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How to Use this Summer to Increase Your Chances of Getting into Your Dream School

For junior students, this is an important time of year: it is the last chance for them to complete courses and activities that can be included in their college applications. As a former Dean of Admissions at Harvard University and Columbia University, I highly recommend that students use this time strategically to strengthen their profiles and increase their chances of getting into their top school.

Here is a five-step checklist to help juniors prepare for the summer, when they can use their time outside the classroom to strengthen their upcoming college applications:

  1. Determine your Application PositioningTM. In other words, decide how you want to present yourself to your dream college. This is the key to getting accepted to a selective school, especially those in the Ivy League, as it helps students to stand out to colleges and find their unique spot at a campus. At The Ivy Dean, we specialize in helping students identify a particular strength, talent or experience that would be most valued by a specific college, and in presenting it in a manner that maximizes the chances of admission. It’s one of many valuable services we are pleased to offer our clients.

  2. Plan your summer. Using your Positioning, decide how you will spend this final summer bolstering your profile before your applications are due. Look for strategic summer programs or classes, community or volunteer positions, projects and other activities that will improve your applications and align with your Positioning. Choose your priorities carefully because colleges, especially selective ones, pay close attention to an applicant’s experience and demonstrated interests. (If you are wondering how to make the most out of your summer in light of COVID-19-related cancellations and restrictions, see our previous blog post.)

  3. Build your college list. Maybe you already know exactly where you want to go and what your fall-back option is. Maybe you have some potential colleges in mind, but haven’t quite decided which appeal to you most. Either way, now is the time to create a list of the schools you intend to apply to, as well as their application processes and deadlines. This will keep you focused when it actually comes time to apply, and ensure that you do not miss their cut-offs.

  4. Start completing the Common Application. Informally known as the Common App, this undergraduate college admission application allows students apply to upwards of 800 member colleges and universities across the USA as well as a handful of other international locations. Although you still have plenty of time until your applications are due (most deadlines are in January of your senior year), now is the ideal time to get familiar with the Common App, see what kind of information it requires, and begin thinking about how you will answer each question to highlight your best qualities to post-secondary institutions. You should also create a checklist of the application requirements for the schools on your list, and begin putting together the information you will need.

  5. Begin working on your Common App Essay. Like the rest of the Common App, the essay component – also known as your Main Essay – will not be due for several months. However, given that this is often the part of the application process that students struggle with most, it is worth getting a head start. In fact, every college you apply to using the Common App will see this and it can be a major factor in whether or not you are accepted to your dream school, so this is not a step you want to rush. (When you get further along in the essay-writing process, these tips might be helpful.)

If you need support with any of these steps, our college admissions consulting services are here to help – please feel free to contact us at any time to schedule your free consultation session. You can also read this earlier blog post for additional suggestions on how to make the most of your summer vacation.

Good luck!


On paper, I am by no means a perfect student. However, thanks to my Application Positioning, I was able to maximize the strengths that I bring to a college to compensate for other factors. Thanks to The Ivy Dean Team, I will be attending Princeton University, my dream school, in the fall.

Douglas R. – Princeton University

Dee provided excellent advice and guidance throughout the application process. Her overall expertise in admissions, professionalism and warmth made the experience a great one. I was thrilled that I was accepted to several of the most selective colleges in the country and will be attending Stanford in the fall.”

Laurel P. – Stanford University
It's my pleasure to inform you that I've been admitted to my first choice college: the University of Southern California. My dream is becoming reality! I am thrilled to get the chance to belong to the USC and to start a new adventure there. It is also thanks to your great help that I've been accepted, I'm very grateful! Thank you so much for everything.
Sonia G. – From Switzerland
Our son and daughter wanted to go to colleges in the same city but they had different interests and different strengths. She matched them each with their ideal college, one Columbia University and the other NYU, and worked to get them admitted. We couldn't have been more pleased.
Niki and Roger S.
I was a serious student but also wanted a university where I could continue competitive cycling. There weren't many schools that met my needs and fit my personality. From her experience, she was able to hone right in on what became my first choice school. I graduated last year and the entire college experience was awesome.
Colin J.
My parents and I didn't know how helpful it could be to have someone who understood things from the inside working with us. Ms. Blackman was able to identify just what would make me the most attractive candidate to colleges.
Bob M. – Harvard University