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Smart for senior to spend summer preparing for college admissions

Dear Ivy League Guru,

School is out and I don't expect to find a full-time job this summer. This will leave me with a lot of free time. Rather than waste the summer, my mother suggested that it would be a good idea to start working on my college applications. I have signed up to take the SAT in October. Do you have any advice on the best way to prepare for the testing and application process? A Senior

Dear Senior,

Your mother is thinking wisely. There are a number of things that you can do to prepare for the process. The fall semester of your senior year is normally the busiest in your high school career. The more time you spend preparing for the SAT and getting your applications in order the easier it will be to meet testing and application deadlines. One caution: it will be easy to get bored with the preparation. Push yourself to get the mundane things out of the way before school resumes to avoid this pitfall. Start by filling out the basic information required in the Common Application. The Common Application is used by many colleges and begins accepting applications Aug. 1. So if you want to complete them you don't have a lot of time to complete them before school starts.

Go to

The 2015-16 Common Application essays prompts are already published online so you can start putting together a powerful set of essays before school starts. Go to Explore the websites of the colleges and universities you have targeted to get as much background as possible about the areas of study that interest you. Make a list of your extracurricular activities and see if you can find a list of essay questions from which you will choose in each of your target school applications. If possible, visit the campuses of the schools that interest you. If this isn't possible, you will find college admissions offices more than happy to take email or phone inquiries. I want to warn you about your posts on social networking sites. College admissions officers understand your need for individual expression and may never look at them, but there are exceptions, and no rule says they can't. Be on alert for anonymous comments placed by jealous classmates. The competition can get pretty cutthroat and when it comes to top colleges and malicious posts could hurt your chances of admission. This is also a good time to clean up your email address. Names like "hotbabe" or "Ihatetests" are not going to impress the admissions office. Use your real name, or at least part of it, in your email address. This will make it easier for admissions committees to search for your correspondence. If your name is taken, add a few numbers after it. Believe me, it really helps when the schools sort through all the emails you send. These are points that will be scored in your favor. Be honest about your academic record, because letters of acceptance can be revoked. I know of one college that confirmed an anonymous tip that a teacher had caught a student plagiarizing an assignment in high school. This led to the student's admissions letter being revoked. I suspect if the applicant had disclosed the infraction, which occurred during his freshman year, explained the circumstances and detailed what he learned from the experience, there may have been a different outcome. Essays play a pivotal role in applications. Most competitive colleges require a personal essay, and many require as many as 10 or 15 others. Essay answers give you a chance to tell a school something about you that is not reflected in other parts of the application. Never leave a request for an essay blank because each one is given a score and could play a key role in your acceptance. Answering each question could be a tie-breaker. I suggest writing about some interesting quirk that reveals a facet of your personality. I had a client who wrote about her ability to identify a song after hearing just a couple of notes. The subject was trivial, but charming, and she was accepted at a top school. Remember that you are responsible for marketing yourself, and no one can do it for you. Brush up on your writing skills and use this downtime to good advantage. I promise that you won't be sorry you did.


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