Summer time, summer time sum-sum-summer time
No, it is not really summer time yet, but it is time to start making plans for summer. The reason why is because how you (and here are I am targeting high schoolers but in particular rising seniors) spend your time over the summer provides meaningful information to colleges about your skills, interests and level of commitment. And, deadlines for applying to certain summer programs are approaching or unfortunately have passed. Also, don’t forget that you soon-to-be seniors will most likely be writing an essay with some variation on the theme of what you learned from your summer experience. So, summer plans time it is!
Does this mean you need to solve world hunger or pad your resume with some buzzworthy (and probably exorbitant) prestigious summer program? Not necessarily. However, it is wise to be strategic. The goal is to find something you genuinely like to do, do it well and learn something from it that will be of interest to colleges. In this article I will provide some broad ideas as well as some particular recommendations for what might be of interest to you for the summer. If you are fortunate enough to have more resources at your disposal, here are the usual options.
- Enrichment Programs: What is an enrichment program? It is a fancier way to say education opportunities i.e. schooling. Options range from a chance to live in dorms and go to classes on campus, to commuting to classes on campus to online opportunities. I often recommend to students that they find a program that enables them to “try on” their major. I also suggest that students look for opportunities to develop leadership skills—something college admission staff value. A program that many of my students have enjoyed and found worthwhile is the Economics for Leaders (www.fte.org/students) program sponsored by the Foundation for Teaching Economics since it combines both of these attributes and is located on may desirable college campuses across the country. Most colleges, such as the UCs, the Ivy League and art/music schools, have their own summer programs for high school students. Keep in mind, though, that participation in these programs does not mean automatic acceptance to the college come fall.
- Travel: Expand your frame of reference and learn more about different cultures and their perspectives, perfect fodder for a college essay not to mention a valuable personal growth opportunity. Either make the most of an already-planned family trip or try striking out on your own. There are plenty of ways to accomplish this – become an exchange student and live with a host family through AFS American Field Service (www.afs.org/usa) or YFU Youth for Understanding (www.yfu-usa.org). Participate in a language immersion program such as EF International Language Centers (www.ef.com) or Global Routes www.globalroutes.org). Plan a road trip and visit National Parks and historical landmarks.
- Work: College admissions officers like to see that students are responsible, take initiative and work well with others. Having a steady job and getting promoted is a way to show you have these skills. It is not bad for the wallet either. While it is sometimes challenging for high school students to find employment, keep in mind that this type of work experience does not have to be highly professional to be worthwhile. Jobs such as bagging groceries, babysitting and coaching are viewed favorably. If at all possible it is best to show commitment over time – depth rather than breadth. Consider applying for jobs through the city, look on websites (www.summerjobs.com, http://www.snagajob.com) and network.
- Volunteer: There are many kinds of volunteering opportunities to consider when thinking about summer. Community service, un-paid internships, tutoring, getting involved in a cause are all examples of ways to demonstrate dependability and learn valuable skills. There are other “psychic rewards” as well such as personal satisfaction, being a part of something that is bigger than yourself, connecting to your community. Check out the YMCA, local religious organizations, Families First, or a charity of your choice.
Tend to business
Along with your summer activities, be sure to keep the ball rolling with college admissions. Summer is the time to work on drafts of application essays, put together an academic resume and visit colleges in preparation for the busy application season come fall. In the midst of all of this, many students are also busy with their sports camps and tournaments.
Jennifer Borenstein is an independent college advisor and the owner of The Right College For You in Davis, CA.
You can reach Jennifer at http://www.therightcollegeforyou.org
(portions of this article have appeared in the Davis Enterprise in the College Corner column)