• College Counseling
It Depends, A College Counseling Blog Series: Summer Prep

 

Editor’s Note: 

It Depends is a new series from the Office of College Counseling, that aims to answer some common questions asked by students and families as they navigate the college search and application process, within the context of today’s world, with today’s technology.   

Check back monthly as Co-Director of College Counseling Keegan Ash poses frequently asked questions to ChatGPT and analyzes the responses, going deeper than the generic replies by reminding us, “it depends.” 

 


Welcome to It Depends, a new blog series from the College Counseling Office.  

There is one phrase that we say daily in our office: 

“It depends...”   

The process of selecting a college or university has so many different factors that it is nearly impossible to give a direct answer when asked a general question.   

Should I submit my SAT scores?   

Should I apply to this college or that college?   

What do I write my essay about?   

More often than not, the answer is: It depends.  It depends on your individual circumstances.  It depends on your family structure.  It depends on the desires of the student.  It depends on the ever-changing needs and goals of the universities. 

“It depends” is meant to lead to further discussion. It is an opportunity for us as counselors to ask follow-up questions. It is a chance for us to gather more information about each child in this process. We are student-centered.  We know every student is unique and therefore every process will be unique.  

This series aims to share some varying perspectives on all-things college related.  We know this is not a one-size-fits-all time your lives, so how do we get started?   

In each post, I will pose a question to ChatGPT about the college process and then respond and add perspective to the AI generated response. The goal is to provide the general content anyone could find on internet forums, or websites, or through AI, but to go one step further and add the expertise, experience, and perspective of an experienced counselor. 

AI content will be displayed in normal text, while my comments will be purple and bolded to distinguish between the two perspectives. 

 

Let’s get started.  Students, this set is for you.   

 

Question: What should I do over the summer to prepare for my college search and application process? 

Preparing for the college search and application process during the summer can be a valuable use of your time. Here are some activities you can engage in to make progress: 

ChatGPT Point 1 - Reflect on your goals and interests: Take some time to reflect on your academic and personal goals, as well as your interests and passions. Consider what you are looking for in a college experience and what factors are important to you, such as location, size, majors offered, extracurricular activities, etc. This self-reflection will help guide your college search. 

Reflection is always beneficial, not just as you go through this process.  Considering what you’re looking for in a college is fantastic! Start with the positives and add in some things that you’re looking to avoid as well.  Also think about the priorities of these factors.  If finances or location is the number one factor, that’s important to know early on.  However, if you’re already set on your intended major, then ensuring that the college has your major is vital.  If you’re looking to play sports at the next level, the colleges on your list need to have that sport.  So, for this process it depends on what your priorities are.  Taking some time over the summer to evaluate that can be hugely beneficial as you enter your senior year. 


ChatGPT Point 2 - Research colleges and create a list: Start researching colleges and universities that align with your interests and goals. Explore their websites, read about academic programs, campus life, and admission requirements. Make a list of colleges that you find appealing and match your criteria. 

This is kind of a bland answer.  Of course, research.  But what does that really mean?  Do I have to stay in front of my screen all summer?  Please, no!  If you have done some reflecting and have a lot of uncertainty about what you’re looking for in a college, go tour the closest college to you.  It doesn’t mean you have to attend that college.  You need to find some perspective.  You need to have a reference.  It’s more than likely that the college will be too close to home for many of our students.  That’s okay.  Go and see what that college has to offer so you know what you’re looking for in the next college.  Start close and have fun with it!  If you’re traveling with your family, drive through a local college and just take in the view of the campus. That perspective will help give you more of an understanding of what you want and don’t want in a college. 


ChatGPT Point 3 - Attend virtual college fairs, and information sessions: Many colleges and universities offer virtual events and information sessions during the summer. Attend these sessions to learn more about the institutions you are interested in, ask questions, and gain insights from admissions representatives. 

Not bad advice, but again, what does that mean?  Why do a virtual event?  All colleges will track what you do through the process.  If you’re on campus and take a tour with admissions, they know.  If you open an email from the college, they know you opened it.  If a college is holding an information session, attend it.  In-person events are great, but if you’re looking at some colleges further away, then virtual is a great option.  If it’s via Zoom, turn your camera on, look presentable and be engaged.  
 

ChatGPT Point 4 - Plan campus visits (if possible): If feasible, plan visits to colleges you are seriously considering. Campus visits provide an opportunity to experience the atmosphere, tour the facilities, and interact with current students. Check college websites for visit options and safety guidelines. 

This falls under the same idea as researching.  No need to repeat.  I will add that summertime visits can be tough.  I have had students return from a college visit and say, “the campus seemed too quiet.”  That’s normal, especially since the vast majority of the students are not on campus, but it may not be reflective of the reality.  Look for construction while on campus.  That’s a good sign that the college has the resources to continue growing. 

 

Perkiomen College Counselor Keegan Ash with statue of the Pitt Panther

Mr. Ash on tour at the University of Pittsburgh. Go Panthers!

 

ChatGPT Point 5 - Prepare for standardized tests (if necessary): If you plan to take the SAT or ACT, use the summer to prepare for these exams. Review test content, practice sample questions, and consider enrolling in test preparation courses or utilizing online resources. 

IT DEPENDS.  Testing in this process has changed a lot, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic; however, even prior to COVID, many colleges and universities were already test-optional.  Some colleges now are test-free, which means they do not use standardized testing in the college process at all.  Preparing for standardized tests can be hugely beneficial, but the student needs to be the driver of this process.  If you understand the value of the test prep, you will be more successful throughout the process and the scores will likely reflect that preparation more than if you just went through the motions.  It’s tough to say, “yes, do it,” because for some students, testing does not reflect your abilities as a student.  Taking the SAT and ACT test are another opportunity. If you take the test, you may use it in your applications, but you may not.  It is not the end-all be all. 
 

ChatGPT Point 6 - Work on your resume and personal statement: Start drafting your resume and personal statement. Your resume should highlight your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, leadership roles, community service, and work experience. Begin brainstorming ideas for your personal statement, which should convey your unique experiences, perspectives, and motivations. 

LOVE THIS! Anything you can do now to make the fall a little more manageable is a great thing! 
 

ChatGPT Point 7 - Seek out summer enrichment opportunities: Consider participating in summer programs, internships, or volunteer work related to your academic or career interests. These experiences can enhance your college applications by demonstrating your commitment, initiative, and ability to explore your areas of interest. 

This all sounds good, but let’s also consider cost. Many of these programs are very costly.  If you can afford and are interested in them, go for it.  If these are not options, consider what you could do that would be of interest and help you grow. Could you take a community college class?  Could you get a job?  Think of something that is productive. You NEED to take time to relax and spend time with your family but find something to continue being productive. 
 

ChatGPT Point 8 - Request letters of recommendation: If you have identified teachers, mentors, or supervisors who can write strong letters of recommendation for you, approach them early and ask if they would be willing to support your college applications. Provide them with any necessary information or forms they may require. 

This should have been completed during the spring of your junior year.  If you still need letters of recommendation from teachers, emailing them over the summer would be better than waiting until the fall.  But first, understand that teachers are also on break so you may not get an immediate reply.  Fill out your questionnaire, email the teacher, and if they agree, thank them profusely.  
 

ChatGPT Point 9 - Build your skills and pursue personal interests: Use the summer to engage in activities that allow you to develop your skills and explore your passions. This could include taking online courses, pursuing hobbies, participating in community service, or engaging in creative projects. 

Do you have a business that you started in the Entrepreneur Institute? Have you thought about what you will explore for your Medical Institute research project? I like the mention of the online courses here as well because that can be so valuable.  It could help you learn something new, or it could help accelerate you to a new level when you return to Perkiomen. And, community service is never a bad thing! 
 

ChatGPT Point 10 - Stay organized: Create a system to stay organized throughout the college search and application process. Keep track of application deadlines, required materials, and any other important information using a calendar or spreadsheet. 

Update your Scoir account! Refine your college list. Review and revise your activities list. Keep in touch with your counselor. If your Scoir account includes all the colleges currently on your list and you’ve discussed which application deadline you’re going to meet, then you should not need spreadsheets!  If you are considering art schools, use the summer to start the process of developing your portfolio.  
 

Remember, the college search and application process can be a journey of self-discovery. Use the summer to lay a strong foundation, conduct thorough research, and prepare yourself to showcase your strengths and interests in your college applications. 

I’ll say it again, update your Scoir account!  In the summer, focus on doing what you can to make the fall easier. Fill out the Common App and work on drafting your essay or essays. In addition, consider what areas you’d like to explore in order to facilitate growth as a student and young adult. If it’s community service, GREAT!  If it’s taking an online class or doing a summer program, GREAT!  If it’s getting a job, GREAT!  If it’s challenging you and rewarding, do it… but also do take some time to sit by the pool or read a great book.  You’ve earned that, too. 

 

a laptop with the SCOIR login screen showing

Use your Scoir account to update and revise your college list.

 

The college process is filled with nuances, and as the name of this blog series reiterates, a lot of this process comes down to context.  The answers to many questions will be “it depends.”   The College Counseling Office is here to give the best advice possible within that context.  Our student-centered approach is focused on meeting the needs of our students while keeping their goals in mind -- and celebrating them along the way.  

If you have additional questions, schedule a time to speak with your counselor.  You can use the links below to schedule times over the summer!  

Mr. Ash: https://calendly.com/kash-perk

Ms. Davidson-Kellogg: https://calendly.com/perk-davidson-kellogg

 


 

College Counseling at Perkiomen School
 

Read more by the College Counseling Department

 

'It depends' is meant to lead to further discussion. It is an opportunity for us as counselors to ask follow-up questions. It is a chance for us to gather more information about each child in this process. We are student-centered.  We know every student is unique and therefore every process will be unique.    - KEEGAN ASH, Co-Director of College Counseling