In admissions, there are rarely any in-the-know summer programs that, in and of themselves, will get an admissions officer to shout “Admit!” in committee. A summer program’s admissions impact is often more organic in nature: it might provide the foundation or connections for more challenging experiences down the road.
When it comes to deciding what to do for your summer activities, it can be hard to make sense of what matters to colleges and what doesn’t. Given the wide range of options, what are the best things to do? How should students prioritize? And when is the right time to get started?
Some programs have bumper-sticker names and the price tag to match. While it seems simple and logical that big-name programs are correlated with competitive positioning in the college admissions process, that’s not really how it works. There are a few exceptions to the rule, of course; a handful of summer programs (very few!) that by name alone will turn an admissions officer’s head. But even those special opportunities are not likely to make or break your application on their own.
Colleges want to see students use their time to explore interests, expand depth of understanding or exposure to a subject, or further develop a concentration or talent.
Hitting the Academic Wall: How 11th Graders Can Break Through at the End of the Year
Most of the juniors I am working with have entered the “blackout period,” the time of year when their top priorities are preparing for AP exams, prepping for SAT subject tests, and finishing their junior years with a strong performance.
This is a very difficult time for them. I can tell that they are starting to feel burned out, and as the days are warming after a long winter, they seem to want to just throw the books out the window and burst into the spring sunshine. Who can blame them? Even though it can be hard for students to acknowledge, this is the most important time to delay gratification and keep up the strong work. What they don’t know is that even though they have worked very hard for the last five semesters, what they do over the next two months will either help them realize the college opportunities they have worked towards for so long, or put them out of reach.
Can you believe it’s nearly August? Because the Common Application goes “live” on August 1, some would argue the last week of July is the last week of summer. While technically it’s still summer, time is passing! So what’s your college application plan? Your child’s future is nearly here. Are you ready? Do you have your timeline set for the next few months? Know what’s coming? You can learn how to have a stress free rest-of-summer with our “Ten pre-application steps.” Download it now before the summer passes you by!
Over the last week I enjoyed four conversations with four different college bound students about their summer plans:
- The first student, whom we’ll call “Charlie,” is a junior and avid soccer player who will play a portion of the summer with his traveling soccer league and will then take a two-week course on a college campus to learn more about engineering. He’ll also travel to Europe with his school’s soccer team to compete in tournaments.
- The second student, we’ll call her “Sara,” is a sophomore who studies three languages outside of school during the academic year. She will work at the Girl Scout camp she has attended since the seventh grade.
- “Jaimie,” our third student, hopes to attend a six-week summer study in architecture at a university with a renowned architecture program in order to determine if she would like to indicate architecture as a major on her college applications this fall.
- And finally, “Steven,” the fourth student, will shadow a veterinarian in the mornings and volunteer at a local shelter in the afternoons when he’s not traveling around the country with his family visiting colleges.