Here’s the truth: Colleges are looking for well-rounded students who are committed to activities that they are passionate about. Summer is the perfect opportunity for students to demonstrate these qualities. It can be easy to spend all summer on the couch binge watching Netflix or snapchatting friends, but those activities aren’t going to guarantee that you get the fat envelope when admission decisions are made.
Colleges are more likely to offer admission to students who demonstrate a commitment to activities outside the classroom. Summer is the best time to show colleges that you are much more than just your GPA or your ACT score.
The most important thing is that a student has spent their time off of school doing something constructive. It’s even better if that something provides some insight into who the student is and what their passions are.
Here are 5 activities that will get your application noticed:
1. Volunteer (or better yet, start your own charity project)
Volunteering can be a life-changing experience that allows teens to expand their horizons and foster meaningful relationships. Try volunteering at a local animal shelter, hospital, festival, or library.
Here’s a unique volunteer idea: Ask your school principal if there’s anything you can do to improve an area of the school over the summer. Maybe a classroom needs painted or a teacher needs help setting up their classroom for the next school year.
If you’re up for a bigger challenge, think about starting your own charity project. It can be small like collecting gently used clothing from your neighbors to donate to your local Goodwill, or more involved, like putting together a charity run in your city. Not only are you communicating to colleges that you care about others, but you are also showing your leadership skills.
2. Get a job or start a business
Find organizations that you know pay teens to work. Good places to check are grocery stores, movie theatres, city park and recreation departments, museums, and camps. Getting (and keeping) a job shows dedication and responsibility. The paycheck is an added bonus!
You could also become a teenage entrepreneur. Start a business that utilizes your strengths. Are you great with children? Start a babysitting business. Are you talented artistically? Start your own small business and sell your art on Etsy. The possibilities are endless.
3. Take a class or attend a summer course at a college
Furthering your education in the summer is definitely impressive to colleges. Look into summer offerings at your local college campus. Many offer credit for summer courses, even if you are a high school student. Try to stick to general education classes (English, Math, Science) so that it is more likely that the credits will transfer to other colleges.
Another option for students is to create their own learning program at home through books and online learning sites (such as Khan Academy, Udacity, Alison, Open University, and Coursera).
4. Make some college connections
Many college offices stay open during the summers. Take advantage of this and make an appointment to speak with someone in admissions. Believe it or not, they actually keep track of who they meet with and correspond with. Your genuine interest in attending that college will leave them with a great impression of you. Make sure to follow up with a thank you email or handwritten note. It’s a nice extra touch.
5. Create an impressive online presence
Spend some time this summer creating an impressive online presence. An online presence that showcases your strengths and talents will give colleges a picture of you that they won’t see by looking at transcripts or test scores. Here are some ideas: Start a blog, communicate with colleges using social media, or create a LinkedIn profile that showcases your honors and awards, your work experience, and your extracurricular activities. It’s also a good idea to spend time cleaning up your social media accounts. Be sure to delete any pictures or posts that could look unfavorable to an admissions officer.
It’s not the fact that you did something that will matter, but rather why you did it. Before you sign up for a summer activity, think how you could articulate to an admission officer the impact that the activity had on your life or how it enhanced your skillset. Whatever you do, put in 100% effort and have fun!