College Applications During Summer? For Real?

Ah, the lazy, hazy days of summer. Remember what it was like to look forward to summer as a kid? Three whole months! No school. No homework. Long hours of daylight. Lots of ice cream. My mother usually made sure to fill up a couple of weeks with day camps and rec programs so that my brother and I wouldn't drive her to the brink of insanity but these were carefree months.

Eventually, as a teenager, summer meant that I could work more hours to earn money that I would spend hanging out with friends at the mall or the movies or the local coffee shop. Not to pay bills; we didn't have cell phones then. If we had, I either wouldn't have been allowed to have one, or I'm sure my father would have introduced me to bill-paying as a teen. Even though I was "working", those three whole months of summer were still a vacation. They allowed me a break from the routine of getting up early, completing the compulsory number of hours in a school day, and committing several after-school hours each day to various school or community activities.

And so why am I surprised that I have to nag, beg, cajole and bargain with students to work on their college admissions essays over the summer? When I meet with students and parents each spring, to a person (students included), the number one stated objective, far and above all others, is "to be done with the college admissions essays and hopefully applications" before school resumes in September. The concept is great. The reality is that high school seniors-to-be want those three whole months to be as carefree as teenager can be in today's world.

But my job is to rain on their parade, be a party pooper, and stand-in for their parents as "nag" or "bad guy" on all things college-related. If I am successful at my job (which I am in most cases), students have, at the very least, completed the heavy lifting parts of applying to college before the first day of their senior year. The activities "resume" is done, the Common Application is 90% finished (with maybe just a few college supplements left to complete), and the major essay(s) might still need a tweak or two, but they're largely done. I try to make it as painless as possible. We tackle things in small pieces that usually require just a few hours' commitment each week through July and August. I don't hear many complaints, and those I do hear usually come from the students who procrastinate.

When September rolls around and my students go back to school, they realize how much further along they are in the application process than their peers. They don't experience the stress of trying to get essays written while studying for the SATs or completing the Common Application late at night when they're exhausted after a sports practice. That's when they realize that the minor intrusion on their three whole months off was well worth it.

It's mid-July, and I'm in "nag mode" right now. I won't breathe easy until next spring when all the admissions decisions have been received. Then I'll take one whole month before starting the cycle over with a new group. Ahhh, May!

Tags: parenting, summer school, summer programs, educational consulting profession, college, admissions process, applying to college, college admission essay

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