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College Admissions: 6 Last-Minute Summer Ideas for HS Students

Saturday, June 01, 2013


Trekking abroad, saving endangered elephants, and scuba diving can be smart strategies for summer. Photo: The Experiment In International Living.

Summer vacation will start soon, and many teens still haven’t made plans. A job is always a good option, but can be tough to find. So, here are some other ways to make the most of your summer and impress

admissions officers:

Find Your Passion

Ask a college admissions person what differentiates top candidates from the rest of the pack, and they will usually tell you that it is a demonstrated passion. It could be for music, theatre, a political cause, robotics, the environment, history, mountain climbing, animal rights, or anything else. But hanging out with your friends is not considered a passion. So, try something new this summer-take a sculpting class, learn to sail or row crew, work for a political campaign, go to theatre camp, or start a community service project with friends. Get out there and dive into something that captures your interest!


Have you ever dreamed of trekking through the Himalayas, learning to cook in Italy, saving endangered elephants in Thailand, scuba diving in the Caribbean or teaching children in Fiji? Then check out the excursions offered by Rustic Pathways  or Abbey Road.

Volunteer Locally

There are dozens of opportunities to build your community service resume over the summer. Most competitive colleges want to see students engaging in at least 50 hours of community service per year. Check the volunteer boards like www.volunteermatch.org. Recent postings include organizations that need environmental volunteers, museum guides and camp counselors. If the current postings don’t interest you, then think about what you love, and approach applicable non-profits in your area to see if they need help. 

Do College Applications & Study for SATs

The time for rising seniors to do college applications is in the summer, NOT in the fall when they are deluged with homework, extra-curriculars and sports. Admissions officers can spot a rushed application from a mile away, and truly great essays go through multiple revisions before they are ready to be submitted. So, do your apps now and then avoid stress in the fall. Summer is also a good time to study for the September ACT or October SAT. Private tutors, classroom programs or self-study with books and on-line are all good options, depending on your budget.

Take a Course

If your school doesn’t offer AP classes or you have been locked out, consider taking an AP course online this summer. Keystone offers most AP courses at a reasonable rate. I recommend taking a one semester course like Micro Economics or Government. The summer is short and a full year AP course may be a bit too aggressive. There is also an array of different courses open to high school students at community colleges, and there are pre-college programs on campuses, like WPI, Brown, RISD, Harvard, Syracuse, UVM and BU. From astronomy to zoology, summer courses can be different and interesting. Check with your guidance office to see how the grade will be handled, but you can also have a summer transcript sent to colleges at application time.

Explore a Career

If you have a big budget, there are great programs for high school students on college campuses in the summer. Students can explore health science professions at Dartmouth, photojournalism at George Washington University, or green business practices at UCLA. If your budget is zero, then network with family friends or local businesses to find informal opportunities. Spend two weeks shadowing a veterinarian, dentist or doctor. Volunteer as a helper in a law office, clothing store or local architecture firm. Find one or two fields that interest you and create your own summer career exploration. Colleges will respect your initiative and focus.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, individual counseling for college-bound students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com


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