As you all know—only too well—the college application process is competitive, very competitive. You can have great test scores, be at the top of your class, have a great résumé and good teacher recommendations, and still be just one of the pack.
So, how can you be a standout?
One way is through your college application essay(s)! Why? Because you can show that you are a professional writer? No!
The essay helps because it tells about you, and it’s the place where you can make yourself stand apart from the crowd.
How can you do that? Well, if you look carefully at the Common Application, there are two spots where you can talk about your experiences. Many colleges that require supplemental essays are also interested in what you have experienced. And, some colleges even ask directly what you have done over your last two summers before applying.
Ah…maybe the summer experience can help you know what to write about AND define you as a person.
You see, colleges are looking for an applicant who is not just well-rounded but who also has an edge. You can identify your edge by specializing in something or having a particular passion. If you have this specialization or passion, it only stands to reason you pursue it right through your summer. So, the trick is finding a summer experience(s) that you can write about that identifies you as a person with an edge.
The fist thing to do to make this more than another exercise or just a way to pose is to make it real. You have to start by matching your experience to who you are. Do you have a passion like collecting CDs? Do you want to build your skills in an area of specialization like computer programming? Do you want to work for money in an area that might become a career for you?
Then you have to do it!
There are many ways to do it:
• Job shadow
• Attend a program like studying cell cloning at Brown University
There are even agencies that will help you develop plans for the summer that will match your interests and needs. One is Everything Summer, which not only helps plan camp experiences but models programs specifically for students to increase their chances of getting into college.
But, you do not have to spend money to travel or enter an expensive workshop for a good summer experience. You don’t have to even spend a whole summer to find the right experience for you that can help you in your applying to college. Whether you volunteer in a foreign country or wait on table makes no difference as long as whichever you do is connected to you and tells something about your special interest or passion.
• You might follow a guide in the woods for a weekend if you are into conservation.
• You might get a back stage tour of your favorite Broadway play and earn the money for a bus trip to New York though a bake sale if you have a passion for stage teching.
• Perhaps you take a 5-week, one-a-week dance class because your passion is football.
Just remember that what you do each summer before you apply to college can not only help you write that dreaded college application essay, but it can also—if you think carefully about it and choose wisely—help set you apart from others in the larger and larger pool of college applicants.