The Truth About Planning a Productive Summer
The Huffington Post
By Dr. Kat Cohen
May 18, 2012
When it comes to the college admissions process, it is imperative to show how you have developed your interests throughout your time in high school. College admissions committees want to see that you have made an impact in clubs and activities during the school year, but also during your time away from school. Though summer is just around the corner, it doesn’t mean you should take a break from learning and developing your interests and talents — and you certainly shouldn’t sit around all summer working on your tan! While the deadlines for many summer programs have passed, there are still plenty of options for students to have a productive summer. From taking college-level courses to starting your own business, there are many great ways for students to pursue your interests and talents, and ultimately strengthen both your skills and your college applications.
Your local college or university probably offers a number of summer course options. Taking a college-level class is a great opportunity for students to learn a new skill or further develop knowledge in a particular subject area. For example, if you are considering a business major and are interested in marketing, you can take an introductory course to help you decide if you truly enjoy the topic. In addition to potentially earning college credits, you may even be able to “jump the track” (fulfill a prerequisite so you can take a more advanced level course during the academic year).
Get a Job or Internship
A summer job may help you confirm your career aspirations, discover new interests, or gain firsthand knowledge. Try not to focus exclusively on earning a big paycheck; it’s the experience that truly counts. A job shows commitment, maturity, and responsibility, and don’t forget that the people that you work for may be able to help you later when you need a reference or other career assistance.
If you opt for summer employment, you can pursue full- or part-time jobs that help you explore your interests. For example, if you’re interested in becoming a lawyer you may consider administrative work in a law or legal aid office. If you are working a retail or service job, ask your manager if you can help with additional tasks that match up with your interests — like creating an advertisement if you’re interested in graphic design, scripting a commercial if you’re focused on film studies, or helping the bookkeeper if you’re thinking of accounting. If finding a job that aligns with your interests or talents proves to be a challenge, there’s always the option to start your own business or charity! For example, one of my students started a nonprofit organization that provided firewood to heat the homes of local families.
Create a Customized Curriculum
One of the most accessible and affordable options for students is to create your own curriculum. Students can develop this by utilizing online courses on a particular topic and pairing the courses with an extensive reading list. With the help of open courseware providers including MIT, Yale University, Khan Academy, Academic Earth, and Coursera, you can spend the summer immersed in works related to your chosen topic. Ask your teachers and the school librarian for reading list recommendations before the school year ends. While you work your way through the courses and reading list, keep an annotated bibliography, which you can later submit with your college applications. Similarly, students can design an independent research project. If you choose this course of action, your goal should be to produce a final, tangible product such as a paper or entry into a competition or fair. You may be able to use resources at a local college such as their faculty and facilities. In addition to the personal and intellectual growth designing a curriculum can provide you, it will also serve as a demonstration of your academic interests to college admissions officers.
There are many ways to have a productive summer and improve your chances of college admission at the same time — unfortunately, sitting by the pool or playing video games all summer long isn’t one of them! With these summer options, you’re bound to find a way to make the summer both engaging and enriching.