Unigo Expert Network: What Impresses Admissions Officers Over Summer Break?

As the weather gets warmer and days get longer, it's all too easy for high school juniors to start experiencing symptoms of early on-set senioritis. We're all for having fun over the summer, but make a little time for these expert tips on how to use your break to get accepted to your first choice college.

This week's question asks:

"As a junior looking to stay on top of my college admissions timeline, what are the most important things for me to be doing before senior year starts?"

See answers from the Dean of Admissions at University of Pennslvania, Wesleyan, and and ask your own questions at www.unigo.com/expertnetwork

Susan Chiarolanzio
"Don't Over-do It: Choose courses that challenge but inspire success"
One question I hear often is "how many AP classes do I need to be admitted to college?" While I know it's frustrating, my answer is always the same: "There isn't an exact number." AP courses are great. They provide challenge and rigor and stretch students, offering strong preparation for the demands of college. The fact is, though, that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to APs. Seek advice from teachers and advisers when planning your schedule and choose one that allows you to showcase your ability, not overwhelm you.

- Susan Chiarolanzio - Director of College Counseling, Flint Hill School

Mabel Freeman
"Design an 'extreme' Campus Visit Strategy in your junior year"
Use your spring break or a long weekend in your junior year to strategically check out two or three campuses that represent the greatest extremes among the colleges you are considering. Visit one of the largest and one of the smallest, or a research university and liberal arts college, or a rural-located and urban-located campus. Prepare questions that address the realities of size, location, or type of institution. What do these factors mean for your academic interests or your comfort level? What did you like? Use knowledge gained from these strategic junior year visits to plan successful senior year visits.

- Mabel Freeman - Asst. VP for Undergraduate Admissions, Ohio State University

Mark Montgomery
"Reevaluate and Refocus your Extracurricular Involvements"
Panicky juniors may assume that more is better when it comes to college applications. They join a few more clubs, spend more hours at the homeless shelter, take kazoo lessons, and tutor first graders. But colleges seek students with both commitment and a willingness to pursue excellence. So step back to ask which activities really mean something to you, which are most enjoyable, and which provide the greatest opportunity to demonstrate not only talent, but dedication and leadership. It's better to do one thing well and with depth of purpose than to flit from one activity to another without making much of a lasting contribution.

- Mark Montgomery - Founder, Montgomery Educational Counseling

Sarah Hernandez
"Be Proactive About Preventing Standardized Exam Burnout!"
To prevent standardized exam burnout during your senior year, implement a plan that allows you to strategically space out the dates when you are registered to take SAT, ACT, SAT II, AP, and/or IB exams. With all that you will have going on during your senior year, the last thing you want creeping up on you are standardized exams! Therefore, take the SAT and/or ACT at least once during the spring of your junior year. Also, register to take any relevant SAT II exams corresponding with your junior courses in late spring/early summer to leverage your retention of critical content.

- Sarah Hernandez - Director of the Office of Diversity Programs, Cornell University

Jennifer DesMaisons
"Self-assess, challenge yourself, and focus on best fit"
Maintain momentum with academic and extracurricular commitments, choose senior courses with intention, and look for meaningful leadership opportunities. Continue developing the portrait of who you are. Think carefully about how your upcoming summer experience might reflect on your willingness to challenge yourself. Understand what your overall record says about you. Seek advice on how to highlight your strengths. Save graded writing samples. Visit colleges and notice what things are truly important. Think expansively about what type of environment would best support your preferences and goals. Formulate a strong list of questions to ask colleges to determine best fit for you.

- Jennifer DesMaisons - Director of College Counseling, The Putney School in Vermont

Let us know what your plans are for the summer or what you did your junior year if you're *ahem* a bit older! Traveling? Staycationing? Share with some comments below!