Summer: we may idealize it as a time for sleeping in, playing outside, and freedom from homework. While that sounds nice, it is also a great opportunity to encourage your child to develop skills, passions, and interests that will set them apart from the thousands of other talented college applicants and make them more valuable in the eyes of a college admissions officer. Not only will a summer committed to developing skills and interests prepare your child to earn admission to college, it will also encourage them to grow as a person through pursuing dedicated time and energy to what matters most to them. Consider the following possibilities for your child’s summer:
A summer internship in an area your child is interested in strengthens their application by demonstrating commitment and passion for a field that your child could continue to study in college. For example, your child may be interested in pursuing a career in psychology. What better way to develop their interest than through an internship at a local university’s psychology lab. Even if your child will not play a major role in the internship, it will still be great exposure to a field of interest for your child, which will demonstrate commitment and passion to an admissions officer.
- Summer school
Summer is a great time to take a class at a local university or partake in a summer program for high school students at their top choice college. Your child can use summer school to accelerate their studies in a field, alleviate some of the pressure of their course load during the school year, or delve further into a field that interests them. By doing well in a college course, your child will demonstrate their ability to handle college level coursework, which is what admissions officers look for first and foremost in applicants.
- Leading a community service organization
With more free time over the summer, your child could devote herself to a cause she is passionate about. Whatever cause that may be, encourage your child to assume a leadership position. If your child is not already a leader in a student organization, encourage them to start their own. Leading a community service organization will connect your child to something bigger than she is, while she develops valued leadership skills and experience. College admissions officers look for leaders to propel their college’s student run organizations forward and look for applicants with demonstrated leadership experience.
- International experience
Colleges seek applicants who will apply their education to solve global problems and are able to work either abroad or with people from all over the world. As a result, many selective colleges require applicants to study a foreign language in high school, and after they enroll, demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language to graduate. Your family may want to consider an international experience that fits your child’s interests and foreign language studies over the summer to demonstrate your child’s international awareness and ability to meet any foreign language requirements. For example, an applicant studying Spanish in high school eventually wants to become a doctor could volunteer with a medical mission in Mexico over the summer. The experience would strengthen their Spanish language skills, demonstrate their interest in a particular field (medicine), and highlight the applicant’s commitment to service—all of which admissions officers value when evaluating an applicant. Or an aspiring engineer could participate in a habitat for humanity trip that fits with his language study and career goals.
Greg Kaplan is a college application strategist and author of Earning Admission: Real Strategies for Getting into Highly Selective Colleges. A graduate of Penn’s Wharton School of Business and UC Irvine Law School, Kaplan focuses on empowering families to develop their children’s high value skills, interests, and passions and market the value they would bring to colleges. See www.earningadmission.com for more info.