Hey soon-to-be-Seniors (like the sound of that?!) and parents of same,

Well, spring is finally here and true to form it’s nearly summer – gotta love Maine weather (or else why the heck are you living here??!!!). Graduations happening all around us (including my oldest from Deering HS – woot woot!), summer plans falling nicely in to place (one hopes), and best of all, my New York Yankees are atop the AL East, where they belong!!

Ah, baseball, nothing better, right? If you need further convincing check out this brief youtube video:

Think that kid will ever forget that moment?!


Hey it’s nearly summer vacation, so we can stay up late now and then, right?

Here’s some suggestions I like to send before the grass gets too long and your summer job gets too weary. I love the first couple days of June cause it all lies ahead – sort of like anticipating a great meal or a long-awaited event. Sometimes savoring the moments yet to come is the sweetest part.

In a week or so I’ll send you my “How to Write an Essay” email (which you should plan on adding to your summer bucket list – not as exciting as going parachuting but less painful than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, I assure you!); and later this summer (August 1) I’ll give you a heads up when the 2019/20 Common Application goes “live” with instructions for getting that bad boy completed in no time flat… I’ll also remind you at that time to get cracking on the serious (but mellow) self-SAT-prep system I suggest you all follow for the October and November test dates, but for now let’s not sully the warm weather and impending sense of freedom and anticipation with a litany of your upcoming tasks.

Instead let’s talk about that senior year you’ll find yourself in the midst of in three short months.

Assuming you’ve signed on for an ambitious senior schedule (and you should have – there’s little benefit to coasting your final lap) and you’ve got a relatively full plate of activities, you’re going to feel stressed when mom, dad, or the College Guy gently whispers in your ear the question most of you are becoming increasingly annoyed by:

“So how’s your college application process coming?”

“Geez Louise,” you’ll think, “I don’t know the first thing about where I want to apply, let alone where I want to go, let along how to go about doing a college application! And don’t even get me started on what in blue blazes I’m going to study!!! Get off my back!!!!!”

Listen carefully to The College Guy. You’re not supposed to know this stuff yet, and nearly everyone’s in the same boat you’re in. So take a chill pill and relax!
Nobody loves the start of summer more than me, and I’m loathe to rain on the parades of all you bright eyed and bushy tailed rising seniors, but if you’ll follow these suggestions for 10 mellow things you can be doing this spring and summer I’ll be willing to bet you a vintage 1960 Joe Nuxhall baseball card (quick: what trivia question is he the answer to?) that you’ll be thanking me for it over Veteran’s Day Weekend when many of your classmates are going crazy, but you’re cool as a fool cuz you’ve done some of this stuff ahead of time.

Here we go with the College Guy’s 10 Things for you rising seniors to be doing this summer:

#1. Volunteer Somewhere

Since time is money, and your time is valuable, then you’ve got something to offer someone or some agency. Find a venue to do good work.

Keep it reasonable. I suggest a 3 – 4 hour shift each week…if you find you really like it you can always increase your time. If you’ve gotten yourself in to a not-so-cool situation you can always thank your supervisor and gracefully bow out – for crying out loud you’re just volunteering, right? (But then go find another).

And for you sharp-as-a-tack students, make your volunteer gig be at a place that reflects/highlights a career interest of yours or in an area you’re curious to learn more about. You’ll then have something next fall to respond to the college interviewer or short answer question which asks: “What do you think you want to study….and why???”


# 2. Finalize Your Senior Schedule

Don’t wait till you get back to school. If you haven’t yet received your senior schedule ask for it now, and make sure you’ve gotten the classes you really want. If your school doesn’t release that information till August at least write an email to your guidance counselor reiterating what you’re hoping to take in the fall. It’s your senior year and you’re allowed to be a bit pushy.

School administrators work a reduced summer schedule, and some guidance counselors are off till mid-August, but you can still send emails to guidance, teachers, and if necessary your principal. You may be told to wait till the school year starts to straighten things out – at the risk of being a troublemaker I’d suggest you politely email back and say “no, I’d like to get this worked out now”.

And if you can’t get or find what you want, consider taking a course at USM or SMCC (if you live in the Greater Portland area) or from whatever two or four year school is close by. Fall class schedules are available at most colleges.


#3. Have Fun and Relax

Yeah, I’m definitely trying to get on your good side here but I really mean this. If you’re stressed about life during the summer months what’s going to happen to you when you’re in the midst of a demanding senior schedule and something goes wrong and the industrial waste hits the mechanical air agitator. (Get it? 🙂

Use the summer to recharge those batteries and stoke your engines for what lies ahead. In fact, learning to breath deeply, relax and enjoy the passage of time is a lifelong skill you should be seeking to perfect ALL THE TIME. If you’re not having some fun, you’re doing something wrong.


#4. Write an Essay. Then write two more.

I’ll send you shortly another rant about essays, but remember some simple principals of essay writing:

– keep it under 650 words
– be yourself, and don’t worry about impressing anyone
– make your essay like an Altoids: Curiously Strong. (That means well written and interesting).
– lose the notion that your essay will tell anyone who reads it “who you are as a person”. It won’t. But a good essay will give the reader a snippet, a tease, a quick view of an aspect of who you are. Make them want to see/read more.

Then write a second and a third essay.

Make one essay respond to one of the seven Common App prompts:


And the others should fall in to one of these categories:
– a career essay (what do I want to study and why);

– an experience essay (a good story from your life with a moral or conclusion);

– an activity essay (something you do regularly and with enthusiasm).

Don’t over think, and don’t feel like you’re writing some sort of magnum opus. You’re not. It’s just a first draft. If anyone would like some quick feedback on what they’ve written send it to me and I’ll respond. For free. And that’s no lie.


#5. Do a college resume of your activities, school affairs, sports and work.

Not a boring ‘professional’ one page job which just states the facts – you’re not applying for a job at Unum or TD Bank here. Make it two or even three pages (if you’re a busy boy or girl, tell what keeps you busy). Be creative: Photoshop in some eye candy and write ‘annotations’ (make ‘em descriptive and clever) of your more interesting sports, jobs, activities, hobbies. Don’t be afraid to show the person reading your resume what you do, where you’ve been, and who you are.

Those of you who have met with me have templates for such a beast, and have heard me tell you all the groovy things you can do with said resume. Those of you who haven’t met with me – what are you waiting for? Give me a holler. I’ll send you an example.

Two things to remember with your college resume:

a. “If you’ve got it, flaunt it!”

b. You don’t have to show it to your friends, so go ahead and strut your stuff a bit. ‘Nuff said.


#6. Research schools – Create a “Top 10” List and when you add a school to it you must remove one from it (so you never go over 10). Expect this list to be fluid and changing. Try to balance reach and safety schools. Keep going till November 1, when you’ll make your final decisions of where to apply (early decision is a slightly different matter. Call me if you want to discuss this).

Get leads from relatives, teachers, friends, friends’ parents, coaches, bosses, anyone who knows you somewhat and is willing to respond to your query of “Do you know any good colleges I might check out”.  (The more specific you can be in your question, the better the leads will be).

Use the search programs at collegeboard.org and niche.com (and Naviance if your school uses it. If it doesn’t, the collegeboard and niche programs work just fine).

Use studentsreview.com. Don’t ask, just go there. Ignore the terrible layout and the “grades” they assign to colleges. Just type in a school and read the positive and negative comments about your schools.

Get familiar with collegeconfidential.com

Explore colleges’ web pages, get names and emails of admissions contacts for your region, coaches (if you’re a jock) and faculty in your area(s) of interest. Then see #7.

Make sure to get on every college of interest’s mailing list by finding and filling out the “Request Information” link on their admissions page. Look hard – you’ll find it!


#7. Write ‘Pen Pal Letters’ of introduction/inquiry

Write (or email) to the admissions officer who covers your state or region, as well as to faculty (professors, coaches, theater directors, etc.) in your areas of interest. Introduce yourself, include your resume, and ask a question or two (this you have to work a bit at – call me for ideas) to ask them.

You may find out something that will make you fall in – or out of – love with that school. And you’ll have a potential resource, maybe even an advocate, when you apply.


#8. Read!!!!

It’ll raise your verbal scores on the SAT and/or ACT you’ll take next fall.

It’ll keep you in practice for the world of reading that awaits you when you finally get to college.

It’s one of the best things you can do – period.

Read whatever you want: Stephen King, Rolling Stone Magazine, the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Series. The only prerequisite for what you read is that the author must have a better vocabulary than you (there should be some words you have to look up. The more the better!)

Ergo, People Magazine doesn’t cut it.


#9. Fill out the Common App on August 1 when it comes out.

Seriously. The whole thing except the essay(s) and activity sheet.

Check out the “supplements” to your particular schools. Some of ’em will have some extra writing for you to do.

It will take no more than 45 minutes not counting the essays and short answers.

Then have someone help you edit it.

You’ll add the essay(s), short answers and the activities (use your resume annotations) later.

You know all that stuff you’ve heard about how hard it is to apply to college: don’t believe it – it’s a hype.

Applying to college is easy.

Applying to college WELL, and SMART, is a bit more of a trick, but trust me when I say it ain’t rocket science.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. Get in touch with me if you want elaboration.


#10. Prepare a “Show and Tell” piece.

Check this out:


Get the idea?

Prepare some eye or ear candy – it doesn’t need to be a video. Can be creative writing, a photo essay, an art portfolio or audio tape, a web page, etc. I had a student do a video of him making origami (quickly) one year. It was cool.

Getting in to most colleges is easy. Getting in to selective colleges (there are maybe 120 of them, out of 2,400 total) takes luck and sometimes a “hook”. Your show and tell piece about how to throw a curveball, or the computer you built in a fish tank filled with mineral oil for coolant, or demonstrating the difference between a double axel and a lutz may just make the difference.


Okay, there’s your summer to-do list. And if I may be so bold, let me add a number 11.

#11. Come meet with me.

I’m a consultant. People pay to work with me. A good college consultant does things your guidance counselor doesn’t have time to do, because the consultant (at least this one) does this work full time, all the time. I’ll Skype or FaceTime with those of you who don’t live in greater Portland. Call or email me – there’s no charge to schmooze, and I’ll tell you more about how it works. And if you have questions or concerns I’m always happy to talk on the phone or via email.

Oh, and I work all summer.

Now go work on that tan!

From your collegiate connoisseur, your pen pal pundit, your application aficionado, your resume rhapsodizer,

Gary the College Guy

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.

P.S. I’m not kidding about the Nuxhall card. Send me the answer to my trivia question and you’ll get it!

P.P.S. If you find my rants useful and know others who may like to receive them, please do forward this on to friends and neighbors, or send me their email addresses and I’ll see that they get to them. College Placement Services is currently accepting students of the class of 2020 and 2021 for consultation and other fee-based services. Call for information and/or a free 30 minute consultation.
P.P.P.S. If you’d rather not get these occasional missives, kindly let me know…and you won’t.