Summertime Reflection

Below are some summer insights for rising seniors

At Cultivate, we believe it is key for students to do some summertime reflection. Practice authentic self-expression in their personal, social, and academic interactions. Students find the most success when they stay true to themselves and follow the interests that they find meaningful. As Juniors enter the summer and look toward their Senior year, many start considering important questions about their future. Things like University selection, the logistics of moving away from home, and selecting a college major provide a lot to think about.

These decisions can be overwhelming, but by considering personal core values, this process is made easier. In addition, by getting to know themselves better, students are better suited to boost their college resume. Showing colleges your personal connection to the extracurriculars you participate in helps you stand out as an applicant. Doing things you are passionate about demonstrates drive and gives colleges a better idea of who you are.

Below are questions to consider as Juniors look toward Senior year that will help with practicing self-expression in the school year.

  1. What did I learn or experience over the summer? Are there any events or new perspectives that have evolved my thinking about myself, the world, a career/major, or college choice?
  2. I know that colleges value students who are self-aware, resilient, and unique. What about my life experience or the way I see the world is completely unique to me? How can I leverage these individual characteristics to express who I am in a college admissions essay? Begin to draft.
  3. What makes me drawn to each college on my list? What colleges have I visited or communicated with to show my interest? How have I done this?
  4. I know that the Common Application and other apps open on August 1st. What steps have I made to begin filling out the data so that I am not overwhelmed during my first semester of Senior year?

Junior, Sophomore, and Freshman Summer Checklists


The third year of high school can be the most exciting point of a student’s academic career. Becoming an upperclassman and seeing college on the horizon provide a lot to look forward to. Before beginning Junior year, think about the things you want to prioritize as you look to the future. What kinds of things are you passionate about and what would you like to pursue? Think about the things you can do this upcoming year to help you work toward your goals.


  • What did I learn or experience over the summer? How might these experiences inspire me to get involved in a new activity? Or more deeply involved in an existing activity?
  • What colleges and universities am I drawn to? What are their requirements for admission? How do my school schedule, activities, and test scores reflect my readiness for these institutions?
  • What is the optimal way for me to prepare for standardized tests? Do I learn best in a group? One on one? By myself? A mixture of these? Is it best to start studying now?
  • What are my priorities when choosing a college or university? What questions do I want answered when I tour them?


If you are looking ahead to your second year of high school, take a moment and reflect upon your experience Freshman year. Each new school year presents an opportunity to try new routines or continue successful ones. As you approach Sophomore year, consider the strategies you’d like to implement to make the coming school year as fulfilling as possible.


  • Where can I get a practice SAT? What does it feel like to take it? Does my school offer the PSAT? What is the score I get on it?
  • What am I enjoying about my summer experiences? As I reflect on what I am
    doing, what am I noticing about what I choose to do and how I spend my time? How are my choices affecting others around me and my larger community? How might I be more intentional in the coming school year to make sure how I spend my time positively impacts others as well as myself?
  • What habits and goals worked successfully for my Freshman year? What do I want to keep and let go of to make Sophomore year great?
  • What is a list of colleges I would like to spend some time exploring over the next few months?


Beginning high school is exciting, and for many students, it’s an opportunity to create fresh habits and new goals. As you start this transition, consider what you’d like to achieve in high school and how you can best enjoy the experience. Reflect on your core values and practice open-mindedness as you enter this new chapter.


  • What am I looking forward to in the upcoming high school experience? What do I know about the high school I am attending and how it aligns with who I am and what I value about learning?
  • What will a successful start to Freshman year look like? Sound like? Feel like?
  • What are the expectations I need to define for personal, academic, family, and social success?
  • What kinds of classes am I taking, and how will the level of rigor and my grade affect my future plans? What are the extracurricular goals I want to make for service/athletics/arts/clubs & organizations? Where do I want to spend my time and energy beyond the classroom? What do I want to know more about?