Planning for College Standing Out from Others

Summer Programs that Look Good on your College Application

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Distinguishing yourself is not only about working even harder for grades or taking another study course for the SATs; it is about being passionate and getting involved.  One way to show your passion is to attend summer programs in your areas of work or interest.

It is definitely getting harder to get into selective colleges. So many students have great grades, good test scores, and excellent recommendations. It is important as an applicant that if you are striving for admission to more selective colleges across the country you find a way to distinguish yourself. Schools want to know you beyond your paper profile. You can show them the real you by what you do, especially out-of-class and out-of-school on your free time. Colleges are not impressed with couch potatoes or lazy, slow-to-move applicants.  Get passionate; get involved, and use your summer to do something productive.

Below are some areas to think about for your summer, along with a couple of starting places. Many programs are for all high schoolers, but some specify you be in a certain grade. Remember, you are trying to show who you are through your experiences.

Note: Many of the application deadlines for summer programs are as early as March.

Summer Work

When you have work experience it shows you have maturity and a work ethic. You are also showing your dependability, revealing your interests for a certain kind of work, and demonstrating your understanding of the ins and outs of working relationships. You can find work right in your own town, and it can vary widely from babysitting to running a part of your family’s business. If you can not find a job, you can volunteer, job shadow, or intern. National parks, Habitat for Humanity, or the Humane Society might use your labor. Local business men are often happy to mentor and groom a future employee. Internships may be more involved, but there are many for high school students.

Choosing a job, of course, can be just for the money and to be industrious or help out your family, but it can also be a stepping stone to a career path. For instance, if you want to be an architect, seek an internship with an architectural firm. If you are interested in journalism, volunteer as a gofer at a newspaper; and if you are interested in law, job shadow an attorney or a judge for a few weeks.

Summer Travel

Travel is not just a vacation. Travel can be done to enhance your perceptions of the world and allow you to experience and learn about new things. Travel anywhere is good, but only if you are “taking it in,” that is, actively experiencing it rather than escaping. See new places, not the same cabin you and your family rent every summer; but, if you are renting that same cabin, take a different route that passes historically significant places. Keep a journal or photo album of what you encounter and what you are thinking about the sights you see. Make note of how your experience impacted or changed you. Following up with a volunteer presentation to a local civic group would really set any trip apart!

Because cultural awareness is good, it would be nice to try to travel to different sections of this country or to go abroad. There are exchange programs for high school students that you might want to check out.

Personal Enrichment Camps and Programs

Getting involved with summer programs which will improve your skills at something you are involved in or have an interest in is a wonderful way to show your passion about your pursuits. There are many athletic camps that local colleges or even your community provide. There are music camps and writing camps as well.

Service programs also help you learn about yourself and the world around you. Many of these experiences will teach you new skills or require you to use and develop skills you hardly knew you had. You could work with children in your local parks and recreation program or work for your church by getting involved with its service groups. There are also service groups such as the Veteran’s Administration and various auxiliaries and clubs. Check out the Yellow Pages.

Academic Summer Programs

Summer academic programs are offered on many college campuses and are a perfect way to show you can excel at college-level course work. Because many of these pre-college summer programs ask you to spend from 2 to 6 weeks on a campus, you can also demonstrate your ability to make that transition from your bedroom to a strange dorm with a unknown dorm mate. You can even get college credit! Harvard offers summer programs which you can take with their own college students who are going to summer classes. The Cornell University Summer Program offers a wide selection of studies from law and politics to business.

You can pursue subject areas you are good at and want to learn more about. For example, if you are interested in mathematics there are websites that will list all math summer programs, and nationally known labs such as the Jackson Lab and Bigelow Lab take on summer interns for research. There are also study abroad summer programs that combine travel and learning.

Any summer program can make you stand out in interests or experience. They also provide excellent material for college interview answers or your college essays. Most importantly, they just might introduce to you new and wonderful things you would never have been aware of otherwise.