Rising high school seniors know they should work on their college applications over the summer, but it's just so easy to procrastinate.
Now, a growing number of counselors are hosting boot camps in the summer to help students get a jump-start on the process. Getting the Common Application done, drafting essays, writing resumes and coming up with a list of colleges before school starts can relieve some of the senior-year stress, says Jake Talmage, director of college counseling at St. Paul's School, a private Episcopal school in Brooklandville, Md., just outside of Baltimore.
Seeing the application process overwhelm so many seniors in the fall, Talmage decided to start an Application Boot Camp at his all-boys high school six year ago. Interest has grown and now about 70 percent of the seniors enroll for the week-long camp.
Students meet Monday through Friday from 9-12 to get started on the college paperwork. With the $100 that each student pays, Talmage hires English teachers and admissions counselors to give students feedback on their writing and practice interviewing skills. They fill out the Common Application online and learn to put some thought into the often-overlooked, short-answer questions on the form, says Talmage.
In the essay workshop, the students are exposed to good and bad examples to understand the importance of voice and finding a good topic. While the boys are brainstorming and working on their essay drafts, Talmage pulls them out one at a time to review their college lists and deadlines.
The year before the boot camp was established, St. Paul's students submitted 42 applications by Nov. 1. Last year, Talmage says 220 applications made it in by the early deadline. The average student who goes through the boot camp has about 80 percent of the college application process done in the summer, he adds.
Students and parents say they are often relieved to get much of the application work done early. "We are trying to help seniors reclaim that senior year," says Talmage.
Talmage has presented the boot camp model at counseling conferences around the country and each year hears about more of his colleagues using the approach.