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Get a Head Start On College Applications This Summer: 5 Activities for Rising Seniors



Step 1: Complete the Common Application

The Common Application is accepted by over 900 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Through the platform, first-time and transfer applicants alike can apply to multiple colleges at once. So, students only have to fill out details that most schools require, including name, address, parental information, education history, and extracurricular activities, one time. The platform, while not intuitive to use, has plenty of short tutorial videos as well as on page help guides. I like to have my students complete most of the application early in the summer before we move on to brainstorming and working on their college essays. Even though rising junior’s admission season does not officially open until August 1, the Common Application has a rollover feature. This feature allows all the information that was entered earlier in the year to be uploaded directly to the new application year on or after August 1. In all, my students save many hours of work and stress by completing much of this application in early summer.

Step 2: Work on California State University Application

To apply to one or more of the 23 California State University campuses, students usually have to wait until October 1 when the Cal State Apply application opens for completion and submission. The most time consuming and often confusing section of the Cal State Apply application is adding student’s courses from 9 – 12 grades along with any world language or math classes of Algebra and higher they took in 7th and 8th grades. My students get a head start on completing this application over the summer using a little-known tool from the California Department of Education https://californiacolleges.edu . Under the Academic Planner section, I teach students how to accurately add all their college prep coursework. Pro Tip: the student should have a copy of their transcript showing grades through the end of 11th grade to refer to as they enter this data. Come October 1, all this data is uploaded and populates the academic history section of the Cal State Apply application. This neat trick saves the student time and eliminates errors.


Step 3: College Essays

Admission officers want to get to know students beyond their high school curriculum and grades. What does the student value? What are the student’s passions? How will the student contribute to the campus community should they be admitted? The college essay in the Common Application, and the personal insight questions in the UC application, are the channel through which this is done. These essays require a student to spend time reflecting on such questions; to look introspectively at who they are now and where they want to go in the future. Such a task takes time for the majority of teenagers which is why I begin the process with my students as soon as they’ve finished finals and one full day to sleep in and do lots of nothing! Having all these essays written, rewritten, finalized, and polished before senior year starts takes a tremendous amount of stress off students as college application season heats up in the fall.

Step 4: Activities Resume

Much like an adult resume, student’s activity resumes should show Admissions Officers how the student has engaged in the activity, the progress/growth they experienced, and what impact they have had. Did the student start on the freshman team of their sport then progress each year to the varsity team by senior year? That can be shown on the Common App Activity description as: Varsity Football Def. Tackle (12, 11) JV (10) Frosh (9). Perhaps the student with Cystic Fibrosis started a non-profit recycling program with funds raised going to the CF Foundation. That might be shown as: Founder school district wide recycling prgrm, raised & donated $20,000 CF Foundation; recruited/managed site mgrs for weekly collections @ 28 schools. The incomplete sentences and abbreviations are necessary because the Common Application only provides 150 characters to describe the scope of the student’s efforts. Activities that are inadequately explained in this limited space can be expanded in the additional information section.

Step 5: Research Colleges/Campus Tours

Thankfully campuses across the country will be opened for in-person tours this summer. Check the college’s website to confirm how tours are being conducted, and to register for the date and time that fits your schedule. If an in-person tour is not possible, colleges have developed various forms of virtual tours whether live or recorded. I recommend students and parents go on these tours together (even the virtual ones!) so the parent can help take notes and remind the student of important questions they wanted to ask.

Keep Your Summer Peaceful

For 15 tips on college campus visits, see my March 14, 2021 blog post.


If the college essay and application activities feel too overwhelming for your student as a DIY project, I offer application and essay packages:

3 Session Package: Common Application Completion Assistance Including Personal Statement

  • Session 1: 90-minute session to review student’s questions about the Common Application (completed to the best of student’s ability prior to session), recommend and oversee necessary corrections; evaluate and recommend edits to Activities list, and Personal Statement brainstorming.

  • Session 2: 60-minute session to review and recommend edits for first draft of the Personal Statement.

  • Session 3: 60-minute session to finalize the Personal Statement.


5 Session Package: Common Application Completion Assistance Including Personal Statement and 3-Supplemental Essays

  • Session 1: 90-minute session to review student’s questions about the Common Application (completed to the best of student’s ability prior to session), recommend and oversee necessary corrections; evaluate and recommend edits to Activities list, and Personal Statement brainstorming.

  • Session 2: 60-minute session to review and recommend edits for first draft of the Personal Statement.

  • Session 3: 60-minute session to finalize the Personal Statement, and brainstorm three (3) supplemental essays.

  • Session 4: 60-minute session to review and recommend edits for first drafts of three (3) supplemental essays.

  • Session 5: 60-minute session to finalize three (3) supplemental essays.


University of California Package: UC Application Completion Assistance Including Personal Insight Questions


  • Session 1: 90-minute session to review student’s questions about the UC Application (completed to the best of student’s ability prior to session), evaluate student’s campus selection and 1st and 2nd choice majors, recommend, and oversee necessary corrections.

  • Session 2: 60-minute session to evaluate and recommend edits to Activities list, and Personal Insight Question brainstorming (brainstorm all 8 prompts and guide student to top 4).

  • Session 3: 60-minute session to review and recommend edits for first draft of the four (4) Personal Insight Questions.


  • Session 4: 60-minute session to finalize the four (4) Personal Insight Questions.


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This blog was written Janice Royal, MA. She is the Founder and CEO of Royal College Consulting.


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Email: janice@royalcollegeconsulting.com

Phone: (714) 319-0399