With spring officially here, summertime is now, finally, just around the corner. For most students, the warmer weather signifies a break from studying and a chance to unwind. Although it’s true that the summer holidays are a good opportunity to recharge before another busy academic year, students should use their time outside the classroom to strengthen their upcoming college applications.
As the end of the school year quickly approaches, sophomores and juniors ought to begin thinking about how they want to present themselves to their dream college. Summer vacation is the ideal time for students to solidify the traits and interests they intend to highlight in their admissions forms and essays. Whether it’s an extra academic course, a volunteer position or a new entrepreneurial endeavour, the way you choose to spend your time this summer can have far-reaching implications for your college education.
Reflect on your passions and your positioning
When trying to decide how to best spend your summer months, ask yourself these questions: What are you most passionate about? What are you interested in, both within school and outside of it? What will you want to talk about in your application that makes you unique and demonstrates your dedication to a particular field of study? You don’t need to know exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life, but you do need to know what you enjoy and find meaningful so you can choose relevant activities.
For example, if you are interested in political science but have not yet had the opportunity to participate in any kind of political activity, perhaps you will want to volunteer to support a local candidate with his or her campaign. You will gain valuable experience, become familiar with what it is like to work in politics and demonstrate to your future college that your interest in political science is genuine. Or, if you are an avid chess player, consider starting a tournament at your local library. Participants can pay a small fee to enter the tournament and these fees can be split between the winner of the tournament and your favourite charity. This will show a prospective college that you are genuinely interested in chess, have strong organizational skills, can mobilize others and see value in giving back to your community.
Ultimately, this summer is an opportunity to build on how you want to present yourself to your dream college – also known as your “positioning”. The activities you engage in over the next few months will be an important part of your application, so be sure they are representative of your interests, skills and positive attributes.
Avoid these common pitfalls
Students often make two mistakes when deciding which kinds of activities to pursue over the summer. First, they automatically assume that extra-curriculars which cost a lot of money are more likely to impress a college. Second, they choose activities that they think will matter most to a college, not what matters most to them. Both of these misconceptions can be damaging to your application, not to mention your morale.
College admissions offices usually prefer not to see an application laden with expensive overseas trips and costly volunteer positions. Instead, admissions officers want to see a genuine interest or passion for a cause or a line of work. It’s critical to choose activities that resonate with you authentically. A trip to build houses in Costa Rica is a good fit for someone wishing to become an architect or engineer; otherwise, it generally does not reflect a student’s genuine passion, and is therefore less valued in the eyes of a prospective college.
Instead of spending time on activities that you think will “look good” on your CV, get involved in something that interests you specifically. Whether you choose to stay at home or go abroad, enroll in an online class or a course at your local college, start a non-profit effort in your community or launch your first online business, remember this: this is your chance to amplify and exemplify your passion. This is your chance to show the world what makes you unique and to prove that you stand out. This is your time to shine.