Dear Grade 12s – Use Your Summer Wisely

How are you spending your summer break? The students we’re currently working with are getting work experience, doing internships, participating in and leading camp activities, taking classes, travelling, and relaxing. They’re also carving out time to get a head start on college and university applications. If you haven’t started preparing for applications yet, you’re missing an important opportunity. It’s simply much more stressful to pack all the work that goes into university applications into the first term of Grade 12. 

Think ahead to the school year. You’ll be taking challenging senior level courses, keeping up with homework, and juggling your extracurriculars. You probably have much more free time now than you’ll have when the school year starts. It takes time to prepare and submit university applications, especially if you are applying to competitive schools and programs that require supplemental essays, resumes, or portfolios. Application deadlines vary among schools, but some have optional early deadlines that make applicants eligible for early offers and scholarships. You may not be able to take advantage of early deadlines if you wait until the fall to start on applications. So, what can you do this summer? Read ahead for three steps you can take right now.

Step 1. Create an Application Tracker

Create a spreadsheet to keep track of application requirements. For each school you’re considering applying to, record information like:

  • the application platform the school uses
  • application deadlines
  • supplemental requirements (such as essays, resumes, and portfolios)
  • how to send transcripts
  • contact information
  • scholarship options and deadlines
  • anything else the particular school or program requires

If you’re planning to apply to outside scholarships, it’s a good idea to create a spreadsheet to keep track of them too. 

It’s not uncommon for students to be unsure about where they’re applying, even in the summer before Grade 12. If you’re in this position, there’s no time like the present to research schools and talk to your family about identifying the ones that will fit your needs academically, socially, and financially. Do it this week, and then move on to creating your application tracker. This link will take you to a tracker that you can view, copy, and edit to fit your needs: Academic Pathways University Application Tracker

Step 2. Supplemental Applications

Supplemental applications vary, but they often require essays, activity descriptions, resumes, and portfolios. This step of the application process usually takes the most time. For some students, it can take as much time as a part-time job. The more competitive the school or program you’re applying to, the higher quality these responses need to be. Use the Application Tracker you created in Step 1 to map out a plan to tackle this. Supplemental applications can change from year to year. In some cases, you’ll be able to find specific details for your application year. Start with these. To produce high quality essays, plan to write multiple drafts and find someone to review them and provide feedback to you. For schools that haven’t yet clarified their supplemental requirements for your application year, use the previous year’s application as a guide. Your resume is unlikely to change much between now and the time you submit applications, so this is a good time to update yours (or create one if you haven’t before). Fine arts and architecture programs usually require portfolios and each school has its own specific criteria. Check closely to make sure you know what’s expected and add these details to your Application Tracker. If you’re missing some of the required elements, get as many done as you can before school begins.

Step 3. Applications

Find out when online applications open for the schools on your list. Some are already live! In the US, the Common Application (which includes many American schools and some in the UK and Canada) is available now. The University of California and Texas applications open August 1st. For schools in the UK, the UCAS application is also already live. Don’t be disheartened if the schools on your list are late to open applications (I’m looking at you University of Washington and Canadian universities!). You can still decide in advance which schools and programs you’re applying to and prepare supplements. Basically, do everything you can in advance so that when the applications open, you’ll be ready to go.

In our experience, students who take these steps during the summer do better overall in the application process. They are able to focus on doing well in their classes, have more fun and take on more responsibility in extracurricular activities, and produce better quality supplements. And they experience much less stress! Your future self will thank you for taking these steps now.

If you’re having trouble getting these tasks done, find help. You can find a lot of free resources online to guide you through the process, or if you’d like to work one-to-one with an expert, contact us at