By Andy Lee
How do you show colleges that you are much more than your GPA and SAT score? You need to truly excel in your extracurricular activities. Your summer break is the ideal time for you to hone your skills and build up your achievements, meaning how you spend your summer could have a direct impact on where you end up going to college. And now is the time to be thinking about this.
Colleges actively seek out students who can ace an exam and score the winning touchdown in a football game. They want to admit students who will study in the libraries and research in laboratories, but also dance in the studio and perform on stage. How should you go about selecting summer activities that will make the most impact on your college application?
Here is an easy to follow framework for you to identify the ideal way to spend your summer:
Relevance: In ideal circumstances, you should participate in summer activities that are related to your existing interests. For example, if you are currently on the junior varsity tennis team, you should consider participating in an intensive tennis training program in the summer to increase your chances of making the varsity team next year.
Duration: As a rule of thumb, you should choose programs that will allow you to truly immerse yourself in an engaging activity for a protracted period of time. For example, completing a six- week long Spanish program in Madrid is likely going to be much more meaningful than enrolling in a two-week long program where you spend half the time recovering from jetlag.
Impact: Choose activities that will allow you to make an impact. For example, you may want to intern at a small startup company that allows high school students to work on actual projects, rather than intern at a large corporation that relegates students to dull clerical tasks. If you make a positive impression and leave a tangible impact on the company during your internship, your supervisor may even volunteer to write you a recommendation letter that you can submit along with your other college application materials.
If it satisfies all three of the conditions outlined above, you will have found the perfect summer activity!
Here are examples of some worthwhile summer activities that you should consider looking into:
Internships: Do you want to know what it’s like to be a software engineer or a prosecutor? You can learn about these exciting professions by speaking with current practitioners, but there’s an even better way to find out if these fields are right for you. By doing an internship, you’ll get to experience firsthand what these jobs actually entail. Instead of speaking with a software engineer, go spend the summer writing code in your internship.
University Summer Programs: Are you curious about what it’s like to major in graphic design or marine biology in college? Unfortunately, these fascinating subjects are usually not offered in high school. Go enroll in summer courses offered by universities to learn more about these topics. Beyond coursework, many colleges also offer opportunities for students to conduct scientific research under the guidance of professors and graduate students. Sign up for a university summer program to gain exposure to new subjects and to get a preview of what it’s like to be a college student.
Training Camps: Do you want to perfect your serve or your hook shot? There are many elite sports academies in places like California and Florida that offer world-class training at state-of-the-art facilities that will elevate your athletic skills to the next level. Spend the summer at these camps and improve your odds of making varsity next year.
Don’t spend your entire summer lounging on the beach and sleeping in. Instead, you should spend your summer productively. By engaging in meaningful summer activities that build up your extracurricular profile, you’ll be able to rise above your competition when you apply to college.