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Why Students Should Get a Head Start Planning Summer Activities

It may be the start of the spring semester, but summer will be here before you know it – and students will need to have a plan for how to spend the summer months (that doesn’t include Netflix). Now is the time for parents and students to start planning productive summer activities that will stand out when it comes time to apply to college.

The summer may seem far off, and in terms of a calendar it is. But when it comes to college preparation, it’s important to begin your planning (whether it’s for college visits, standardized testing, course selection, etc.) months in advance. Summer activities are no exception.

Why make summer plans now?
Just like you wouldn’t wait until the last minute to plan a lengthy family vacation, you don’t wait to wait until the last minute to secure summer activity plans for high school students. Students need time to research options, meet with their college counselors to choose the right activities, and secure placement if applying to a specific program or internship.

In order to make an impact and have a meaningful summer experience, students need to choose activities that are at least 4-6 weeks long. This is a big chunk of time, and when considering other summer commitments, it can take considerable planning to craft an effective summer activity schedule – especially if you’re considering a program that requires travel.

Additionally, there are a variety of programs for high school students with application deadlines early in the spring. It’s important to get an early start in order to compile a meaningful application and meet all the material requirements and deadlines.

In short, planning a productive summer is not an easy or quick task, so it’s best to get started as early as possible.

How do summer activities affect college applications?
For many colleges, it’s not just about grades and test scores. Most use a holistic approach to evaluating applicants, meaning the student’s entire profile is considered beyond just the numbers. Colleges will look at “soft factors” like essays, extracurricular involvement, community service – and summer activities.

As colleges evaluate student activities and interests, they’ll want to know how students spent their two or three months of free time during the summer. Just because the school year ends, doesn’t mean that meaningful participation in activities and interests should cease as well.

Free time in the summer gives students even more opportunities to explore their interests and deepen their involvement and impact. This helps students become specialists in their areas of interest – something that selective colleges are looking for when making admissions decisions.

Using the summer months to delve into an area of interest, rather than playing video games or relaxing by the pool, demonstrates maturity and a commitment to excelling in that field. In order for applicants to be competitive in the admissions process they need to spend their summers in a productive and meaningful way. While a lack of summer activities won’t send an applicant directly to the “no” pile, it certainly won’t work in his or her favor.

College Summer Programs for High School Students
A great summer experience for students to try is to spend the summer learning on a college campus. Students will get a taste for real college life while learning alongside students from across the world. Many of the country’s top colleges offer pre-collegiate summer programs for high school students, most focused on a particular area of interest so students can learn more and decide if it’s a course of study they want to pursue in college.

Colleges that offer these types of programs include MIT, University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, and University of Massachusetts Amherst, to name a few. These types of summer programs do require applications; so it’s important to get an early start in order to have adequate time to select the appropriate program and prepare for application deadlines – which can be early in the spring.

While these programs can be expensive, many offer scholarships and financial aid to students who demonstrate need.

Other Summer Activities to Consider
If a pre-collegiate program isn’t for you, there are other ways to spend your summer productively. Here are some examples of other summer activities to explore – right in your own town.

  • Take Some Classes: Whether it’s at a local university, community college, or an online MOOC, choose a course related to a major you might want to pursue or a topic you’re curious about. You’ll learn more about a possible major or career field, helping you to narrow your interests and college choices. It will also demonstrate initiative and that you’re able to handle college-level courses.
  • Volunteer: Colleges love students who are making an impact, and community service is one way to do that. Choose a volunteer activity that matches your passions and interests. If you’re a musician, volunteer at the local Boys and Girls Club and teach a music class. If you’re interested in nature and biology, contribute your time to keeping the local park clean or holding recycling seminars. The possibilities are endless!
  • Start a Club: If you haven’t been able to find the right club or activity that fulfills your interests, then create your own! Interested in business? Start an economics club. Love building electronics? Start a robotics club. Use your free time this summer to craft a club “plan” with ideas for meetings, projects, community service, and more. Reach out to classmates to see if others would want to participate, and find out what you would need to do in order to have your new club approved and recognized by your school. That way when the school year starts up, you’ll have your new club up and ready to go!
  • Start a Blog: Blogging is one of the best ways to learn more about an area of interest and demonstrate your knowledge. Create a topic schedule at the beginning of the summer, and set aside time each week to research, write, and promote your posts. Not only will you learn and expand your knowledge, you will also have a portfolio to include with your college application.

With preliminary research, identifying the right programs, and filling out applications, planning a productive summer can be a large undertaking. At IvyWise our expert counselors help students identify the right activities and programs that will give them a meaningful summer experience. Contact us today for more information on our counseling programs and summer activity planning!

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