10 Things Rising Seniors Need to do in June to Boost College Admissions Chances

If you think that the college admissions process becomes more confusing, intense, and demanding every year, you’re right.

Applying to college is widely held to be as stressful as taking an additional AP course in senior year.

Think of it this way. When your child starts to apply to college, it’s as if she or he has just added another really intense advanced placement course to a schedule that’s probably already overloaded.  But unlike that AP course, this course requires a whole lot more writing (and personal reflection) than your child has ever done before. And because this is the writing that is going to determine whether or not your child gets into a top college, this writing is consequential in ways that your child’s school writing never was

And since many admissions offices spend only 6 to 8 minutes reviewing your child’s entire college application, the pressure is on to make your common application essay the essay that stands out. 

In fact, the common application essay has taken on so much importance in recent years, that college admissions officers regularly refer to it as “The Deal Breaker.”

However, the good news is that you will get everything done and your child’s (and your) anxiety will be reduced if your child starts working on the common application essay and deepens her or his extra-curricular activity starting in June of your junior year.


To get and advantage over other college applicants and improve admissions chances, here are 10 things that your child should do in June of junior year.

  1. Start writing the common application essay now.

I can’t overstate the importance of this. The common app essay can spell the difference between being moved closer to the admitted pile or junked. When your child starts senior year, there’s just too much else to do and too much pressure to do well in school to give the common application essay the attention it requires.

  1. If your child hasn’t already done so, help your child identify and define a passionate interest outside of school.

Colleges are looking for students who are more than good test takers, and admissions officers know that students with passionate interests tend to be disciplined, motivated, concerned, ambitious, and committed. Students with passionate interests are able to set goals and learn independently, and they tend to be good problem solvers. These are the kinds of students colleges are looking to admit.

  1. Help your child deepen her or his involvement with the passionate interest.

Take it to the next level. Read more about it. Learn more about it. Do more with it.

  1. Help your child find a way to connect her or his passionate interest to something that will help others.

Colleges are looking for students who have the capacity to empathize with others.  Why? Because empathy is associated with other attributes that promote success in college including curiosity, awareness, sensitivity, respect, clear thinking, deep learning, and the ability to collaborate and work on a team. So if your child loves gardening and is interested in botany, find a way to connect with a school or community garden and help your child use her interest to advance and benefit someone else’s garden. If your child is passionate about bicycling and has come up with an idea to reduce the car traffic around school at drop-off and pick-up time, find a way to propose the idea at a town meeting.

  1. Find an internship or employment opportunity that is connected with your child’s passionate interest and help your child pursue it.

Not only does this kind of work advance your college admissions chances, but it gives your child an opportunity to start building a network of connections with experts who can be called on to write quality letters of recommendation.

  1. Enroll your child in a pre-college course related to academic or passionate interests.

Many colleges offer pre-college summer programs for rising seniors. A pre-college course not only boosts admissions chances and gives your child an opportunity to learn, but also provides your child with an opportunity to build connections with experts who can be called on to write letters of recommendation.

  1. If you think you can do better on the SAT and ACT, start preparing now.

Students generally spend about 4000 hours in high school studying and working for top scores yet few spend more than four hours prepping for the SAT and ACT. If you want your child to get an advantage over other applicants, make sure your child retakes the tests after intense preparation.

  1. Refine and reduce the college list.

While “reasonable” means different things to different families, by September of senior year, most students should have their college lists cut down to 10 or 12, max.

  1. Write scholarship essays.

They are really good practice for writing the common application essay.

  1. Find out when the school-specific supplemental essay prompts will be posted for colleges on your list and mark those dates on the calendar.

The school-specific supplemental essays are used to weed out students at the last stages of the admissions process. Because they require a ton of research and a great deal of rhetorical dexterity, most students find them even harder to write than the common application essay.  Generally, colleges started posting their supplemental essay prompts in November. As soon the colleges on your list post their supplemental essay prompts, start working on them.


Any questions? Call me! I’m eager to speak with you about the ways that we can work together to assure that your child will get into the top college on the list!

Dr. Osborn works with students from all over the world to help them reach their independent, college, and graduate school goals. Through a personal, one-on-one approach, Dr. Osborn creates an individualized plan for each student based on the student’s strengths, passions, and career aspirations. Her holistic approach helps students perform well in school and secure admission to top colleges.  

About The Author

Susan Osborn, Ph.D., has spent 30 years in higher education, in admissions at Vassar College, in the English department and Writing Program at Rutgers University, in the lab at The New Jersey Center for Research on Writing, and as a private tutor. Dr. Osborn is also an award-winning writer and scholar and she brings both her education smarts and her writing smarts to every student relationship.