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Ouachita Stories


How to make the most of your summer after junior year

The college search begins

Students walking from Student VillageJune 03, 2019 - Adam Wheat

It’s the summer after your junior year, and you cannot wait for senior year to get here! However, it’s easy in all that excitement to pass by what can be the most powerful tool in your belt for securing your top college choice: THE SUMMER!

I know there’s a lot going on in these months you have off, but you will still have more time on your hands than during the school year. That time can be like a cute, little unicorn float that’s nice for lounging but “is not a lifesaving device,” OR it can be like a life jacket that keeps you afloat in the vast ocean that is the college search process.

So here’s how to make the most of your junior-senior summer:

  • Start visiting colleges … yesterday! If you haven’t been to campus at all yet, then you can certainly check it out during the summer, but you need to plan to make at least one visit to all your top university picks early in your senior fall semester. It is best to visit during the semester while classes are in session so you can get a real feel for how students, faculty and staff interact with one another.
  • Apply early! Many college applications open in the late spring, so don’t wait to apply! You get much more personalized information and attention once you take a step to start the process. So, begin by gathering information: visit campus (see how I slid that in there again), investigate the schools’ websites and social media, talk to friends/teachers who attended, look at statistics on third-party review sites (like College Navigator) and then go fill out that application.
  • Don’t wait to send transcripts and test scores! Even if your ACT/SAT score or GPA aren’t exactly where you want them to be, go ahead and send them! Most colleges will update with your highest test score and GPA up to a certain point in the year (a deadline you definitely need to find out). You can always keep studying for the ACT/SAT and working on your grades, but the sooner you get accepted, the sooner you can talk about specific numbers you need to be eligible for institutional scholarships.
  • Get organized! Plot out the admission process, private/state/federal financial aid applications and even your senior year deadlines on a calendar so you will NOT PROCRASTINATE! If it’s never on paper where you can see it and can adjust your schedule for it, then you might end up with a pile of would-a, should-a, could-a’s instead of a pile of moo-lah.
  • Work smarter! Many private scholarship applications are already open and even due during the summer. While private scholarships are helpful, they are also competitive. This means you need to cast the net wide. We encourage students to apply for an average of 5-10 scholarships a week throughout their senior year. I know what you’re thinking: “If I’m doing all that, my senior year will be awful! I’ll never see my friends!” Thankfully, I come pre-loaded with some tips on how to make it manageable; check back for my next post!

Your summer between junior and senior year is like wet sand. You can let it slip through your fingers … the texture is kind of cool … sorry, got distracted! OR you can use your summer to build the foundation for an impressive sand castle. The first is fun, but the latter develops skills and practices you will need later – and can make you some money to pay for your college of choice. Ultimately, it’s your summer and your decision, but I think if you look beyond the summer, it makes it an easier decision.


Adam WheatBy Adam Wheat, a 2010 graduate, who currently serves as Ouachita's guest experience coordinator and an instructor for the Carl Goodson Honors Program