We get it. This year has been unprecedented for high school students in countless ways. You’ve gone from virtual classes to hybrid classes to in-person classes. You’ve missed your friends, your sports, your band practices, your concerts and musicals. You’ve been cooped up at home, and you know first-hand that Zoom fatigue is real!
But before you reach for your beach towel and sunglasses, be sure you have your summer plans in place. Remember that colleges want to admit applicants who demonstrate initiative and passion in their endeavors. A great way to showcase these passions and interests is through engagement in meaningful summer activities. Fortunately, it’s not too late to find worthwhile ones. Stumped for ideas? Read on.
College Programs for High School Students
Do you someday see yourself as a world-renowned surgeon, a fair-minded politician, or a Hollywood filmmaker? Or are you simply curious about engineering, creative writing, art, or journalism? These are just some of the summer programming topics offered to high school students at colleges and universities across the country.
While many of these programs will be offered virtually this summer, others are back in-person, allowing students to live in campus dorms and have a more traditional college experience. Some are for rising juniors and seniors only, while others include rising freshmen and sophomores. They range in length from a week to six or seven weeks, and admission can be highly selective or open to anyone depending on the program.
Some require submissions of transcripts, essays, and recommendation letters, while others just require basic information. A handful offer college credit, but many simply provide exposure, enrichment, and exploration in a particular area, or a broader academic experience. If a pre-college program like this piques your interest, do your research. Investigate programs that build on your current activities or courses you’ve taken, or check out something entirely new.
Mind you, these programs can be expensive, although a few offer scholarships and financial assistance. Also, don’t expect college admissions to be impressed by the name of the college or university program you attend. That’s not the goal. Your participation and engagement will demonstrate that you’re passionate about a particular field or topic. Most importantly, your willingness to dive deeper into a topic, learn something new, and reflect on what you’ve learned about yourself will, ideally, guide you in your future college and career choices.
Look for Volunteer Opportunities this Summer
If a summer program through a college isn’t in the cards, have no fear. Meaningful summer experiences don’t have to cost money. Colleges are genuinely interested in students who are interested in giving back. Besides, it’s likely that your high school requires some kind of community service as a graduation requirement. You’d be wise to spend some of those summer weeks fulfilling high school service requirements. At the same time you will be impressing college admissions reps by volunteering for a cause you really care about.
Looking for ideas? Start by thinking about what you like to do. Do you live and breathe sports? Talk with your coach or high school athletic director about their summer plans. If they’re running their own sports camps, they’d be thrilled to have a student they know and trust on their coaching staff. Search the internet for local summer sports programs geared to kids from underserved communities and offer your assistance, or organize an equipment drive and donate gently used equipment to those programs.
Do you admire a teacher and ever wondered what it’d be like to be in their shoes? Contact that teacher or a local school and inquire about helping out in a summer class, or offer tutoring to kids in your neighborhood who may need extra help over the summer. Are you a fan of the arts? Opportunities abound at community theaters, museums, and children’s summer arts programs.
STEM-centered opportunities are available at local hospitals, research centers, laboratories and universities. For future conservationists and environmentalists, consider volunteering for state, county and local parks, or even organizations like the Student Conversation Association and the Youth Conservation Corp.
Animal lovers can look to pet therapy organizations and humane societies, and philanthropists can help others in need through organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Feeding America. Whether it’s local or national, non-profit or self-starter, just be sure to let your genuine passions jumpstart your search and guide your summer volunteering decisions.
Internships and Jobs
Of course, it would be ideal to find a summer activity that aligns with your interests, provides meaningful work experience, gets noticed by college admissions, and actually pays you money! Finding these opportunities can prove to be a bit challenging, but it’s far from impossible.
One of the best ways to find summer employment or an internship is often not through a Google search, but rather through networking—reaching out to your network of relatives, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, counselors, and so on. Do you have an aunt who’s a doctor or dentist? Is your best friend’s dad an architect? Is your neighbor a small business owner?
Inquiring About Summer Opportunities
Contact these individuals and politely and respectively inquire if they have summer opportunities. Equip yourself with an updated resume and do your research about these providers or companies in advance. Be prepared to answer open-ended questions about your interest in the field, future goals, and what excites you about that particular organization. Don’t despair if at first you get a “no” response. Most job seekers strike out plenty but, with perseverance, eventually land a position they are happy with.
And there’s reason to be hopeful. As the nation recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, there is likely to be more availability as businesses re-open and search for workers. Keep in mind that any job is better than no job, but it’s always best to find options you’re really interested in. The more relevant your experience to what you may want to pursue in college, the more benefit you will gain from knowing whether that field is the right fit for you (and the more cohesive your college application will be when you submit it).
Engage in Meaningful Activities
This summer, be sure to carve out time for some well-earned R&R. But remember, this is also an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to colleges that you are more than just a student with rigorous coursework, a strong GPA, and (possibly) test scores. Whether it’s summer coursework, volunteer experience, or paid work, seek out and engage in meaningful activities. If you have any questions, please contact us.
In gaining genuine experience, you’ll also gain insight into the young person you are now and the adult you want to become. You’ll present a clearer picture of who you are in your college applications. Most importantly, you’ll be better equipped for the challenges that come with life in college and beyond.