College admissions want to see you exploring your interests and making an impact outside of the classroom, and that includes what you’re doing during your summer break. Planning a productive summer can help you better understand your college and career goals, and can help you stand out during the admissions process, too.
While students should start planning their summer activities at the start of the year, it’s not uncommon for many students to wait until the last minute to decide how to spend their summer break. Deadlines for many pre-college summer programs have passed, but there are a number of things that students can do to still have a productive summer.
Here are some options to consider if you don’t have summer activities lined up already.
Carry a Current Extracurricular Into the Summer
Your current extracurricular activities don’t have to take a break for the summer. Find a way to continue to participate in your current clubs or activities during the break. For example, if you’re involved with the entrepreneurship club at school, come up with a way to host a fundraiser over the summer that can benefit the club when school resumes in the fall.
If you’re in the debate club, organize a few “off-season” debates to help you and your teammates stay sharp and prepared for the fall.
If you host an after-school program for music at the local community center, see if you can continue that for students who may be attending a day-camp during the summer. Find creative ways to stay active in your current activities even though school is out of session.
Reach out to local organizations to see if they need volunteers for the summer. Have a passion for nature and the outdoors? See if the local parks organization needs volunteers to help run parks programs or staff a visitor’s center.
Students interested in art could volunteer at a local museum or gallery, helping with ticket sales, events, or other administrative duties. Also get in touch with local children’s organizations, like the Boys and Girls Club, to see if they need volunteers to teach art or coach a sport. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer in your community – and colleges like to see students making an impact and helping others with their passions and interests.
Gain Hands-On Experience
A summer job in a field of interest is another way to have a productive summer while also gaining real-world experience – and a paycheck. A student with a passion for swimming, water, and water engineering can take a summer job at the local pool teaching swimming lessons and helping the staff find clean and efficient ways to take care of the pool itself.
Maybe you’re interested in healthcare and your doctor’s office is looking for a summer intern to help process paperwork and organize patient records. This can give you insight into the day-to-day activities of a doctor’s office and what it takes to keep a practice organized and running efficiently.
Other opportunities for hands-on experience can include assisting with a research project at the local university, or even honing your computer programming skills by taking on some freelance coding work from a local business or organization. There are a number of ways to spend your summer gaining experience while also earning a little money for college in the process.
Take College-Level Courses
You don’t have to have a job or internship during the summer to learn more about a subject of interest or be productive. One way to delve deeper into your interests is to actually learn something new about them through online or summer courses. Check with local universities or community colleges to see if they have any summer classes in a topic of interest, like business, communications, art, or some other field.
Look for online courses or MOOCs that you can take at your own pace in between other activities, too. Sample courses on edX and Coursera include Software Development Fundamentals, Philosophy and Critical Thinking, and Medical Neuroscience, just to name a few.
Catch Up on Outside Reading
Reading books, magazines, blogs, and other publications related to an area of interest is one of the best ways to learn more about the things you’re passionate about and whether or not they’re a good fit for you. Take some time this summer to read and expand your understanding of topics that pique your interest or that you want to study in the future. Not only will this make you an expert in certain specialties, but it will also come in handy when filling out your college applications, as many colleges will ask what you are reading outside of the classroom.
We have published several summer reading lists over the years and link to a few below to inspire your reading selections this summer!
Prepare for the ACT or SAT
The summer is a great time to stay on top of your test prep and it is a productive activity, however, it’s not the only activity you should spend your time on this summer. Continue to take practice tests, evaluate performance, and work on test-taking skills during the summer in between other activities like working, volunteering, or another activity of interest. This is especially important for students who plan to take the June SAT or ACT, or even the August SAT.
Work on Your College Applications
Just like with test prep, rising high school seniors shouldn’t devote the entirety of their summer to college applications – they should also pursue other activities that relate to their interests. However, it is smart for students to get a head start on their applications during the summer, especially since students using the Common Application can create accounts now that will roll over when the new application opens Aug. 1.
The 2017-18 Common Application essay prompts are already available, and many colleges will start announcing their supplemental essay topics during the summer. Starting your application and essays during the summer will lighten the load come fall, as the bulk of the work will be completed before the school year starts. This is especially important for students who plan to apply early decision or early action to their top choice college.
It’s not too late to plan a productive summer break! For help identifying summer activities that can help you further develop your interests and help you stand out in the admissions process, contact us today for more information on our college counseling and summer activity planning services.