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10 Tips: How to Use the Summer Break for College Prep

by sandyadviser
06/19/15 Bookmark

Sandy Jimenez has been a College Access Counselor at the Options Center at Goddard Riverside Community Center since 2000. In 2006, she helped design the first iteration of the Options Institute’s Foundation Course for College Access and Success Counselors. She has worked individually with over 500 students and trained thousands of professionals. Most recently, Sandy has joined NYC College Line as a Senior Adviser, where you can reach her through the Ask an Adviser feature. 


Folks, it’s a special time of year. The school year is almost over and summer is almost here. If you’re lucky like me, you’ll get to work with most of your students throughout the summer. For many counselors and some of my students, the summer means time off with their family or vacations in paradise.

If you’re away from your students, you’ll be concerned all summer about the progress your students are making towards college.  Here are ways you can ensure that your students are all set if you won’t be seeing them this summer.

Current Seniors

For students planning to go to college, it’s not enough just to get in. There are many steps to complete once they have been accepted. If possible, students should complete these steps before the school year is out.   College Enrollment Tip Sheets for CUNY, SUNY and independent colleges are very helpful – there are 60 various university tip sheets on NYC College Line to help students matriculate.

  1. Complete the FAFSA. An incomplete or incorrect FAFSA can hold up financial aid packages and college matriculation. The FAFSA is not just important for accessing financial aid. Studies have shown that students that complete the FAFSA are more likely to enroll in college. It is perfectly timely to hold a FAFSA completion night for stragglers or students that need to make corrections.  

    For students who have completed the FAFSA, some schools may still require additional paperwork in order to verify information. In anticipation of this possibility, it is important that all students who can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool with their FAFSA. In order to do this, students will go back in to their FAFSA and return to the page about parental finances. Not all students will be able to use this tool. For example, students with undocumented parents, students whose parents file a foreign, and students whose parent have recently file, among others, may not be able to use this tool. For those students, colleges may require an IRS tax transcript. If your student is in this category, request a tax transcript ahead of time in case it’s required. 
  2.  TAP School Code (CUNY, SUNY and Other Colleges). In order to prevent hiccups in TAP disbursement, it is important to double check that the TAP application lists the correct school. Once they’ve decided what school’s their number 1, students can handle this online or over the phone. Help students by getting everyone on their phone at your straggler’s FAFSA night!  
  3. Set-up a financial plan. Teach your students to read their financial aid packages by providing a worksheet like this one: http://nyccollegeline.org/resources/financial-aid-packages-comparison-worksheet-options. Then provide a detailed checklist of next steps like completing a master promissory note and entrance interview, signing up for a payment plan, etc. This sheet is also helpful: http://nyccollegeline.org/resources/applying-for-and-managing-loans.  
  4. Oh the paperwork! Colleges expect a lot of paperwork from new students. Whether it’s actually on paper or online. It can end up feeling like red tape. There are medical forms to be filled out, class registration, orientation, proof of state residence, etc. And don’t forget the sundry fees: acceptance, orientation, housing deposit, etc. Pushing into classes or holding a paperwork night to complete these many tasks can be helpful. A checklist like this one is a good start: http://nyccollegeline.org/resources/final-steps-before-you-begin-college.  Follow it up with this webinar for more details: http://nyccollegeline.org/resources/final-steps-before-you-begin-college

Students who don’t complete the steps listed above before the summer may fall victim to the “summer melt.” Even students that seem to be ready and eager to start college can fall prey.  Help your students by giving them an emergency number to call, if they feel their college dream slipping away. Remember that many college access organizations and even colleges themselves are open throughout the summer. Make a plan! Connect your student with a trusted connection on campus—a trusted admission officer or an opportunity program counselor, for example.  A partnership with an outside organization can help your students during the summer and beyond. Use our search function and filters to find organizations in your neighborhood. Call ahead to ask how to refer students and what services they offer. Many organizations are even willing to do an orientation workshop at your school. It’s not too late!

Rising seniors

Your current juniors/rising seniors can use the summer to start prepping for the college application season. There are many things they can do. Assigning them a few to work on over the summer can help them get a head start.

  1. Complete a brag sheet. It’s like an interview on paper. It helps teachers and counselors alike to write more informed recommendations. It’s also a great way to get students thinking about their resume. Check out the College Board’s version here: http://nyccollegeline.org/resources/student-self-assessment-form. They also have one for parents.
  2. Start applying. The SUNY and Common Applications are available in August and the CUNY one comes out in early September. Students can register for accounts and start filling out the applications over the summer. That way there’ll be less work to do later.
  3. Draft an essay. Writing the college essay is a process. This is what makes it most difficult. Many students expect to churn out a perfect essay as soon as the start writing. Sorry, girls and boys, that’s not how it works! Here’s a sheet to help get your students started: http://nyccollegeline.org/resources/helping-students-start-a-college-essay.
  4. Get ahead of the game, and find out tips of what CUNY, SUNY and private colleges expect when enrolling – 2015 Matriculation Guides.

Current sophomores and juniors

It’s never too early to start prepping for college!

  1. For younger students, it can be easier to think of college in terms of career. Get them started by assigning a career inventory. They can follow up by researching three of the resulting careers. NY Career Zone has a great free inventory: http://nyccollegeline.org/resources/career-zone.
  2. There are so many great colleges around town. Students can visit 2-3 local schools and write a review about them. When the school year starts they can have a college fair with the different colleges they’ve discovered.


Don’t forget mom, dad, and guardian. They need to be in on the game. One easy way of involving them is sending a letter home about their kid’s summer to do list. When the school year starts bring them in for a new year orientation. Remember to pair up with the parent coordinator and parent association prez to bring in the most people.

No summer break? No problem!

If you’ve got full access to your students, good for you! Partner up with your students to do some of these summer tasks! The more they get done over the summer, the easier your fall will be.

Do you give your students summer assignments? Which ones? 

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