Dear High School Juniors:

What are you planning to do this summer?

If you ever wanted to strengthen your college applications by volunteering for Habitat for Humanity or doing a sandwich run for a shelter or volunteering at a position related to your career aspirations or visiting every Major League stadium in the country, do you realize how many summers you have left to do it?

One.  This one.

If you ever wanted to participate in American Legion ball and/or a Summer Travel team, become a lifeguard, learn CPR or shadow a CPA and, thereby, show your college suitors why you would make a great athlete, Allied Health major or Accounting student, do you know how many summers you have left before you start filling out college applications, gathering recommendation letters and preparing personal essays?

That’s right.  One.  This one.

And if you’ve already done one (or some) of these things, do you want to stop now and leave those same admissions counselors wondering, “How come Brad didn’t continue with that?  Why did Caitlin stop right before she became a black belt?  Maybe they aren’t good at completing tasks.  Hmmm.”

Some of you may be very familiar with utilizing your summers to advance your admissions credentials or further your professional interests.  Others may be more familiar with using summer to improve your results on Call of Duty or Beach Frisbee.  Whichever best describes you, this is your summer of admissions.

But Call of Duty and Beach Frisbee are my professional interests…

I have a feeling your Mom disagrees, Justin. 

But, Mr. Szarek, aren’t my grades and my High School curriculum more important to those admissions folks?

Ah, you listen well,  Ashley.

Courses taken and grades received certainly carry the heaviest load in the College Admissions process.  But, for the most part, July and August are an opportunity to influence other parts of the application process.  Here are some thoughts, tips and ideas for a future college applicant to make the most of his or her summer months:

1) Volunteer.  At least once.  You won’t regret it.

2) Work.  For the experience, for something to put on your resume and for the money.  You’ll need more of all of these things real soon.

3) Take a summer course at a local community college.  Saves $ and gives you a taste of college.

4) Take good notes when you travel.  Those may become the outline of a great personal statement.

5) Read a great book that you always wanted to read.  Personal Statement fodder and just a great thing to do.

6) Think about which adults really know you, like you AND respect you.  You are about to ask a couple of them to write about you.

7) Look at a “These Words Appear Most on the SATs or “Key Tips to SAT Success” article.  Once.  Maybe twice.

8) Ask yourself, what DO I want to be when I grow up?  Write the answer down and date it.  Don’t worry too much if the answer has plenty of commas or plenty of white space.

9) Look at your Senior year list of courses.  Are they the courses to best help you achieve your goals?  If not, what is the high school’s process to make changes during the summer or during the first week of classes?

10) Write down your top five schools.  (Six, four, eight or ten are also acceptable totals.  27 is NOT.)  Check off which ones you’ve visited and highlight the rest.

11) Don’t forget to enjoy the summer, at least part of the time.  It is a time to re-energize your academic batteries; make sure you do so.

And, now, for your listening pleasure, I give you a choice: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Summertime.  Or, if you prefer:  Kid Rock doing All Summer Long.  Enjoy.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.