College is Coming: Make Your Summer Count

Posted: April 1, 2016

​In my area, April 1 is the end of third quarter: a fresh start and the home stretch for high school students. April is also the time that parents start to think about summer and what school will be like in the fall. Juniors have to consider college applications in both of these situations.
Summer: what you do with the summer before senior year can be crucial for college admissions. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to show academic curiosity, leadership and/or “soft skills” like responsibility and time management.

Academic curiosity: this can mean taking a class through summer school or a dual enrollment class at a college (2- or 4-year). You can take a class that will lighten your load come fall, but I’d recommend you take a class that you’re really interested in or in the area of your potential major. It will feel more like you actually have a summer if you’re spending your time actively engaged in learning, rather than yawning through calculus because you thought it would look good to admissions committees. (It will, but it’s a quick way to burn out if you’re not a total numbers geek.)

Summer camps: Summer camps are great learning experiences. Whether you attend an academic summer camp—debate camp, coding camp, foreign language immersion with dragon boat racing, compressed AP class in an area of interest—or a sports clinic, performing arts program or even just working as a camp counselor, you can show leadership, curiosity and skill development at camp.
Get a job: Working is great for getting experience in a potential major or career, plus you’re demonstrating those “soft skills” I mentioned earlier. If it’s an unpaid internship, that’s great; paid work is even better, since you’ll have that much more money socked away for college. If you’re STEM-minded, contacting universities and research labs in your area can be a way to spend the summer doing research, either paid or unpaid. 
Colleges love to see students who have some background experience in their major, whether that's business or neuroscience.

Volunteering/service-learning is a great way to spend your summer. You can work with kids if you’re interested in education or social work. Just want to drive around with your new license? Consider driving Meals-on-Wheels with a friend. You get to drive and hang out, as well as brighten the day of some housebound individual who really needs you. A leadership project like organizing a pool party for kids in summer daycare, a scrap drive for recycling or a performance for people in the hospital or at a nursing home looks great on a college resume.
Speaking of projects: give yourself a project for the summer. Like to code? Set yourself a goal and write an app or other project. Potential business major? Create a business, or at least write up a business plan for one. Set a goal: read all of Shakespeare’s plays or A Remembrance of Things Past or Ulysses. (The Mensa Foundation’s Excellence in Reading program is a great resource for prolific readers.) Write a novel, plan and paint a mural, choreograph a dance or put on a show. Whatever you choose to do, be sure to document it. Keep a journal: either written, or through photos and video.
No matter what you do this summer, be sure to have fun and stretch yourself. That way you’ll be sure to have something interesting to write about on your college essays. Good luck!

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