In today’s world of highly competitive college admissions, how a student spends their summers during the critical high school years can have a large impact on college applications. Engaging in valuable learning, work, or volunteer experiences can potentially make the difference between an acceptance, rejection, or wait-list admission decision. Aside from creating a more compelling college application, there are other reasons why students will want to plan their summers thoughtfully. Acquiring summer employment can help a student build a resume, make business contacts, and gain new skills. In addition, earnings from a summer job can help pay for college expenses. Community service work can build job skills, help a student gain exposure to different career fields, and help the community. Study-abroad opportunities can offer cultural immersion, a chance to travel, and the setting to learn another language. Pursuing extracurricular activities of interest can open the door to scholarship opportunities by demonstrating passion for a single endeavor.
The time to plan for the summer is now. Even though we are currently in mid-March, summer will be here very quickly. Many of the most beneficial programs and opportunities have early deadlines and limited enrollment. Some make scholarships and grants a possibility but application deadlines must be followed to be eligible. Competition for both paid jobs and unpaid internships can be extremely keen. It is best to give yourself enough time to explore multiple possibilities for the summer as your choice program, job, or internship may already be filled. As a private college counselor, the best advice I can give is to apply broadly and to keep an open mind. One of the activities you were quick to dismiss, could be the key to an ideal summer experience.
If you still do not know where to begin, Pam Ohriner, found of Helping Hand College Guidance provides this list of summer alternatives as a starting point in your search. Pam encourages students to be creative, think outside the box, and do what will ultimately make you happy. If you are doing what your love, your summer will undoubtedly be a success!
- Community Service – Volunteer for a cause that you care deeply about. You can volunteer to help coach a sport that you are strong in, help preserve our libraries or parks, or engage in a cause that is close to your heart such as foster homes for animals, medical research, or the arts. Whether you are helping to raise money for a cause or bringing a service to an underserved population, the possibilities are endless. Consider even starting an outreach effort of your own and campaign for volunteers to support your efforts. Volunteering demonstrates your drive, passion, leadership skills, and commitment to others. Developing your own successful outreach effort can leave a permanent imprint in your community and school, not to mention making your college application stand out among the rest!
- Show your creativity and entrepreneurship skills! – Start a business by drawing on your imagination and resourcefulness. The easiest approach is to find a need and fill it. Consider starting a babysitting service, tutoring young children, walking your neighbor’s dogs, starting an organizing business, or teaching a skill to others like piano or tennis. As an added incentive, think about donating a portion of your earnings to your favorite charity. A business effort will show your passion, sense of commitment, and ingenuity.
- Pursue academics – There are a wealth of academics programs to pick from in our high schools, local community colleges, and college campuses. Some are more rigorous, giving college credit, while others are designed as a way to gain practical experience, or delve into non-academic subjects. Gaining credits can even fulfill general education requirements for college, opening the door earlier to taking desired electives. Another possibility is enrolling in college programs across the United States. This option is primarily geared to rising high school juniors and seniors and can run from one week to almost the entire summer (or about 7 weeks). Aside from gaining knowledge, it’s a chance to make new friends, explore a new city, and gain a valued glimpse into what the upcoming college years hold in store. A wealth of academic programs and courses are offered which include the traditional academic courses to the more unusual offerings. A sampling of colleges presenting this experience includes Boston University (they also have a Research Internship Program), Yale University (Young Global Scholars Program), Brown University Pre-College Program, Emory University Summer Pre-College Program, and Columbia Scholastic Press Associates: Summer Journalism Workshop. Many of these programs do offer scholarships and grants, so be sure to apply by the published deadline. Age requirements and limits on enrollment are listed in their programs details. Some of these programs are also available to international students and provide an opportunity to gain valuable insight into the American colleges.
- Find employment – Do you have a family business you can help out in? How about returning to a camp you attended as a child as a counselor or counselor in training? Aside from earning money, you can have a chance to help others enjoy their summer and revisit your childhood memories. Ask local businesses in town and parents of friends for potential contacts. Many times your local school or religious organization will also post job listings for students. Some may offer positions in the summer assisting teachers or doing office work. It doesn’t have to be full-time employment, part-time is fine too.
- Love to travel? – What better way to combine a thirst for adventure with a desire to learn? Look into studying abroad as a way to gain independence, experience new cultures, master a foreign language, and meet students from other parts of the world. Academics can even be combined with volunteer work.
- How about a paid or unpaid internship? – Both types of internships are equally valuable. More important than the money, is a chance to acquire work skills, build on real-life experiences, and develop potential contacts that can be helpful in future job searches.
- Start your college search – Summer is the perfect time to visit colleges of interest, research college information online, complete your resume, work on your journal, and start your personal statements. Remember to open an account with the Common Application https://www.commonapp.org/ and the UC application https://www.commonapp.org/. Both become available in the later part of the summer.
In addition to the above ideas, if you are still looking for ways to make your summer meaningful, here are just a few more ideas:
- Visit your local museums.
- Read, read, and read some more.
- Pursue a new sport or creative art.
- Enhance your computer skills.
- Research more colleges.
- Read the newspaper and learn about local politics.
- Enter scholarship contests.
- Create a talent show with your friends and donate the proceeds to charity.
- Write freelance articles for your local newspaper.
- Explore your local hiking trails and learn about your native fauna and vegetation.
- Play educational games such as Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, and crossword puzzles.
- Improve your physical endurance and athletic ability.
- Set goals for yourself and achieve them!
- Take time to enjoy your friends, family, and the beauty of summer!
Helping Hand College Guidance offers comprehensive private one-on-one college counseling. Whether you are looking to maximize your summer experience or need help with your college essays/personal statements, we have a proven track record of success. If you need guidance or assistance, please call 310-733-8433.