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Many rising high school seniors and their families often use the summer before senior year to visit schools and finalize their college lists. It is a fun way to combine a family vacation with a college tour! 

BUT, all too often, students make the mistake of putting off the “heavy lifting” required to complete their college application and personal essay until the fall. Take it from someone who has been down this road before. This plan is not a good strategy!

Having key components of your Common App done BEFORE you enter the front doors of your high school senior year will save you some serious blood, sweat and tears — especially if you plan to apply Early Action.

What is Early Action? It is an application process in which colleges allow you to apply “Early” versus “Regular” Decision. There are over 300 schools that offer Early Action to its applicants. But, unlike “Early Decision,” Early Action is not binding, and most schools allow you to apply to as many Early Action colleges as you choose.


  • Signals colleges that you are seriously considering their school, but there is no binding contract.
  • Shows colleges that you have your act together.
  • **Gives you a higher chance of acceptance at certain schools if you are within its academic profile range.
  • **Offers more scholarship opportunities
  • Allows you to know by (around) December 1st if you are accepted or not and what merit aid and scholarships packages you will receive.
  • Provides some perspective going into the Regular Decision application process deadline: January 1st.

    **Check individual college websites for accurate data

    Here are some colleges that offer Early Action:

University of South Carolina: 10/15; Loyola Marymount, MD: 11/1; Providence: 11/1; Elon: 11/1; Northeastern: 11/1; Boston College: 11/1; Fordham: 11/1; College of Charleston: 11/1; Villanova: 11/1; Babson: 11/1; University of Maryland: 11/1; University of Vermont: 11/1; High Point: 11/14; Fairfield: 11/15; University of NH: 11/15; Marist: 11/15; Ohio State: 11/15; and Bryant College: 11/17.

*Please cross check all dates for accuracy when applying.


1 The College Application Paperwork Must Be Done EARLY. Most high schools request that you have all your paperwork into Guidance Counseling Department one month before your college’s Early Action deadline. By paperwork, I mean Teacher Recommendations, Common Application, Personal Essay, Transcript Requests and any Supplementary Essays your college of choice requires.

So, for example, if you wanted to apply to James Madison University Early Action, a school that does reward EA students with additional scholarship opportunities, you would need to have all your paperwork signed, sealed and delivered to Guidance by 10/1/17 (since JMU’s Early Action deadline is 11/1/17.) Waiting until school starts to prepare your JMU application will give you less than four weeks to pull it all together.

2 Your Application Must Present your Personal Best. So if you haven’t met your personal test prep goals or you need to use the first half of senior year to boost your GPA, Early Action is not the way to go.

BUT, regardless of whether you plan to apply Early Decision, Early Action or Regular Decision, rising seniors should not wait until the fall of their senior year to begin their college prep. 

Here are the Top Five Action Items Rising Seniors Should Do This Summer To Prep for College Admissions

1 Create a Student Resume

A student resume will help you when you fill out your Common Application. It is also an excellent way to keep your activities and accomplishments all in one spot. Students can also provide the resume to admissions officers during college interviews and attach it to their Common Application as supporting documentation.

2 Complete your Common Application

As soon as you finish your resume, you can complete your Common Application. This application keeps all your personal, academic, and high school activities all in one spot sort of like a digital filing system.

3 Draft your Personal Essay

The personal essay is the only opportunity for college-bound teens to reveal who they are in their own voice – beyond the data – as a person with a personality, rather than just a test score and GPA. But, drafting your essay takes time and reflection. DO IT NOW — DO NOT WAIT UNTIL SENIOR ENGLISH CLASS. I can’t stress enough how important this document is for many colleges. Written well, it will set you apart from other students with the same GPA, AP and SAT scores and extracurricular activities.

4 Finish Your Test Prep by Early Fall

For the first time in history, the College Board has introduced an August SAT. If you are planning to take this test–  you should be practicing every day. No one will make this a priority but you. (Except if you are my client — then I will hound you mercilessly. Just ask some of your friends.)

5 Prepare Teacher Recommendation Letters

When school opens, give your “teacher of choice” a recommendation form distributed by Guidance. He or she will fill it out and submit it. You will NOT have the privilege of seeing the letter. So choose your teacher wisely (make sure he or she likes you and enjoys the process of recommending you). Even better: write a letter that will help your teacher to recommend you.

Questions to consider and responses to share when asking a teacher to write a recommendation:

·      What did I learn from this class?

·      How did my teacher contribute to my learning in a meaningful way?

·      How did I contribute to my class?

·      How will I use this learning in the future?

Take action this summer and enjoy a seamless transition into senior year.

Ready to get started? Join me for one of two college workshops and begin your senior year ready to hit submit.
  • Jumpstart the Common Application Process!
  • How to Craft a Winning Personal Essay
    ALSO: We are also offering small SAT Small Group Instruction Classes
To learn more or register online, go to my Workshops page at
Questions? Email me at or call me at #203-313-2739


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