Your Student’s Guide to College Planning

Your Student’s Guide to College Planning


Now that summer is in full swing, here’s your periodic reminder that now is the perfect time for rising seniors to work on their college applications

In fact, here at Signet, we advise students to have their college applications nearly ready for submission by the end of the summer after junior year so that they’re not scrambling once the hectic school year starts. 

College applications are a major stressor for students—and a big bone of contention for many families. It can be downright hard to get started on the necessary steps, especially with the lure of fun summer activities getting in the way. (And by all means, teenagers should be out enjoying summer as much as they can!) 

If your rising senior is struggling to find the motivation to work on their college application, these tips can help get them on the right track. 

Get on Track with College Applications 

Here’s how we recommend structuring the college application process this summer

1. Begin with a brain dump 

Work with your student to create a master list of everything they need to accomplish in relation to the college application process. Be specific! Instead of writing “research schools,” write “develop an initial list of 25 potential schools for college list.”

2. Break goals down into manageable tasks 

The goals a student lists during their initial brain dump can feel overwhelming, leaving them with no idea where to begin. So the next step is to break big projects down into smaller, more manageable tasks. 

3. Check in with the student’s high school 

Before planning too far ahead, find out what your student’s college counselor is expecting and offering during the upcoming academic year. What deadlines do students need to meet? Are there workshops to walk them through completing the Common App? If so, that could indicate they only need to focus on prep work this summer.

4. Set realistic expectations 

When establishing goals and timelines for college applications, leave plenty of time for resting, recharging, and having fun. Regarding schedules, some students do well with a recurring schedule (1-2 hours at a set time each week), while others prefer to set aside longer periods to work on their college applications (choose 1 or 2 weeks that will be dedicated to application work). Students should pick whichever approach suits them best and stick to it. 

Bonus tip: Take however much time a student expects they will need to set aside for college applications and double it! College applications are almost always more time-consuming than students expect.

5. Leave a buffer 

We recommend leaving some buffer time toward the end of the summer just in case things don’t go as planned. Set aside a week before the school year begins to devote to college applications if needed. We also advise setting a deadline to ask for support: if your student hasn’t completed [insert task] by [insert date], it’s time to talk to a consultant. Which brings us to the last piece of advice. . . 

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help 

It’s okay to seek outside support. If you find yourself in this position, know that you aren’t alone. Many families reach out to Signet the summer before senior year for help completing college applications. We’re just a phone call away if you need us

Where to Start: Quick Goals for the Summer 

Here are some of the college application tasks your student should aim to complete this summer: 

  • Finalize their college list—hint: look for schools that are the right fit 
  • Decide on application time frames (e.g., Early Action, Early Decision, Regular Decision) 
  • Begin work on the Common App essays and supplements—crucial pieces of the application that are worth students’ best efforts 
  • Determine if they will need to retake any standardized tests this fall 


Looking for more helpful resources? Check out Signet’s Guide to College Admissions.

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