Ah, summertime. The long awaited break from the rigors of academia during the seemingly interminable haul between September and June. Time to indulge all your couch potato fantasies. Right? Um, wrong!
The last thing you want to do in the college admissions game is be a couch potato over the summer. There are plenty of productive, meaningful, and FUN things to do between final exams and back-to-school BBQs that will give you a feeling of accomplishment AND impress college admissions officers. Here are a few ideas:
- Follow your passion. If you play an instrument, summertime is a great opportunity to take your playing to a whole new level. If you’re into acting, perform in a play. If you like technology, design a game or smartphone app, build a website, or assemble a computer. If you’re into writing, grab a pen (or iPad, laptop, or any other writing device). You get the idea. Admissions officers look for students who are DEEP into what matters most to them. Use the summer as an opportunity to advance those activities that really float your boat. (Maybe it’s boating?)
- Get a meaningful job. While finding and keeping any job in this economy can be considered a coup and shows a certain level of responsibility, admissions officers would prefer to see applicants with jobs in fields that make sense for them. If you’re into sports, try landing a job local gym or recreational center, become a CIT or counselor, or coach a local team in a summer league. If you’re into computers and such, try getting work in some organization’s IT department (like a school, or company, or non-profit). Getting a job in a field that interests you gives you a leg up not only in the admissions game, but also in the real world after college. Take a class. Do you ever wish that your school offered courses in photography or geology or astronomy or painting? Check out the universities and continuing education programs in your area and sign up for a summer class. This sends a clear message to admissions officers that you’re sincere about your particular interests.
- Travel. Family trips, teen tours, camping and backpacking, etc., are great ideas, especially if they tie into some academic or other intellectual interest. If you’re a history buff, arrange a trip to Washington, D.C. or Boston, MA, or Philadelphia, PA. If you’re into art, check out the world-class museums in NYC. If you’re into geology or nature in general, spend some time in the Rockies or a state or national park. Taking a luxurious trip to the south of France isn’t as impressive as one that ties into an area of genuine interest—unless, of course, you study French language, history, art, or architecture ;-).
- Read and write. If you’re planning on going to the beach or, say, the backyard hammock, for a good chunk of the summer, read some books and keep a journal. One of the questions on the Common App every year (see Four Things You Must Know about The Common Application) gives you an opportunity to write about a particularly meaningful book or character. Wouldn’t it be great to write about a book you chose to read over the summer?
- Expand your vocabulary. Having a large, literate vocabulary is still paramount for success on the SAT, and, wait for it….success once you get to college! It’s also a great advantage in the whole wide world beyond higher education. Dig into Princeton Review’s Word Smart, spend some time on Quizlet (see Quizlet.com: Fun, Free, and Effective), and you’ll be amazed not only on how much better you’ll do on the SATs, but also how much easier and more enjoyable school will become!
Bottom line: enjoy your summer. Hopefully, you earned it. But make responsible choices about how to spend your time and choose activities that are both fun and productive. Summertime IS a reward for working hard all school year, but then doing some work in the summer will reward you when you go back to school next fall…and when you apply for admission to college!