College Prep 101: Using the summer break
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College Prep 101: Using the summer break

New York City : NY : USA | Jul 06, 2012 at 2:01 PM PDT
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Here’s a dangerous word combo: bored teenagers. With the arrival of summer, hordes of high school students are already in the process of driving their parents crazy. A struggling economy and a tight job market has made landing a summer gig at the local fast food emporium or big-box store tough -- and even those resume-building unpaid internships are hard to come by.

But rather than settling down for an endless marathon of “The Jersey Shore,” there are some things teens can do to help prepare themselves for the college application process. Here is some valuable advice culled from the experts:

  • Practice, practice, practice. The irrefutable bottom line is PSAT, SAT and ACT scores count, and according to multiple studies, students who put the time in and take practice tests get higher scores. Summer is a great time to start -- remember, most schools administer the PSAT in 10th grade, and while these scores may ultimately not be as important as the SAT or ACT, several scholarships are offered on the basis of the PSAT. Reviewing previous PSAT exams and taking practice tests are an excellent way to boost vocabulary and math scores -- and provide a leg-up of doing well on the SAT and ACT exams.
  • The community service factor. No jobs, no internships? No problem. In tight economic times, volunteers are a hot commodity, and college admissions officers look for candidates with consistent community service records. Local animal shelters, environmental groups, homeless shelters, food banks, religious organizations, nursing homes, museums, zoos and many other organizations are facing budget cutbacks and need help. In addition to the ‘feel good’ aspect, volunteer positions can also be a great place to hone skills and acquire new ones.
  • Just do it! For rising seniors, there is no better time to get at their college apps and essays. Even though the Common Application is slated to be down for tech improvements for most of July, getting started on an essay now, rather than waiting until school starts in the fall, is the smart move. Admissions officers are experts at sniffing out rushed, poorly thought-out essays, so get busy!
  • The GPA factor. Ultimately, the most important factor in any college application is a candidate’s GPA. According to U.S. Department of Education data, over 30% of graduating seniors have an A or A- average, so competition is keen. Advice from top college admissions counsellors include reviewing past grades, projecting what courses will be toughest when school is back in session, consider tutoring or getting a text book in advance to get a head start on difficult courses, and start to block out a schedule for the fall that includes class, homework and athletic or other extra-curricular activities. Like one pro says, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
  • Discovering your passion. Here is a direct quote from the president of a top university: “What differentiates one high achieving student from another is passion. If you haven’t found your passion yet, NOW is the time to do it.” For some people it could be math or history. For other is could be the sciences or foreign languages. It isn’t the subject that counts, it’s how passionate you are about the subject. And remember, not every passion is found in a classroom -- there are a wide range of arenas to explore including social issues, political candidates, community initiatives, arts programs, mentoring opportunities, and athletic competitions.

Studies consistently show that students who engage in pro-active programs do better in the classroom and on standardized tests, are more confident, and have higher self-esteem. And those benefits just may outweigh picking up some spare cash flipping burgers or folding tee-shirts at the local mall.

ksssann is based in New York, New York, United States of America, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
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