End of the school year College Guy Rant for Juniors

Congratulations the class of 2019 for being in the homestretch of your junior year. Next time I write to you (mid-June, about your college essays) you’ll be officially referred to as "rising seniors”. I like the sound of that!

This is an email I send out every May to give you a few (mellow) “marching orders” for the next few weeks of school; and a few more (even more mellow) things to be thinking about over the summer in preparation for what lies ahead. 

The last thing I want to do is make you think there’s a relentless array of college-related tasks you need to undertake at this time. I’ll leave that to the web bloggers and “how to” books and the online nattering nabobs of negativity (quickly parents: who’s that quote from?!) you’ll find in most college chat rooms or forums who will try to convince you that there is a secret pathway to getting in to one of the approximately 80 to 100 super selective colleges, which only they know. 

Take it from the college guy: there isn’t. 

However as I’ve mentioned to you before, “forewarned is forearmed” and it’s good to know what to expect next fall. And by following some of these relatively easy and quick suggestions you may find yourself in a stronger position when the time comes to start your engines!

Read on!


There are four things I suggest you do before school gets out. 

# 1. Create a resume. Not a bullet pointed, single page “professional” version which you may have learned about in school. (Hint: they’re boring, and you’re not a professional).  I prefer a chatty, several page document which says “Hey look at me!” to the reader. It should include an academic summary, an annotated list of activities, hobbies and interests, including work and volunteering if you’ve done any. 

Don’t be bashful! Throw in your awards (honor roll counts!) as well as  interesting things like reading lists, links to webpages you’ve created or have something to do with, or photos of you engaged in your activities. Your resume serves as a “brag sheet” form of introduction, and there’s multiple uses you’ll put it to, including making it part of your college application when the time comes next fall / winter.

Those of you who’ve met with me have received templates and examples of such a resume. If you’re interested in seeing these get in touch with me and I’ll share.

#2. Meet with your guidance counselor. Don’t wait to be called in - march right in to guidance and schedule a “college meeting to discuss my plans”. During the meeting discuss the following:

A) your senior schedule. Remember as a senior you have a priority to get the classes you want. Advocate for yourself!

B) your transcript. Is it accurate? Are all honors courses identified as such?

C) your college list. Yes I know it’s early and still premature, but run some top pics by your gc, and ask for his/her feedback and suggestions.

D) the letter of recommendation your guidance counselor will be writing for you next fall. Give him/her a copy of your resume and ask: “What else do you need from me to help you write your letter of recommendation for me?”

#3. Write your first essay. We already know the 2018/19 common application prompts. Note that #7 is “subject of your choice”. Go ahead and get the first underway (you’ll be writing more if you take my advice). Follow these rules:

A) keep it under 650 words

B) make it interesting - remember it’s not your life story. Just a well written “tease” sharing something about yourself you want them to know. 

Here are those essay prompts in case you didn’t save them the last time I sent them to you:


If you'd like to send me what you come up with (rough drafts are fine - don't be too particular) I'll give you feedback.

That’s it - go to it!


Over the summer here’s what you should be doing:

#1. Have fun. Really. Stay safe. And rested. Things will start getting a bit crazy in September/October!

#2. Work and save money. Really. Working a job is every bit as impressive and important to a college application as playing varsity soccer. Your folks are responsible for most of your direct college costs. You should have $2,500 in the bank by the time you go to college to pay your indirect costs like books, supplies, travel, miscellaneous. If you can save more than that, all the better!

#3. Continue your college research. Create your "Top 10" lists by doing my "four step process”. Your list needs to be finalized by November 1 - earlier if you’re going to apply Early Decision or Early Action. Don’t know what I’m talking about? My contact information is below. Phone conversations are free, and yes I work all summer.

#4. Send "pen pal" emails to strategic contacts at each school you’re interested in such as coaches, professors, admissions officers, special faculty like theater directors and pre-med advisors. Include your resume. Ask a question or two. This is part of how you register “demonstrated interest”, which is important (especially at selective colleges). And maybe, just maybe, you’ll develop an advocate for yourself. Plus it’s a groovy way to answer the hardest question you’re going to see from some of your colleges: “Why do you want to attend this school???”

I’ve got examples of these emails to share. Ask.

#5. Make a “hit list” of folks you’ll ask for letters of recommendation. Three teachers, three “others” (coaches, advisors, employers, adults and friends who know you outside of the classroom). You can wait till next fall to ask for the letters, but think about who you’ll ask now.

#6. Pursue your interests. Play sports. Read books, repeat quotations, draw conclusions on the wall (quick parents: what’s that from?!) Find a half-day, weekly volunteer internship somewhere in an area you think you’d like to pursue as a potential career. It’s good to show colleges that you “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk” in your applications). 

#7. The 2018/19 common application will “go live” on August 1. I’ll send you an email telling you to “hop to it” and fill that bad boy out. Take you about 45 minutes excluding the essay(s)….

#8. Plan to retake/take SAT, Subject Tests and/or ACT (most of you don’t need all of these) in the fall. I’m happy to advise those of you who have questions in this regard. Get in touch with me. And ix-nay on ummer-say ep-pray, by the way. You’ve got better things to do (see #1 above). I’ll send you my “summer bummer” email in August about beginning a sensible self-prep system in anticipation of October and November testing.

Special “to do” for parents:

#1. Know (and understand) what your Expected Family Contribution is going to be when you fill out financial aid forms in October (FAFSA and CSS PROFILE). Use an on-line calculator. I like the one at the college board. Contact me for instructions and directions.


Hey that’s about all I’ve got to say except that I wish you all a fun and groovy summer, and I hope everyone is enjoying the “just like old times” American East Race between the Sox and my Yankees. Ain't life grand???!!!!

Be well everyone, and stay tuned for my “how to write an essay” rant next month.

From your edifying editor, your academic authority, your higher education honcho, your financial aid finagler…


P.S. If you like what I have to say and know others that might as well, feel free to forward this along. Anyone can join my mailing list by getting in touch with me.

P.P.S. It’s worth repeating that I work over the summer (by appointment, natch), so if you want to make some progress while the sun is shining don’t be bashful - have your parents contact me to discuss my services and set up some meetings.

P.P.P.S. If you’d rather not receive future emails from me let me know, and you won’t.

Gary L. Canter
College Placement Services
210 St. John Street
Portland, Maine 04102
(207) 772-9711 

College Placement Services provides high school students and their families
assistance with all aspects of the college search, selection, application
and financial aid process.