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Plan Your Summer

Wondering what to do over the Summer?

Students often ask at this time of year ‘What are some things I can do over the summer that can help to impress colleges and possibly improve my chances for acceptance?’ Summer is first a time for rest, relaxation, spending time with family and friends and recharging your inner self. However, there are some things that students can do over the summer that can position them in a more positive light when it comes time to apply to colleges.

Share a passion, skill or talent. Think about what is your passion and what you are really good at. If you’re a swimmer during the school year, consider taking on a leadership role with a neighborhood swim team or giving lessons to children or teens. Soccer player? Become a coach with a kids’ league or give lessons. Chess player? Set up a tournament in your neighborhood or community or teach others how to play. Play the piano, violin or other musical instrument? Connect with a local retirement home and set up a time that you can come in and perform for the residents or lead a sing-a-long during the Fourth of July week or other times throughout the summer. Good at math? Tutor students who may need help to take their math skills to a new level or help them retain knowledge so they don’t lose it over the summer.

Volunteer. Seek out areas within your community where you can contribute to a worthy cause. This can come in the form of helping with community events such as a 5K race; helping with registration, distributing tee shirts or helping set up and take down the course. Craft fairs, art shows, and many local events often welcome teens to help with their events and it is often a one time commitment. However, this can lead to other opportunities to help once they see your work ethic and enthusiasm for the cause. Become a leader at a summer camp. Connect with your local YMCA or JCC to see what opportunities they have for you to volunteer. Make arrangements with a retirement home to go in and lead Bingo with the residents or lead them in a craft. Again, this may be another opportunity to develop your own passion or interest by giving back to others. Take part in a mission trip to give back to others who are less fortunate in lower income communities or countries. You may even consider holding a fund raiser or gathering significant items for a mission trip or other local organization.

Get a job. Summer is a great time to begin to build up a savings account that can help pay for incidentals and other costs that seem to constantly creep up while you are in college. Maybe you want to go skiing on the weekend, buy a new sweatshirt or go eat at a local eatery that is not on your college meal plan. Working a job shows commitment, time management and maturity. Students often seek out employment opportunities as a camp leader (yes, some are actually paid positions), working as a waiter or waitress, working at an ice cream shop or other businesses that peak during the summer. Or working at a retail establishment. (I always thought it would be great to work at a retail clothing store where you like their wears and can get a discount and build your wardrobe before heading out the door to college).

Explore a career interest or get an internship. If you have a particular major in mind, summer is a good time to gain some experience or even exposure to a field of interest. Taking the time to explore potential majors can enlighten students and help them understand the duties and a typical day in that field. Having a good idea of areas you want to explore in college can help reduce the likelihood of changing majors multiple times and increase your chances for graduation within a four year time frame. If you know of others in a field, ask if you can join them for a day, few days or even a week to observe what they do. I have had students who thought they wanted to pursue ‘pre-med’ observe a medical setting and realize they cringe at the site of a bleeding wound. This knowledge saved them valuable time in college as they could focus on other majors before they commit to classes in college exploring this major. This knowledge helped them hone in on other areas of interest that may be more appealing before they actually apply or even get to college.

Students often ask about the career programs offered at selective universities and if they are worth the cost or likely to impress colleges. While spending thousands of dollars on summer programs at prestigious colleges is not likely to impress an admissions committee, the experience can still be valuable if it will be of benefit to you. If the opportunity to live on a college campus can provide the opportunity to learn about college life or even self-management, then it can be a benefit. The opportunity to learn about a potential career to see if it is of interest can be enlightening especially if it helps solidify a possible major of interest. And if you can earn college credit, it can help build credit that can possibly be transferred to your potential college.

Take advantage of a language immersion opportunity. If you are diligently studying a second language and wish to become proficient in that language, summer is a great time to further develop those skills. Enroll in classes that can take your ability to the next level or consider a program abroad where you will spend time with people whose native language is French, Spanish, German, to help develop your language skills to a level of fluency. Fluency in a second language is skill that is oftentimes valued by selective colleges.

Read two books for pleasure. Reading is a great way to stay sharp and immerse yourself in an area that interests you. Fascinated with World War II?, intrigued by the Chinese culture?, interested in biographies of prominent people in history? Pick up a couple good books and take advantage of this opportunity to develop insight during the summer without the pressure of tests and other required reading hanging over your head. Some colleges will include supplemental essay questions that ask about the last few books you’ve read (one college actually asks for the last FIVE!). It is best if these books are books outside of high school required reading, as the colleges are well aware of those books required for high school students.

All this being said, summer time is paramount to developing your own interests, building relationships, taking time for self-reflection and becoming rejuvenated to continue to pursue your interests and dreams in high school, college and beyond.

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