How to Tackle College Prep This Summer

You’ve aced your finals…or at least completed them…You’ve said your “have a good summers” and “we definitely need to hang out” and headed out the doors without looking back. But if you’re a rising Senior there may be a nagging voice that silently (or not so silently) keeps reminding you that college applications and the question of “where are you applying” is slowly taking over you’re entire existence. Well I’m here to tell you it DOES NOT have to be that way. Really. Let’s break it down. I’m a huge fan of breaking up the college admission process into manageable pieces that make sense for YOU. Not your friend, not your neighbor, not the person you think has it all together. But YOU. Take a look at some easy ways to tackle the college admission process from exploration to application in just one post. 

Know WHERE you want to apply before you get caught up in HOW

Let’s face it, you have the Common Application (an application site that over 700 universities use to streamline the process), the University of California application, the California State University application (or whatever your respective state application is), the Coalition, maybe an international application site such as UCAS, an application directly on a college’s website and who knows whatever else could wind up in front of you. It’s A LOT. Just creating the accounts, remembering your usernames and passwords and answering the basic questions can get overwhelming.

Do yourself a favor and take the time to build and balance your college list. Once you have a clearer sense of where you’re applying it can be MUCH simpler to open an excel spreadsheet, write it in a notebook and keep track of where to submit the application and what’s required. 

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Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on

A well-researched, balanced college list is more important than you know…really

Your success be defined by the experiences, connections and opportunities within your undergraduate education not the name of the University. It can be SUPER easy to apply to a college because it’s well-known without really peeling the curtain back to see if it’s even a good fit for you. It’s also super easy to apply to a college because it’s familiar and a lot of your friends are applying. But take the time to base your search off of really key factors like program fit, academic rigor, support services, social experiences and opportunities, the surrounding community. Take a look at the following resources in creating a well-balanced college list:

The College Essay is one component where you have SO MUCH more control and influence. Spend time wisely and reap the rewards!

The College Essay is a component to your college application where you get to showcase your strengths, interests, how you’ve faced adversity, challenge and what you hope and dream to accomplish. It’s a space that you have the upmost control. It’s also a space a lot of students can always spend more time on. Set a day and a time for essays. Take a free webinar, look up resources to help you. Whatever you do, JUST…START…WRITING. Allow yourself to write multiple drafts. Take a look at some helpful resources below:

Again, it can be incredibly helpful to set a date/time that you have scheduled to write. Even if it’s just for 30 minutes. Schedule it, do it and then walk away.

Know your support system

I’m a huge proponent of self-care and reducing burn out. The college admission process isn’t always roses…I know…shocking right? It is a process where students want to shut down. Parents want to support, yet feel like their too involved or not involved enough. It’s one where you stand at the start of the road and just stare off with such overwhelming feelings that you don’t even know where to start the journey. But it does not have to be. Take a look at the following tips to get you started:

  • Set boundaries. Set boundaries on conversations about college and when to not have them.
  • Know your self-care. What are the things you do when you feel stressed? Take a walk? Write? Read? Zone out to music? Scrolling on social media DOES NOT count! Know the coping tools that work for you when it gets to be a bit too much.
  • Who can you confide in? A friend, teacher, family member, anyone. Anyone that allows you to feel safe and able to open up about your fears, concerns and just someone to talk to.
  • Remind yourself of why you’re doing this in the first place. You’re awesome. I haven’t even met you and I already know that. You know why? Because you’ve dedicated hours and hours to a sport, a hobby, your books, studying, listening to your teachers, writing papers, in group projects and doing everything you’re supposed to. Remind yourself of your amazing talents and skills that make up you. Remind yourself of how quirky, fun, smart and awesome you are.

Remind yourself that you are not defined by this one process, but by the time, energy and effort you put into yourself and ultimately your successful future. You’ve got this. 

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Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on





Published by Casey Barneson

Author of The College Wellness Guide. Beverly Hills High School College Counselor.

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