Updated: Feb 8
After a long and stressful school year, all you want to do is relax and enjoy your summer, and you certainly should. But while taking a break is important and beneficial, taking advantage of the extra free time during the summer can be a great way to boost your college application. Colleges like to see consistent dedication with things that you’re passionate about, and participating in an activity over the summer showcases that passion and dedication. With that being said, here are nine ways that you can take advantage of your summer to do just that.
If you already know what area of study you’re interested in, a summer internship is a fantastic way to demonstrate interest and help you stand out in your college application. An internship could even open up scholarship opportunities for you. It demonstrates that you are capable of gaining job experience even before college, which will help you develop necessary skills that will prove to be crucial later in life. Gaining exposure to your field from within your field will tell you if it is actually something you want to put energy and time into pursuing. A summer internship will also allow you to gain connections in your field, which could make all the difference for a job offer after college. Before you start looking for internships, however, keep in mind that most internships aren’t paid. If you need to make money during the summer, an internship will not be the way to go.
How to find one:
Some nationwide internship programs include the U.S. Secret Service and major tech companies like Google and Microsoft, NASA. Zoos, aquariums, political campaigns, film and TV companies also offer internships. In addition, Tallo, Internships.com, and Indeed.com are great websites to help you find high school internships. Simply Googling “high school internship” in your chosen field can also help you find ads from employers from many different sites and also allow you to find sites where employers are advertising. Some tips include taking initiative and seeking out employers on your own and beginning to look months in advance.
2. Pre-College Camps
A pre-college summer camp is a great way to explore different interests or get more experience with a specific interest. Some programs even offer the chance to do guided or individual research, something that is highly-valued in college. These programs offer more in-depth learning about subjects that interest you, as well as help you gain experience living away from home and on a college campus for an extended period of time. Because of this, it allows you to explore a campus beyond what would be offered on a campus tour. It will also give you a space to make lasting connections and impactful experiences with people who have similar interests as you. However, pre-college programs are typically very expensive. Some offer financial aid which is often need-based only. It is also important to understand that these pre-college camps don’t necessarily make you stand out on your college application, as they vary in selectivity and reputation. They also rarely give college credit. Rather, they help you develop talents and interests in a way you would not be able to in high school and are one way to show commitment to an interest. For highly-selective colleges, however, these should not be the only ways you show that.
How to find one:
Some nationally-recognized programs include the Telluride Association Summer Program, the Anson L. Clark Scholars Program, Notre Dame Leadership Seminars, and Yale Young Global Scholars. There are hundreds of summer programs across the nation, and simply doing a Google search for these can help you find a plethora of programs available to you.
College Classes/Summer School:
A cheaper alternative to summer pre-college programs can be taking classes at your local community college. Taking a class in a subject that interests you demonstrates commitment and initiative to an interest, as well as a passion and desire to learn more. Taking summer school classes with your school can also help you get ahead in school and allow you to take classes that are more related to your intended major.
Summer or high school jobs can have many benefits. Besides simply being a way to earn or save money, a high school job can help put into perspective how much money is required for a certain standard or living. It allows you to become more financially independent and begins to teach important life skills like budgeting. Taking a job specifically for the summer can help you save money while avoiding the stress of having to balance a job with school and other commitments. High school jobs, while usually low-income, still require a certain level of professionalism. Like an internship, a job can help you learn to better navigate the professional world. A summer job could even be a networking opportunity. Beyond summer, maintaining a job for an extended period of time also demonstrates responsibility, commitment, and organization on your college-application.
How to find one:
Start by letting everyone you know that you’re looking for a job. People you know could let you know about job openings or put in a good word to possible employers. You could be surprised by the help someone could give you in getting hired. As with internships, start looking months before summer starts. Look for companies that have an influx of customers during the summer months, such as local pools. These kinds of companies are going to be hiring during spring to get ready for their summer season. You should also look for small businesses over larger ones. They are going to be more willing to hire high school kids with less experience. Even though your employer expects a high school student, however, be professional. Show up prepared and on-time for interviews and your first day. Address your potential employers respectfully. You don’t have to show up looking like you’re going to a black-tie event, but dress simply, nicely and modestly.
Volunteering just to volunteer does not necessarily look impressive on college applications. Everyone volunteers nowadays. However, volunteering for an organization or issue you are passionate about can make a difference on your college application. It’s another way to demonstrate your commitment to your interests. Volunteering can help gain perspective about communities and groups in need. One of the most important things colleges look for is your impact on others. Ultimately, colleges want strong alumni who become involved in their community, be it local or national. Passionate volunteering shows that you have an interest in the world around you and are willing to give the time, energy, and effort to help others. Like a job, volunteering can be a networking opportunity and also demonstrates professionalism, responsibility, commitment, and organization. Getting involved in your community can also open up scholarship opportunities, both within your community and beyond.
How to find one:
As with a job, look locally. Let people know you are looking for a volunteer position. You could also participate in a volunteer program abroad, once it is safe to. Websites such as VolunteerWorld.com can help you look for programs in a variety of issues such as environmental conservation or low-income communities. Finally, you could also create your own non-for-profit or volunteer initiative. Look for needs in your community, and think of ways you could fill those needs. This kind of initiative could be what makes you stand out on your college application.
5. SAT or ACT Prep
There are many reasons why you should get ahead in your SAT and ACT prep. Junior year is stressful enough without worrying about the SAT and ACT. You’re building your college list, strengthening your college resume, and boosting your academic profile. Having adequate time to prepare for anything plays a huge role in your success, and the SAT and ACT are no different. In the summer, during which you don’t have the added stress of school and demanding extra-curriculars, you have adequate time to do in-depth studying for the SAT and ACT. By the time school rolls around, you are fine-tuning your skills, not wondering how to begin studying. Beginning to study in the summer also allows you to feel sufficiently prepared for the earlier SAT testing dates, which in turn gives you more time to improve your score if you feel the need to. If not, you are able to be done earlier in the school year with your standardized test, and you are able to focus more on other activities to improve your admissions odds. Click here to learn how to prepare for the SAT, here to learn the difference between preparing for the SAT and ACT, here for tips on the SAT math section, and here to learn more about the discontinuation of the SAT Essay and SAT Subject Tests.
6. College Visits
College visits as an incoming sophomore or junior can help you get a head start on deciding where to go. Visiting in the summer can also give you more time to thoroughly explore the city and campus you could be living in because you’re not rushing to fit all of your visits during the spring of your junior year. College visits are also an important way to demonstrate interest, which could make a significant difference in your admissions odds. Colleges track demonstrated interest, and in highly-selective schools, it plays a big role in admissions. During the admissions process, these schools are trying to build a class that is a “good fit” for the school, which means the students in the class are going to be successful at the school. Knowing how badly you want to attend their school and being able to show that you did research to try to figure out if the school would be a good fit for you can give you a leg up in the admissions process.
You don’t have to do all six of these in one summer or even all six of these throughout your four high school summers. Just picking one or two to focus on during summer can make all the difference. The most important thing to remember about internships, programs, volunteering, and possibly even a job, is to stick to what you are passionate about. Demonstrating your initiative within your passion should be a priority when trying to decide how to strengthen your application.
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