Ways to jumpstart the college application process this summer

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No matter where you are in your college search journey, there are many things you can do right now to get the process moving along so ensure a calmer fall semester.

Halley Shefler, CEO & Founder of ArtsBridge, an educational consulting firm that offers college admissions consulting and specialized coaching programs in the visual and performing arts, shares productive ways rising seniors can jumpstart the college application process over the summer:

  • Get a huge head start on your college essay. The Common App’s annual essay prompts <https://www.commonapp.org/blog/2021-2022-common-app-essay-prompts> are the best place to begin. Be thoughtful when it comes to choosing a topic, but write the first draft as if the deadline were tonight at midnight. Starting the essay writing process early will give you the space and time for revision, revision, and more revision. If you get others’ feedback on your essay drafts (and you should), make sure that it is feedback and not specific sentence suggestions. In other words, do all the writing yourself and you will end up with an essay that is truly yours. Aim to have it done before senior year even begins.
  • Think now about whom you’ll ask to write letters of recommendation for your college applications. Most students will need a guidance counselor recommendation and an academic teacher recommendation, but some colleges require a second academic teacher recommendation and some programs (such as performing and visual arts majors) will require an artistic recommendation or even two. Consider asking your teachers before the end of junior year as you may face early action/early decision deadlines in the fall.
  • Have an honest conversation with yourself and with your guidance or college counselor about your academic and other qualifications as a college applicant, both in general and perhaps also in the context of particular colleges that are already of interest to you. It’s great to apply to a couple of reach schools but make sure that your list includes colleges that you have a good chance of gaining admission to where you’d be excited to be a student.
  • Build and finalize your college list. While some students have already finalized their lists, many others are just getting started with the process of deciding which colleges to apply to. If you are still researching, get efficient with your time. Write down what things are most important to you in a college. As you attend information sessions, take virtual tours, and/or talk with current students at different colleges, keep notes organized in a spreadsheet on each according to what is important for you.
  • Get an early start on the financial aid application process. Create a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) account <https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa> and get as much completed as you can. College financial aid officers are happy to help students and parents who have questions along the way – don’t hesitate to contact them. Research which of your colleges might require (in addition to the FAFSA) the CSS Profile <https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org>, which is a financial aid application form administered by the College Board that is used by a few hundred private universities across the country. If any colleges you are applying to require it, then get started early because it’s a hefty workload.
  • Review the application requirements for all your colleges. Whether you’re planning to apply to 3 colleges or 23, make note in your spreadsheet of all the materials you will need to compile/upload/submit for each application to ensure nothing gets missed. Double check requirements again in August as they are often updated over the summer (and especially this year as colleges have been changing requirements in major ways since the beginning of the pandemic).
  • Prepare as many supporting application materials over the summer as possible so that you have less to worry about them in the fall. Find a resume template you like and finish it before senior year. For instance, visual arts applicants can finalize portfolio selections early, while music applicants can decide on audition repertoire decisions and make plans for recording prescreens early.


ArtsBridge is a consulting firm that works with high school students who aspire to study the arts. Their counseling and artistic training programs prepare students for the rigorous college application and audition processes. Students receive personalized guidance from renowned college faculty at leading arts institutions and admissions professionals with decades of experience in higher education, performing arts and visual arts. Their services help students understand what colleges and conservatories look for in prospective students, perfect their craft and audition approach, and stand out in the competitive landscape. For more information, visit www.artsbridge.com and follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.