By Mary Hager

Ah, the summer after your junior year is finally here! You’ve made it through a challenging school year and are hopefully enjoying some well-earned rest. Along with your summer plans, consider using your time to organize all you’ll need for your college applications. Below are tips below to help you do just that.

  • Identify what colleges you plan to apply to- this may seem obvious, but knowing where you will apply to college will help you organize all the items necessary for a completed application, including essays and an activities list. Also, note that many state universities will open their applications for Fall 2022 entry in July or August 2021 and have “rolling” admissions, meaning you can submit your application and may find out you are accepted to college before your senior year begins!
  • Know your colleges’ application deadlines– Colleges have different deadlines and various ways you can apply (Restrictive Early Action, Early Action, Regular Decision, Rolling.) Becoming knowledgeable about your colleges’ deadlines, as well as the application options, not only helps you maximize your chances for admission, but also helps you create a timeline to complete and submit your applications.
  • Ask for Teacher/Counselor Recommendations early- The best time to ask your school counselor and teachers to be recommendation letter writers for you is at the end of your junior year. Don’t worry if you have not completed that task, as you can ask the first week you return to school. Ideally, give your teachers and school counselor four weeks advance notice before any of your deadlines. If that is not possible, then plan for two weeks. Asking for letters of recommendation too close to deadlines may result in a mediocre letter from your recommender.
  • Be authentic in your essays– If you are applying through the Common Application, you will be required to write an essay, sometimes referred to as a personal statement. Know this essay is your only voice in your college application, so be sure to pick a topic/story that helps the admissions reader understand what is unique about you. Also, be aware that your essay should not be a repeat of your resume, as that information is already in your activities section of the application. That being said, look at other parts of your application…what do you want your colleges to know about you beyond your grade point average, test scores and extra-curriculars? What story or topic about you would make your application complete? Be sure to check your grammar and spelling prior to submitting.
  • Keep record of all your activities in high school-Before you begin your senior year, take inventory of all the activities you were involved in during high school, including your summers. These activities can include paid jobs, as well as family responsibilities. Be sure to include any awards or honors you have received. This is not the time to be humble! You are not being arrogant reporting all you have accomplished academically, athletically or in serving your community. Colleges are not only looking for academically talented students, but also contributing community members. Reporting your activities and awards in high school helps strengthen your application.

Remember, your college application is a written presentation of yourself. Using these tips will help you submit authentic, thorough applications well before the posted deadline!


Mary Hager of Hager College Consulting has spent the last seven years helping high school students identify and apply to their “right fit” colleges. Prior to launching Hager College Consulting, Mary worked as a college counselor in Arizona’s highest performing charter schools. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from University of Wisconsin, Madison and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from St Catherine University.