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By Peter Van Buskirk, for U.S. News

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In the coming weeks, thousands of young people will find their daily routines changing as the academic year comes to a close. Some will go to the beach. Many will sleep until noon. Others will jet off to parts unknown for new, exotic adventures. And, at some point in the weeks that follow, most will find themselves on a college campus or two.

The choices students make as they embrace the summer months can impact their personal growth while providing important clues to college admissions officers about the character and convictions of the candidates they are considering. If you are a rising high school senior, how will you spend your summer months? The following do's and don'ts provide guidance in making good and productive choices.


1. Do what you love—and love what you do. Invest in the talents and interests that intrigue you and/or give you joy in life. Attend a sports camp, participate in community theater, or take a painting class. Find opportunities to develop your skills and demonstrate an advanced level of commitment to the things that are important to you.

2. Do visit college campuses. Summer is a great time to become better acquainted with colleges that are of interest to you. Take tours. Talk with students and professors. Becoming more informed about colleges will enable you to be more purposeful in arriving at your "short list" as well as the manner in which you present yourself as a candidate.

3. Do try to find a job. It feels good to cash a regular paycheck and many admissions officers like to see that candidates—especially those applying for financial aid—are beginning to assume a degree of financial responsibility.

4. Do learn more about career tracks that might interest you. Talk with professionals in your community and explore experiential internships that can give you valuable insight as you contemplate academic directions in college.

5. Do start to work on your college applications. In particular, take a look at essay requirements and begin thinking about how you might use them to tell your story. Starting early means you are less likely to push deadlines as you try to manage the academic pressures of your senior year.

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