College Application Summer Survival Guide

How to survive the college application process and gain admission to the school of your choice.

by Scott Gleeson

Not so long ago (24 years, to be precise), my father, twin brother and I strolled among towering cottonwoods on the sunny campus of Colorado College, enjoying its Gothic Revival sandstone architecture and dramatic views of Pikes Peak. It was the summer after my Junior year at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas and this was one of the last campus tours on an itinerary that began the previous year with stops in California, Maine, and the South. I am fortunate - my parents are planners and encouraged me to begin the college application process early. This strategy eventually paid off when I received an acceptance letter from CC, my first choice school and a top-tier liberal arts college that now boasts a 16% acceptance rate.

For those of you beginning the college application process this summer, we have a few simple recommendations about how to survive the stress and (fingers crossed) gain admission to your first choice school. 

Start Early

  • Begin researching schools and application requirements in June on your preferred application platform (Apply Texas, Common App, Coalition App) or at the individual institutions where you are applying.

  • Request recommendation letters in the summer because teachers need and appreciate plenty of advance notice when writing on students' behalf.

  • Gather information needed for scholarship and financial aid applications, such as family history and income data.

  • If you are curious about career options available within your areas of personal interest, download the C'reer app to learn the colleges and careers that might be best for you. This app maintains strong reviews and is available on iTunes.

  • Contact your school to inquire about a Naviance subscription - this service provides college research and application features.

Take a Trip - IRL or Online

Plan college campus visits or browse each school's website(s) and digital media platforms. There is no substitute for experiencing a college campus first-hand through a tour or overnight stay. This is the ideal way to understand how the campus and facilities shape the college experience, as well as how the campus contributes to a broader urban context. If visiting in person is not an option, download the institutional app and browse the school website to read blogs and learn about academic programs and campus culture. Follow your top schools on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  

Be a Prepper

There are two events in life for which you should always be prepared: The Apocalypse and the SATs! Take a course, buy a prep book, or download an app to your phone. SAT Up is available on iTunes and maintains a decent overall rating. Set aside plenty of time for practice tests and study vocabulary every spare moment you can find (waiting in line, in the car, and yes, in the bathroom).

Write Those Essays

As professional writing tutors coaching students on drafting winning college admissions essays we understand the time needed to write and edit effectively. Time is the most important ingredient to good writing because what sounded great on Thursday at midnight might not withstand scrutiny on Monday morning. Many essay prompts are available online before the applications open, so take a look at the application as early as possible. Cut and paste essay prompts into a Google Sheet or other document along with application requirements and deadlines. Check out our Writing Resources page for a list of recommended reads about the essay-writing process, give us a call at (505) 603-9404, or Book an Appointment.

There is no substitute for having a professional editor read your drafts. Try our Admissions Essay Draft Review™ tutoring option if you are on a budget or pressed for time.

Get Organized

Keeping track of the application process can be tricky. Apps do exist to help students stay organized, however, users report major bugs for even the top-rated downloads like the Common App OnTrack. A Google Sheet and Calendar with reminder notifications set well in advance of your deadlines may be all you need.

Go Private

Update your social media security settings or biographical information to make your digital profiles reflect the best version of you. Search Facebook photos by name to find any public compromising pics in which you are tagged and request your friends remove these images. College admissions officers, like employers, may be curious to see what content you publish online and you don't want your digital persona to be a liability. Conduct online reputation management by Googling yourself. If that local newspaper article about you rescuing a basket of puppies from the flood is the first result, great! If unwanted content is showing in the results, contact the source to see about removing it. Then work to grow your digital footprint with a personal or guest blog, website, race results, or story in your school or neighborhood newspaper.


Be sure to balance all your hard work with summer fun. Make time for engaging physical, creative, or meditative activities that encourage you to be present in the moment. Plan a movie night or scavenger hunt with friends. Practice yoga. Complete a puzzle. Read a book (the paper kind). Go for a swim. Visit a museum. Challenge yourself to reduce time spent on digital devices or watching television.

By following this simple strategy you will be on track to complete the application process ahead of schedule and without a Prilosec prescription!

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