The summer is almost here and for students this is a great time to relax and have fun. It’s also a great time to further develop and strengthen your college admissions profile. Remember, being the best college applicant you can be is all about having an effective game plan and cohesive strategy, and understanding what college admission officers look for in a successful applicant. And during summers, admission officers want to know how you spent your time and what meaningful contributions and activities you took part in. So have fun this summer, but also look at the bigger picture of college admissions. What can you do to stand out, make a meaningful contribution, and what activities can you pursue that are in line with your passions and interests? Below are seven ways to make the most out of your summer experience:
Develop Your Passions/interests — The summer is a great time to explore and cultivate any passions or interests you have. Successful college applicants find their strengths and passions and develop them to their fullest potential. For example, if you have an interest in the medical field, you can volunteer at a hospital or doctor’s office; or if you enjoy the world of business you can get an internship or job in an area of business that excites you. Building upon your interests and passions shows admissions officers your dedication and commitment to developing yourself, and a seriousness about your future.
Volunteer — There are many ways to volunteer and give back. Parents and students always ask where they should spend their time volunteering. The simple answer is to take part in those volunteer activities you really enjoy. For example, some students love working with animals so helping out at an animal shelter or veterinarian office would be a great volunteer opportunity. Other students like working with children so tutoring or spending time at a children’s camp would be a great way to make a difference. The important point is that you should spend some of your summer volunteering and giving back to your community.
Travel — Students who have an opportunity to travel, especially internationally, have unique experiences, new insights, and a new appreciation for the world. When we read essays from students who travel, especially to 2nd or 3rd world countries, they always have profound and rich experiences—and many times their experiences are life-changing. Some of our students this year travelled to places including Haiti, Dominican Republic, Africa, and Asia and they came back with incredible stories. But, you do not have to travel abroad to get a life-changing experience. You can look to your local or surrounding community. The important point is that traveling can be an important way to grow tremendously and it can also help enrich your college applications.
Take Extra Classes —Taking an extra class or two at your high school or at the college level is a great step to get ahead in your coursework and to show further passion for your area of interest. If your goal is medical school, for example, most high schools will not offer higher level science courses. So, what you can do is show your enthusiasm for medicine by not only exhausting your high school’s curriculum, but also by going the extra step to take further classes in higher level science courses at the college level. This action will both enrich your education and it will look great on your college applications.
Prepare for the Following Year — Depending on what year you are in school, the school year can be very demanding, especially if you are a rising junior or senior. Why wait for the school year to begin to prepare for coursework or tests. Use the summer to get ahead! This means previewing future coursework, taking practice tests, and completing extra reading. There are important SAT/ACT, SAT II, and AP tests to take so you can prepare for these tests also by taking courses, practice tests, and self-studying. Do not wait for the following year to begin and have a teacher, administrator, or parent tell you what to do. Be proactive, have a take charge mentality, and use the summer to get ahead.
Work — Admission officers like to see students who have some sort of part-time job during the summer, and even during the school year if they can handle it. Grades and test scores always come first of course, but many of the most competitive students will maintain great grades, test scores, and performance in sports and extra-curricular activities, all while holding a part-time job. Work shows students are responsible, committed, and can multi-task. Also, you do not need to get a fancy job. A simple job working at a coffee shop or at a local store is fine. It’s not so much the nature of the job that is important, but that you are able to maintain some type of employment history.
Have Fun — The summer is a great time to be productive and prepare for college, but it is also important to have a balanced life. Students should spend a good amount of time just having fun, whether it is spending time with family and friends, or engaging in hobbies and interests. The movie, “Race to Nowhere,” is a wonderful film that depicts the stresses students encounter as they push themselves to be top performers. Many times, the stress is so great that it leads to severe medical conditions, or worse. It is important to put your education in perspective with your lifelong goals. You should not be continually stressed out, and if you are, this is definitely a serious problem. Balance is essential and just being a kid and having fun is as important as working hard in school.
The summer is an important time where students can be productive. It is a time where students can really further develop their competitiveness as a future college applicant; but it is also important that students just relax, have fun, and rejuvenate themselves. Remember, the key is balance. So work hard, but also simply enjoy your summer.
In Success and Achievement,
Dr. Jeff & Dr. Brian Haig