High school students with their eyes on college admissions often wonder what they should do during the long summer break. Of course there are ample opportunities for summer pre-college programs, research opportunities, and formal internships (for more on these opportunities, check out these posts about summer programs in politics, law, math, science, education, and journalism), but many students are unable to take advantage of such programs due to cost, location, or schedule issues.
Even those students who are either unable or uninterested in participating in formal summer programs should take part in some sort of summer activity. Over the past several years, colleges have seen a dramatic rise in college applications – but they haven’t increased their freshman class sizes; the result is an incredibly competitive atmosphere. Students who are concerned with college admissions should do everything possible to help themselves stand out, and summer break offers plenty of chances to do so.
You don’t have to enroll in an expensive academic summer program in order to beef up your resume. Instead, consider some of these more informal – yet equally impressive! – summer options:
- Internships: A summer internship – even an informal one – offers students the chance to explore a potential career while also building work experience. High school students often face an uphill battle in securing formal summer internships because most internship programs favor college students. Instead, high school students should seek informal internships in fields that interest them. Students should start by contacting people they know – family friends or relatives may be more than happy to offer an unpaid internship. If that doesn’t work, students could contact local businesses to volunteer their services as summer interns.
- Part-Time Jobs: A job – ANY job – teaches certain skills and traits. Even working at a fast food joint over the summer teaches teens punctuality, responsibility, and time management and builds maturity and character. Contrary to popular belief, colleges don’t look down on working students. As the New York Times Choice Blog writes, “Southern Methodist University’s director of admissions, Stephanie Dupaul, provided the reassuring words that some of the best personal essays she’d read were the result of a summer working in fast food.” Besides, a part-time job will keep teens from begging for pocket money – what could be better!
- Entrepreneurship: We’ve posted before about teen entrepreneurship, but we think it’s worth another post. Starting a small business may not always be profitable, but it offers an amazing (and, more importantly, unique) experience that demonstrates maturity and initiative while teaching responsibility, management skills, and time management. Check out our past post for some great ideas!
- Volunteering: The Choice blog offers this advice regarding volunteer work: “If community service is done solely to bolster a college application, then perhaps your time is better spent otherwise, as a lack of legitimate motivation is transparent. However, if you’re passionate about medicine, then volunteer at a hospital to see if this interest is well founded.” Volunteer work is an amazing way for students to spend their summers, but volunteering solely for the sake of a stronger resume isn’t helpful. College admissions officers can tell the difference between an applicant who is truly passionate about his volunteer experiences and an applicant who trudged through what he considered to be mandatory community service. Volunteer – at a local hospital, an animal shelter, Habitat for Humanity, a youth group organization, or any of a number of other amazing organizations – but don’t volunteer simply for the sake of writing it on a college application.
- Test Prep: Summer is the best time to prepare for the PSAT, SAT, or ACT. Students are free from the stress and responsibilities of school, their schedules tend to be more flexible, and they are better able to focus on preparing for the upcoming exams. And because test prep is a marathon and not a sprint, prepping for the October or November test dates should begin several months in advance – coinciding perfectly with summer vacation!