A Summer to Remember: Making the Most of Summers Before College
Compiled by Katherine Cohen, Ph.D., CEO & Founder and the team of counselors at IvyWise
Summer will be here before you know it,and although this signifies the end of the academic year, it doesn’t mean you should take a break from learning and developing your talents and skills. But it’s also important to take a break during the summer for some down time. Be sure to take a few weeks to relax, recharge, and spend time with friends and family. Because summer is often 12 weeks, we encourage students to take advantage of some of the time during their summers to further explore their interests. Taking college-level courses or participating in academic, extracurricular or study abroad programs are great ways for you to pursue your talents or interests, and ultimately strengthen both your skills and your application. To help you plan for the coming summer, we’ve got a breakdown of the different ways you can spend your summer, as well as a great sampling of programs for varied interests.
Check with your local college to see if you are eligible to take a college-level course. College-level courses may provide you with an initial or deeper exposure to your area of interest, or provide you with educational opportunities that are not available at your high school. Taking a college-level class in a field of interest could also help you determine the major you want to pursue in college. In some cases, you can even earn credits toward college. To acquaint yourself with the demands of college academics while getting a feel for campus life, consider UCLA’s Summer Sessions and Special Programs.
Academic or Extracurricular Programs
Want to explore the world of sharks while also taking steps to help the environment? There’s a summer program for that! In fact, you will find there is a summer program for nearly any interest. It just takes a bit of research to identify the programs that will be a good fit. We encourage students to use the Internet to search for a program that matches their talents and interests. Some programs focus on helping students improve certain life skills, such as time management, writing and language skills, or leadership skills, while others focus on a specific academic or extracurricular field (some do both!). You should look for a program that spans a month or longer – 4 to 6 weeks is ideal.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out the summer options at the schools on your preliminary college list. For example, students can engage in rigorous academics and explore some of the world’s most exciting cities during Columbia University’s Summer Program for High School Students. Johns Hopkins University sponsors an Engineering Innovation workshop where students apply their math and science skills to hands-on projects led by practicing engineers. If you want to dive into Marine Biology, Cornell University and the University of New Hampshire have teamed up to create a program specifically for high school students to study and explore Marine Biology by completing course work. You can also check out Summer Discovery, which offers programs at universities like the University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, Georgetown, and UCLA, in addition to summer options in foreign countries. If you want to pursue artistic endeavors, consider Interlochen in Michigan, which is still accepting applications for every discipline: creative writing, visual arts, music, dance, and musical theater.
Study Abroad Program
Opportunities to study at foreign universities or similar study abroad programs are another great option for your summer, and perfecting a second or third language is a worthwhile pursuit. Look for programs that focus on your area of interest. If cultural immersion and expanding your knowledge of the world around you sounds like the ideal way to spend your summer, visit Abbey Road to find the program that best suits your interests. As with any summer program or activity, it is important to go deeply into your pursuit. Seek out immersive programs that are at least six weeks long. For example, Where There Be Dragons offers programs in Asia, Central America, the Himalayas, Africa and the Middle East that encourage students to step outside their comfort zones.
Get a Job or Internship
There are many great ways to spend your summer, and IvyWise counselors also advise students to consider getting a job or internship, joining a community service organization, continuing to train in a favorite sport, starting a business, conducting independent research, or even just reading independently. Summer is a great time to read the books you do not have time to read during the school year, or to dive deeper into an area of interest. For example, if you like philosophy, create a reading list of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Nietzsche, or read 5 or 6 of Shakespeare’s plays over the summer. Create a mini-course for yourself and seek out opportunities to enhance your studies, such as local lectures or events, online learning via Academic Earth, or academic research. If you are interested in education, start a small tutoring project and donate the proceeds to a local school or Boys and Girls Club. If you’re looking to get a jump start on the college admissions process over the summer, you can also take the summer months to prepare for the next academic year by pre-reading for your courses, researching colleges, preparing for standardized tests, or visiting college campuses.
There are many ways to have a productive summer and improve your chances of college admission at the same time– unfortunately, working on a tan 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 enjoyable and enriching.
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