Summer Thoughts

May 15, 2014
by Sheila Reilly, Director of College Counseling
Seniors sport their new school's tees during the 2014 College Swag Day

Our seniors have just completed an evaluation of the college counseling program. We gather feedback as a tool to keep the program relevant and to make it stronger. The last question on our survey solicits advice for girls ready to embark on the active part of the process: Please tell us one thing you would tell juniors if you were the Madeira college counselor.

Their answers included:

  • Don’t let other people’s opinions persuade or dissuade you form making a decision.
  • Right now it is scary but it isn’t in the long run.
  • Madeira College Counselors know exactly what they are doing. (our favorite)
  • Have hope.
  • Early decision is the best way to go.
  • Do not be pressured into early decision.
  • Do Not Procrastinate!
  • Big schools are more fun.
  • Relax! Get the best grades possible in your last weeks.
  • The process does not have to be stressful.
  • Calm down.

There was no mention of seeking summer internships in labs or law offices. No one mentioned service trips or language camps, or babysitting during July as assets in the college process. However, rising sophomores, juniors and seniors have been seeking advice from advisors, teachers and counselors since January on how to make great use of summer, and what would “look good” to colleges.

My answer frustrates many girls, and most likely, more parents.  I am a firm believer in “we get breaks because we need breaks” and my counsel is constant: use the summer to do what you love.  For some this may be improving a skill or a sport. For others this may be exploring potential future careers via internships or summer jobs. Often summer months are a time for girls to connect with family and help out at home with younger siblings or older relatives. Because I know that all of our girls and families are seeking real counsel when they ask about great summer opportunities, I will offer this advice specifically geared toward college process preparation.

Practice for standardized testing by sitting without social media or TV for an hour a few times a week. SAT and ACT exams are now in excess of four hours long. Girls who have built up the ability to sit for an extended period of time will be able to keep their focus longer as they undertake this endurance, as well as aptitude, test. Read. Standardized testing favors those with a fast reading rate. No SAT prep class can improve a student’s reading rate during a six-week course. Reading regularly improves a reading rate. Read John Green’s A Fault in our Stars and then go sit in the movie theater for two hours and view the film based on this novel – instant test prep! Journal about summer experience so you can recall how it felt to paint a school in the Dominican Republic. Think about how you are changing as you assume greater responsibility and have different experiences. Refer to this journal when preparing for college interviews and your conversations will be richer. College admission professionals seek open-minded, curious, confident students. That is who you will be if you do what you love doing. Enjoy the change of pace and return to Madeira ready to embrace the exciting new schedule and campus facelift.