Updated: Feb 24, 2020
If you're a junior in high school who's planning on applying to college in 2019-20, your summer to-do list should look like ours (see below). If you complete all the listed steps, you'll automatically be eligible for $4,000 in scholarship funds (awarded by the College Board through monthly drawings).
Disclaimer: I have plenty of mixed feelings about the College Board—recommendation does not equal endorsement. But I would would be remiss in not encouraging students to take advantage of the new Opportunity Scholarships, which reward students for doing things they have to do anyway (like building a college list and taking the SAT).
Step One: Build a College List ($500)
By June 30 (the day of the last monthly drawing for $500 for those who complete Step One) develop an initial list of at least 6 colleges—using the tools available on bigfuture.org—which fit well with your preferences in the following areas:
--distance from home and other geographical criteria;
--cost (weigh costs, don't eliminate too-pricey choices yet—often expensive schools have more money to give away).
Step Two: Practice for the SAT ($1,000)
Create an account at satpractice.org and, when prompted, link it to your College Board account, then hit "Send" to get a personalized practice plan. Practice for the SAT for at least six hours to earn your first entry in the monthly $1000 drawing for Step Two. Earn one additional entry for each additional hour you practice, up to a total of 20 hours. That's a total of 15 possible entries! (Last drawing for Step Two held on October 31.)
Step Three: Improve Your SAT Score ($2,000)
Log at least 12 hours of practice through your satpractice.org account (see above) in June and July. Then, take the SAT (or take it again) on August 24, October 5, November 2, or December 7. If you raise your earlier PSAT/NMSQT score (or your earlier SAT score, if retake) by 100 points, you'll automatically be entered in a drawing for one of 25 "Improve Your Score" scholarships.
Step Four: Strengthen Your College List ($500)
Update and clarify your college list through your bigfuture.org account, ensuring that it is well balanced with a mix of one (1) "safety," two (2) "matches," and three (3) "reach" colleges. Update your list monthly four (4) times between July 1 and October 31 to earn entries in all of four $500 monthly drawing entries.