For many of you, it’s hard to believe just months from now as senior year is starting you’ll need to be ready to apply to college. That statement may leave many of you feeling behind. So how do you maximize summer so you’re ready and not overwhelmed come fall?

1. Finalize list for application. Most college applications go online August 1st, including the Common App which over 500 colleges use. LEAP recommends you start these apps when they come available to so they don’t crowd your fall schedule when you’ll have a lot more to do. To be ready to apply, you need to finalist where you’ll apply. If you feel like you are way behind, start online, schedule visits and be ready to go. You may benefit from our tips to sophomores as you are wishing you’d take this more seriously a year ago. Remember, just because you apply doesn’t mean you have to go. It’s okay to apply and still do college fairs and visits during the senior year.

2. Write your essay for your apps. While the actual applications aren’t available until late summer, many essay prompts were released late winter. Summer is the perfect time to take LEAP’s approach of Learn, Brainstorm, Write, Revise, Polish to task. Then come August you’re ready to cut and paste.

3. Evaluate test scores. Research the average test scores of admitted students at the schools where you’ll apply. Should you give it one more shot to improve? Find out whether the schools Super Score the ACT and/or SAT then determine your Super Score and whether it will benefit you are not. Just find out you need or it’s recommended you take an SAT Subject Test? Schedule those for October. If any testing still needs to take place, it’s wise to be finished by late October to meet Early Decision and Early Action deadlines.

4. Close the gaps. Revise your resume, which you’ve hopefully put together earlier. See any gaps in work or community service? Summer is a great time to address these. That polished resume will save you time with applications in the fall when you can upload or cut and paste. Additionally, giving your resume to a potential writer of your recommendation letters can glean you a better letter.

5. Choose references. Most colleges will require 2-3 recommendation letters. Stop and think who should write for you. Consider teachers you had junior year, particularly in the area you intend to study. Some require a guidance counselor, but if they don’t and you are from a large school with little opportunity to build a relationship with the counselor another teacher or coach may be a better choice.

6. Consider the Cost. A recent study showed recent college graduates who were most satisfied had the smallest college debt to repay. Now is the time to figure out what each of those schools might cost you and is it realistic to apply? Consider the FAFSA4caster to see what your expected family contribution (EFC) is going to be. Complete the Net Price Calculator on each college’s website and check average net price on College Navigator. Then have an honest conversation as a family on what you can afford and what debt the student may need to take on.

If you accomplish this checklist over the summer, you’ll be able to breath easier come fall!