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Set yourself apart from the pack with these eight summer tips.

 By Danielle Castonzo

The summer before senior year of high school is a great time to finalize your college application list, start the scholarship hunt and explore your personal and professional interests (in addition, of course, to sleeping in, eating ice cream and going on road trips with your friends). You don’t want to be scrambling for inspiration, assistance and cash after graduation. Rising seniors, spend this summer getting ahead and you’ll come back to school with more than just a sunburn.

1. Advance personal and professional goals. Find an internship in a field you want to explore, take a class at a nearby community college or start volunteering in your community. These are experiences you can use on your college applications and, more importantly, awesome opportunities to learn more about what you want to do. Many college essay prompts ask you to pull from work experiences, and a unique volunteer opportunity or internship will make you stand out.

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2. Decide where to apply for school. Finalize your college application list by visiting campuses of interest. College visits usually involve free T-shirts, food and Frisbees while giving you a great opportunity to meet current students and explore a new place.

3. Make money, save money. You don’t want to show up for freshman year of college without money for pizza, so take advantage of this time to start saving. Find a part-time job, offer to tutor, mow lawns in your neighborhood or start selling decorative mugs online.

4. Cleanse your social media accounts. College reps look at your public social media accounts, and they will take your 20 shirtless selfies with obscene captions into account when making your admission decision. If you would be ashamed to show it to Harvard’s admissions team, keep it off your public social media accounts.

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5. Start applying for scholarships. There are so many scholarships out there that fit your random talents and club activities. Make a list of potential scholarships, and keep in mind that the little ones add up.

6. Read some books. Reading is great for your brain and its critical-thinking skills. Set a goal to read at least one book this summer for fun. If you really don’t enjoy reading outside of the classroom, you’ll find lots of amazing e-books and podcasts available.

7. Pursue personal projects. If you’ve ever wanted to write poetry, get good at tennis or start a band, now is the time. Freshman year of college is an incredibly busy year, and if you go in with a hobby, it’ll be easier to get involved and connect with people.

8. Conduct informational interviews. Make a list of three jobs that sound like a blast to you, find people doing that work and request a 20-minute phone interview. Ask questions such as “What does your typical day look like? What is the best part of your job? How did you get involved with this work?” This is a great way to make professional connections and gain insight into what kind of job you’d like to have.

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