Thursday, July 5, 2012

July is Latin for “Don’t Think About College”—Really!

By Patrick O'Connor  Ph.D

Summer vacation may have been designed to let students help out with the crops, but now it offers you a chance to recharge, do something different, and remember there's more to the world than the next bell, the next text, or the next test prep class.

I know the beach is calling, so I'll make this review of college updates quick.  Take a peek, make your plans, then let all things college go until August.

Common App is on Break, Too  You aren’t the only ones who need to rest, which is why the Common Application online application is closing for all of July, and all accounts created last year will be deleted.  Members of the Class of 2013 probably don’t have Common App accounts now, but if you do, it’s gone as of today, so plan a little time to start again come August.  In case your parents want to know, yes, the essay prompts for the Common App essay are the same next year—but if you want to find them in July, you’re on your own, dude—I’m serious about resting.

Summer Classes are for Learning  Many of you will spend part of July in a classroom, participating in classes or programs that offer you learning opportunities you didn’t have during the regular school year.  While many colleges applications place some value on these extra school experiences, the key to getting the most out of these activities is to focus on what you can learn. It’s one thing to list a summer class on a college application; it’s another thing to be able to write about how that experience changed your life in a college essay; it’s something more to know that experience changed the way you live your life in the way you approach college once you’re admitted.  Life is more than a list, and colleges know that—jump into the summer learning pond you’ve built for yourself and swim for the center of the experience.

Ditto for Summer Volunteering  The hours you put in at the local soup kitchen will look the same no matter what you do when you’re there, so  the last time you should think about yourself is when you make sure your apron is tied on tightly at the start of your shift.  The economy is getting better, but the waiting list of the needy extends for years; use your hours to knock months off that list, and the world will take notice, including the world of colleges.

Summer College Visits?  Maybe  If you’re travelling this summer, your parents may have plans to visit the college near Aunt Midge’s cottage.  Summer isn’t the best time to visit a college, but you can still get a feel for the place by taking the tour and walking around.  Go in July if you must, but plan on coming back for another visit when the campus is in high gear—and that can be after you’re admitted.

Relax, but Don’t Release  July really should be a time to see new things and think new thoughts, but some of the school rules about focus, caution, and responsibility apply.  Since going to college requires you to be in one piece once you get there, I offer this link for your consideration, with my wishes for a safe, calm summer: