Ah, summer. Junior year is over. No more homework, exams, ACTs or SATs, after-school practices and rehearsals. Time to take a break, right?

Well, yes and no.

Working at a summer job, going to camp, volunteering, or taking a vacation with your family – all of these can give you a nice escape from the pressures of high school.

But summer – particularly the summer between 11th and 12th grade – also gives you a golden opportunity to start senior year in an organized and calm way.

Imagine all your friends as completely stressed-out, exhausted people just a few weeks into September. They’re trying to study, do homework, go to after-school activities – the usual busy schedule – and on top of all that, they are also trying to write a main college application essay, as well as numerous supplemental and several shorter essays, perfect an activity resume, ask teachers for recommendations, research colleges, and of course, fill out and submit college applications including all required pieces for each application.

They are wondering how on earth they will find the time to do all of this and get any sleep.

You, on the other hand, are feeling pretty good in September. Yes, you’ve got a full load of classes, homework and activities, but you have finished – yes, finished – most or even all of the college application process.

How is this possible? Why don’t you ever hear about anyone pulling this off? Because most students are not that disciplined. They understandably want to enjoy their summer break. They don’t have deadlines or the structure of school to keep them on track.

The thing is, you can accomplish so much over the summer with just a little consistent effort and very little stress, if you spread out the tasks so that you do a little every day, and – this is key – if you look at researching your colleges as fun, and writing your essays as a self-discovery project. And, perhaps most important, if you set weekly deadlines for yourself – which, by the way, is an excellent way to practice managing your future college workload.

Stay tuned for our next post, Your Summer Checklist, which will show you how to get almost everything done on your college applications this summer, before senior year even starts. Hint: you will have to do a little research and a little writing every day.

But right now, before 11th grade ends, there are just two things you need to do to get a jump on the college application process:

1)    Ask your favorite teachers now for recommendations. They will have much more time over the summer to write a thoughtful letter on your behalf, and they will be inundated with requests in the fall.

2)   Make sure you have all the SAT/ACT/SAT Subject Test results you need under your belt. If you must take any of these again, check registration deadlines right now so you don’t miss the earliest possible test date.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled classes. Check this space soon for that handy summer checklist to help you breeze into senior year.