So the end of the school year is upon us. Most international schools in Beijing have started the long break and others have a few more weeks. Chinese public schools are also humming along for a bit more. But once school breaks for the summer months, there are some things you really, really need to do.
Get working on the Common Application essays now
Just because summer is almost here or if school is already out for you, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. There is plenty and one thing you really need to work on is the Personal Statement of the Common Application. The questions are widely available and since they are the same as last year’s questions, they shouldn’t be a mystery.
Why should you get working on the essay? The more you get done over the summer, the less you have to do come September. Also, with more time on your hands you can concentrate on putting together something really good. With about two months, you can write several drafts and get most of the essay complete before school starts.
By getting the Personal Statement mostly out of the way, you can then focus on the Supplement Essays for the schools, to which you are planning to apply. These will take considerable time, so if the Personal Statement is out of the way, you can carve out time to write these additional essays.
On August 1, the Common Application will open for the coming academic year. If your essay is complete, you can just drop it on the form and you are good to go. Also on August 1, the University of California application will be available. So start working on that application if you have any UC schools on your list.
Research, Research, Research
Throughout summer you should continually research schools. The more you research the more knowledge you will have on the unique qualities of the school. The target should be to narrow your final list to ten, yes ten, schools by the start of next school year.
Why 10 schools? First of all, applying to more than ten schools does not increase your chances of getting in. With ten schools, you can focus your energy on all the details of the schools you are applying to, but this list of ten should have good breadth and depth. In other words, you should have three safety schools, three mid-range, and three reach schools with one other school falling into one of these categories.
Let’s just say that eight of your ten schools have additional essays – maybe two additional per school. Well, 2×8=16 essays. Some may overlap, but most likely the schools will be asking different questions. That is a lot of work. I have yet to meet a student who has applied to more than ten schools who says it was worth all the extra work.
The final reason for 10 – You can only attend one school.
Resume, Resume Resume
The resume is an important part of the application and you should have one. On the resume, you list the schools you have attended since Grade 9 until now. This should and must be an honest collection of the things you have participated in and include activities, clubs, contests, awards, and other essential items over the last three years. The resume should also include a brief description of what you did. There are tons of examples on the Internet to look at to get a good idea of what should be on your resume.
There are two purposes for creating a resume. First, you will need this information when you complete your college applications. Second there is a section where you list your top ten activities. It is important that you list items and activities that had the most impact on you. Do not try to figure out what you think an admissions officer is looking for; they are looking for you to tell them exactly what were the most important and impacting activities you engaged in.
Who are you?
Now that you are about to enter your final year, this is a great time to assess or reassess who you are, what is important to you, and plan for the year ahead. You will have a lot of work to do once school starts in the fall: homework, SAT, TOEFL (maybe), applications, etc. It is a fantastic idea to get started planning out what you will need to do. Senior year will fly by, but you want to make sure you are at your best, your most well-focused self.
Summer is also a good time to consider or reflect on who you are as a person. What do you like and dislike? What do you want to do or want to be? What are your core values? What have you learned from the clubs, organizations, and classes you belong to? What makes you tick?
As you consider these things and while you are completing your resume, you may find some interesting evidence to use in the essays you are writing. One also hopes that it will provide you focus on the activities that have been important to you so you can focus on them next year. For the next couple months, have fun doing what you have planned – summer school, an internship perhaps, but remember to take time to follow these recommendations. You will be a happier and saner person come October!
Hamilton Gregg is the founder of International Educational Consulting and has worked in education since 1985. He helps students and their families understand their personal and educational needs and find the right school to meet their requirements. If you are a student or parent who would like to ask Gregg a question on our blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy of Christopher Webb (flickr)