Juniors, you're in a tough spot. You want a summer filled with beach; your parents want a summer filled with college prep, and writing essays on the sandy shore is out.
What to do? Share one of these tech resources with your parents every few days of summer. You learn a few things, they learn a few things, you're liberated from your desk -- and you'll be college-ready come late August.
Test prep: Khan Academy has all you need for both the new and current SAT. The work is self-paced and easy to work with in small bits. Skip the stuff you know, and re-work the tougher stuff.
For a more mobile version of test prep, the SAT Question of the Day works on any smart phone. This is a real hit with parents; make sure they subscribe, and they'll relax immediately. Really.
Good options also exist for ACT prep, but the most popular ACT app allows you to download the required test-taking picture from your smartphone. You have to register for the test on a computer, but once that's done, pick up your phone, and load your favorite selfie.
College Searches and Tours: If you're looking for free college search options, it's tough to beat College Board's Big Future or Cappex. Both allow you to save your searches, and both offer scholarship information.
For a list of colleges that offer an unusual major -- say, schools that offer accelerated medical programs, or Art Therapy -- PB Works is your best bet. Not every list is up to date, but the site is a huge time-saver for majors you don't hear about every day.
If your searches inspire you to see a campus you can't travel to, try YouVisit. It's likely the pictures will all be beautiful, but it will still give you an introductory feel for your potential next home.
Applying to College: Most colleges have their own online app or links to an online application like Common Application or Universal College Application, so it's best not to stray from those. 'Nuff said.
Paying for College: Parents really freak about this, so share one of these sites right away:
Scholly is a nice phone app that helps you search for scholarships using all kinds of factors.
College Abacus is a great way to compare estimated costs at more than one college.
Merit Aid gives you some idea about the kinds of non-need aid you could qualify for at a school. Double check the college's Web site once you find a scholarship, to make sure it's still being offered.
First Gen and Undocumented Students: College is a little tougher to sort out if you're the first in your family who wants to go to a US college. Fast Forward is a great site for any college seeker, but offers perspectives first gens find especially helpful. Firstgenerationstudent tailors that information even further.
For undocumented students, the Web site of the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling has strong resources, as does Educators For Fair Consideration. These recommendations come from Aliza Gilbert, college counselor at Highland Park High in Illinois. Aliza's helped undocumented students more than most any other counselor on the planet, so this is the real deal.
Best Summer Site -- Build Your College Knowledge and Save the Planet: Zombie College (on the right side of the page) -- college information in a colorful display, and you protect Mother Earth while you learn about the basics of college. You may already know some of this stuff, but how often do you get to work on college material while keeping the undead off your front lawn?