Summer is here. It’s awesome. And you’ve probably been waiting for it all year long. Summer means sleeping late, hanging out with friends, and not having to write history papers. But summer is also a time to think about college and the next steps of life. With college admission as competitive as it is, every summer activity counts. In fact, Princeton University historically asks on its application: “How have you spent the last two summers?” Colleges want to know how you occupy your time. This gives them insight into who you are and what you prioritize. Colleges look for students who dedicate themselves to activities and projects as they aim to build a well-rounded incoming freshman class. And even if it’s the summer after your freshman year of high school, it’s never too early to figure out how your plans for the next 10 weeks may impact potential college applications. Here are the top five activities to consider participating in this summer to help you standout in the college admission process.
Community service begins in the neighboring blocks or miles around your home. Do not neglect doing good in your immediate vicinity. There are plenty of opportunities for you to help others at churches, rec centers, day camps, and more. You do not have to travel to Fiji to dig a well to do community service. In fact, an expensive trip abroad may signal “vacation” more than “volunteering.” If you are planning to volunteer abroad, make sure the program has a dedicated service component that is easily understood. Wherever you go, expect that the experience will change you. It will also confirm your willingness to be a contributing and conscientious (global) citizen.
2. Establish and/or clean up your online presence
You're probably already active online. But now more than ever, it’s important to use social media responsibly. No more inappropriate pictures or language. Instead, create a website with your name and highlight what you do. Upload YouTube videos of you singing, performing in the arts, playing in a game, or simply sharing your vision for the world. Since your online presence is often how people meet you for the first time, make it something you are proud of.
3. Take some classes
Summer classes at a local community college are very different from high school. You should be able to take a class that intrigues you. It may even springboard into your eventual college major. Plus, taking an additional three to six weeks to invest in your long-term education makes you smarter and shows colleges that you are a serious student. It’s also possible to take credit-bearing summer courses that most colleges will accept for credit, which can save you money in the long run.
4. Get a job
Paid or unpaid jobs (like internships) give you a chance to gain valuable hands-on experience. Many of these jobs can help you to determine what you want or do not want to do later in life. If you work in retail, for example, you might find you do not want to do that later in life. Or if you intern at a startup company, maybe you will be inspired to learn the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship. No matter what the job is, at this age, you will emerge better for it. And colleges will be impressed with your work ethic.
5. Visit colleges
No matter if you are a rising sophomore, junior, or senior, you should make a point to spend some time on a college campus this summer. If you have any potential colleges in mind, those should be your priority. But it doesn’t hurt to visit campuses near you either, just to get the experience. Since most college admission offices remain open during the summer, you can pay an informal visit. How will this impress them? Colleges track “demonstrated interest.” When it is time to apply, you will be able to connect with an admission officer and build an authentic rapport. If you can confirm your interest in a school, especially from a summer visit, you may shine brighter than the other applicants.
It's never too early to start thinking about what you can do to impress colleges—and it’s really never too late either! Get involved in any of these activities this summer to boost your résumé and show your worth to any school. They'll be sure to take notice.
For more insider advice, check out what our experts have to say about college admission, campus visits, and more with our Ask the Experts Q&A.