Jill Haley: Summer is the time to think about college | TheUnion.com

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Jill Haley: Summer is the time to think about college

Photo for The Union John Hart

Students you may not want to hear this, but summer is the ideal time to think about college. Let's look at what you can do this summer to make the college admissions process easier.

For students who just finished their junior year (rising seniors) of high school, you can begin working on your college applications now!

The University of California application will open on Aug. 1, but you can begin working on the essay questions now. This is one part of the application that you want to take your time on. Have someone proof read it for you.

Make sure you have taken the ACT or SAT tests prior to November of your senior year. If you are applying early admissions, September would be best. For the first time, CollegeBoard will offer the SAT in August.

For students going into their junior year, preparing for college admissions tests might be worth your while. Juniors should sign-up to take the PSAT in October, which is not only a practice for the SAT, but is also the qualifying test for National Merit scholarship. Khan academy has free test prep available to all students.

Another way for all students to improve test scores is to read for pleasure. So let's put down that video game and cell phone and pick up a good book. A common question on college applications is to talk about your favorite book.

For sophomores and juniors, you might want to spend some time this summer creating your college list. My favorite website for this is CollegeBoard's Big Future. This free website lets you search for colleges based on your individual preferences regarding majors, location and cost. It also lets you explore career options and has application-planning tools.

Summer is a great time for students to engage in extra-curricular activities. You don't have to do everything to get admitted to a great college. Pick a few activities that you are passionate about, and spend a lot of time doing them. Play a leadership role if you can.

Students who work during the summer or the school year will also garner respect from the admissions staff. They know that a student who needs to work may not have as much time to engage in other activities and will not be penalized.

While students are worried about applying to college, parents are concerned about paying for it. It is never too early to get an idea of your eligibility for financial aid. A good online tool is the FAFSA4Caster which helps estimate your potential for federal and state financial aid.

Parents can also help in the college process. Organizing college visits is a great way to be involved. The fall break is an ideal time to visit, as college is in session and students can get the true feel of the campus. If summer is the only time you can visit, by all means do it!

So, lets get going. A little work this summer preparing for college admissions will benefit you in the long run!

Jill Haley is a retired high school counselor who now works as an independent college counselor. She can be reached at http://www.getyouintocollege.com or jillncca@gmail.com.