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NOV 19, 2020 • 10 min read
Will your summer activities make it onto your college applications? The short answer is yes if you use your summer effectively, then they can! Colleges want to hear about your summer if you explore potential interests & career paths, gain work experiences, or dive deeper into a subject area!
We’ve built a list of the 10 best ways you can effectively use your summer:
There are countless summer programs available, hosted by various organizations and universities all around the country and even across the world! But...how to choose? Consider if you are interested in attending a camp or program that focuses on a particular interest, or one where students attend classes at a university and get to fully experience what life on a particular college campus is like. Some programs are a mix of these two. There are a multitude of options out there--with one that just may perfectly fit what you’re looking for.
Attending a program that focuses on a particular interest is great for students who want to discover whether or not this subject area is a fit, and to leave with real-life research and/or skills. It also helps to show on your applications intellectual curiosity in a particular subject area, which can be extremely helpful when applying for a particular major at a university.
Taking classes at a university is a great way to experience what college life is like. These classes can be extremely challenging, as they are taught at a university level, so keep in mind this will be a challenge, but one that is extremely rewarding. Participants will also have the chance to explore a college campus and town, and speak to students that attend the university, and interact and perhaps even build relationships with university professors. This is a great way to see if a particular college may be the correct fit for you.
In either case, seek out camps that are competitive as opposed to just “pay to play”. One great sign of a competitive program is if it has an application process. Almost all free summer programs are extremely competitive as they have limited spots.
Applying and working an internship in a particular area of interest is a fantastic way to explore whether or not a profession is right for you. It also gives you the ability to gain real workplace skills such as time management, teamwork, and juggling multiple responsibilities. When choosing an internship to apply for, make sure it’s a true area of interest and that the internship will allow you to make an impact you can speak on in your college application and essays. Working an internship where you’re delivering coffees or only performing ‘busy work’ is not the best way to spend your summer. Consider finding a career mentor to help guide you through the summer and what you should be doing. Crimson places students in internships within their desired field and students finish the internship with hands-on experience and projects to show for their hard work!
Working a paid job over the summer, even if it’s not focused on an area that you want to study in, can provide invaluable skills for the future. It also helps with time management, gives the experience of serving others, and can offer insight about what you do and do not want to do with your future.
Think about how you can make an impact throughout your summer. For example, if you are at an ice cream shop, think about how you may be able to cut down the wait time for your customers or a new promotion that the manager or owner can try! Keep seeing if there are ways you can make an impact.
As you earn, also think ahead to how you may want to use your money. Many college applications, including the UCs, ask how you plan to use the money you earned. It is another component of the application that can speak to your story. For example, if you are interested in business, you may talk about how you want to invest the money in the market or use it to start a company.
Looking to demonstrate a stronger interest in an academic area you are interested in? Consider research under a university professor or Ph.D. student. Conducting research truly gives you a leg up amongst other college applicants, showing you have both the intellectual ability and curiosity to go above and beyond while working alongside an academic. If you have significant time to contribute to research, you can even consider original experimentation of your own with the guidance of a professor. Advanced students have been able to publish their papers in undergraduate journals. Research is not limited only to science - many students have been able to study history, law, languages, and more through virtual research with professors. The Crimson Research Institute is a wonderful option for highly motivated students looking to work with a Ph.D. student or professor to conduct their own research in an area of particular interest.
Maybe you’ve been working on a personal project or fundraiser that you’re really passionate about. The summer is the perfect time to uplevel that project, where you have more time to focus solely on this endeavor. Maybe this summer you have time to host the event you’ve been thinking of to raise awareness and financial support for a particular cause? Showing personal initiative in your passions and helping the community around you can truly go a long way in your applications. This option is great for a self-driven student who has a block of time free over the summer or is traveling.
Taking the time to give back to the community is always extremely important and rewarding. It also adds a different element to your applications: showing that you’re willing to invest time in something larger than yourself. Volunteering may also spark passions in you that you previously were unaware of. Volunteering is quite common for high school students so we do recommend focusing your time on an issue you care about. As you volunteer, keep thinking through ways you can make an impact and help the organization. After your volunteer experience, consider how you can keep giving back through fundraisers or by helping the organization in other ways.
Sometimes it seems impossible to balance studying for the SATs/ACTs on top of your regular classes. This is why summer is a key time to hone in on studying for these important tests. Whether you’re a natural test-taker or looking for some extra help, summer is the perfect opportunity to spend time taking a test prep course, study on your own with a prep book, or consider working 1-on-1 with a tutor, such as the ones through Crimson Education.
Have you been interested in a subject but not had the opportunity to explore or study it? Consider a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). These courses are often available at no cost and offer you the chance to dive into a subject area before dedicating your college career to it! The options are endless--try out Coursera or edX! Your local community college may also have online options. Reach out to them to see if they let high school students join!
College visits are the best way to truly understand what life on a college campus is like. While you’re on a vacation with your family, consider spending a few hours visiting colleges in the same cities to see if they may be a potential fit for you. Not going to a city with colleges you’re interested in this summer?
If a rising senior, summer is a critical time to start focusing on and planning out components of your college applications. Use this time to reflect on past influential experiences that may translate well into your essays. Consider brainstorming topics for your personal statement on the Common Application.
This is also a great time to start planning out your application plan--creating your own timeline of when particular tasks need to be completed. Be aware of the different application dates for various schools (consider early decision, early action, regular decision, etc), last possible testing dates, and mark these on your calendar. Crimson provides services where an experienced strategist takes you through this process, beginning with creating a personalized ‘roadmap’ for your very own college application process-keeping you stress-free and organized while putting your best foot forward.****
How to Choose?
There are many ways you can use your summer to help better yourself and your applications. How should you approach essays for competitive summer programs? What are all the deadlines for top summer camps? What companies take high school interns? How do you get in touch with a professor at a top school for research? What SAT score should you aim for? Set up a time to speak with an expert advisor at Crimson to learn more about what we recommend for your path and how to get additional support.
Drea attended the Lawrenceville School and then graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a B.A in Journalism & Anthropology. She currently resides in San Diego. Previously, she worked at Education First, an international education company, serving as the Activities Coordinator for a diverse student population. She now works for Crimson as an Education Coordinator and Copywriter. In her free time, you can find her seeing live music, hiking, and traveling.