school.

That’s why it’s so important to make the most of the summer before senior year. You should certainly take some time to relax and recharge, but it’s also in your best interest to get some college application prep out of the way. It may not be your idea of summer fun, but your future self will thank you.

Here are five tips on making the most of summer before senior year:

1. Finalize your college list

If you haven’t already, now is the time to finalize your college list. Your list should consist of 5-10 schools, with a mix of competitive schools, safety schools, and target schools.

Consider factors like:

Want to see your chances of getting in? Check out our Admissions Calculator!


Remember that there are thousands of colleges in the United States, but not all of them have the name recognition of Harvard or Yale. Just because you haven’t heard of a school doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent school or a great fit for you.

Do your research, be open to learning about new options, and create a list of schools where you feel you would thrive. Once your list is finalized, look up deadlines for each of the schools and write them on a calendar.

2. Start working on your college essays

Chances are that you’re applying to at least one college that uses the Common Application, usually referred to as the Common App.

Common App essay topics are available well in advance, so begin brainstorming ideas and drafting essays for a few of the topics.

Most colleges don’t release their applications until August. However, many universities will have broad prompts that are similar to the Common App topics. By getting started on these essays and other sections, you’ll likely have a solid template for almost any college application essay.

As you write, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Write in your authentic voice about a topic that is meaningful to you.
  • Be reflective — If you talk about a personal experience in your life, reflect on what you learned from the experience and how it shaped your personality and goals.
  • Use specific details — Making your essay stand out is all about being specific. If you write a generic essay, you’ll get lost in the crowd. Use specific details to craft an essay that only you could write.
  • Start with a relevant anecdote to draw in the reader.
  • Avoid these topics you should never ever write about.
  • Stick to word limits and be clear and concise.
  • Proofread multiple times, and have other people proofread too. One advantage to writing your essay early is that you can have it looked over by a teacher or two before submitting.
The Often Overlooked But Completely Essential Last Step to Your College Applications

There’s no need to have a perfectly polished final draft yet. But getting a solid head start on your essay will save you tons of time and stress once your busiest school year yet is underway.

3. Do a resume-building summer activity

The summer before senior year is also your final chance to take on a noteworthy summer activity that will enhance your college resume.

Options include:

  • Completing a college level class
  • Taking a summer job or summer internship
  • Volunteering on a long-term project
  • Conducting research or pursuing a personal project, like starting a business or writing a book
  • Participating in a summer enrichment program

Colleges like to see that students are productive with their summers. It’s also helpful to show initiative, a strong work ethic, and a willingness to tackle challenges.

If possible, try to take on a leadership role or make valuable contributions. Whatever you do to build your resume, ensure that it’s meaningful to you and relevant to your interests and career goals.

4. Visit schools (or take a virtual tour)

The summer is also a great time to visit colleges. If your list is still too long or you feel uncertain about a few of the colleges, visiting them (virtually or in person) should help clarify your choices.

Try to take a campus tour while you’re there, then do a bit of touring on your own. Visit the dining hall, try to stop by some classes or peek into a dorm, check out campus facilities, talk to people if possible, and spend some time simply walking around. If you aren’t able to visit campus, search for virtual and 360 degree tours of the colleges on your list. This is still a great way to get a feel for what life will be like there.

Envision yourself living and learning on this campus for four years. Can you see yourself there? Does it seem like a good fit for you? Often, visiting a school is the best way to know for sure.

5. Write out your activities list

It’s helpful if you’ve been keeping a running list of your extracurricular activities, awards, and accomplishments throughout high school. If not, sit down and write your list this summer.

Write down your volunteer work, clubs, leadership roles, sports teams, and any other high school achievements. List which years you participated in each activity, as well as any special accomplishments associated with them.

This task will help you reflect as you prepare to complete your college applications and may give you an idea for a great essay topic. In addition, it’ll be much easier to fill out applications if you have an organized activities list/resume in hand.

Final Thoughts: Here’s How to Make the Most of Summer Before Senior Year

If you find yourself with some extra time this summer, it’s helpful to look into scholarships and financial aid, study for the SAT/ACT if you’ll be taking it again, and spend some time pondering your college major.

In addition to the important activities listed here, be sure to make time for relaxation and rest. Since this will be such a busy school year, you want to enter your senior year feeling recharged.

At the same time, you want to be somewhat prepared for college application season. If you wait until you’re already deep into classes and homework and your senior year social life to choose colleges, fill out applications, and write essays, you’ll feel completely overwhelmed.

Even worse, you may end up rushing through your applications and essays, hurting your chances of acceptance.

So, find a balance between preparation and relaxation this summer, and you’ll be ready to tackle this challenging and exciting final year of high school.

Find the right college for you

Author: Jason Patel

Jason Patel is the founder of Transizion, a college counseling and career services company that provides mentorship and consulting on college applications, college essays, resumes, cover letters, interviews, and finding jobs and internships. Jason’s work has been cited in The Washington Post, BBC, NBC News, Forbes, Fast Company, Bustle, Inc., Fox Business, and other great outlets. Transizion donates a portion of profits to underserved students and veterans in of college prep and career development assistance.