Summer is upon us. Ok, it’s not, but the time to think about and solidify your summer plans is certainly upon us.
We strongly advise against anything that could be considered what we like to call “resume building.” We are anti-resume building, and by resume building, we mean engaging in activities for the sole purpose of listing it on your resume because you think it will “look good.” Spoiler alert: admissions officers can tell when a resume has been padded by “look good” items and you attempting to hide your lackluster interest under a thing you did with a catchy cause or at an exclusive institution.
Doing an activity or taking a class that isn’t rooted in a true interest or passion shows on your application and on your resume. Summer is an incredibly valuable and precious time, so you don’t want to waste it. Not freshman summer, not junior summer, not ever. Doing a community service activity that is more or less an excuse for you to travel to Costa Rica does not show a commitment to service, and it could end up hurting rather than helping you. We know--how can community service be harmful? It seems odd, but believe us when we say: spend your summer carefully and consider all of the options before you make a decision.
Let’s talk about what is resume-padding/building and what is not. The first question to ask yourself when you’re considering a summer activity is: does this fit? As in, does it fit in and make sense when you look at all of your extracurricular activities, projects, classes, and interests. If it’s an outlier, odds are that it’s a resume-padder. Nix it. Here are some ideas for programs and projects that we consider genuine, valuable, and a good use of your summer.
Get in there and actually do the work--commit to an internship in the field that gives back to the community. Intern or work at a local community organization before you consider traveling for “community service.”
Wave Hill Forest Summer Internship -- for those interested in environmental science, forestry, ecology, etc.
Sustainable Summer -- a niche summer program for those interested in all aspects of environmentalism and sustainability.
World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms -- WWOOF is a worldwide organization where you can work at a farm in exchange for room and board.
Find a volunteer opportunity near you and commit to a significant period of time per week that you can work. Over and above that, set goals with your supervisor and get involved in one aspect of the organization that you can really make an impact on.
If you are going to apply to an academic program, you need to make sure that you will be able to take advanced level, specific classes that address your interests. Summer programs at universities and colleges often give students the chance to take a number of liberal arts courses, but we advise against those kinds of programs. Rather, students should look for programs where they can really focus in and take courses in specific topics that they are interested in. Some good programs that accomplish this include:
Summer at Georgetown -- great for students interested in government, international relations, and political science especially because Georgetown is known for its highly competitive Walsh School of Foreign Service.
Start Your Own Project
And of course, our favorite, spearheading your own project/business/endeavor. The summer is a significant period of time where you can strategize and put together something of your own choosing. You can start a business, or create an intensive course of study in a particular subject that you’ve been wanting to master via auditing college courses and online courses. There are endless options in this category, but you have to create a clear plan of action. Let us know if this is of interest to you and we’d be happy to help you come up with a plan.
These lists are of course not exhaustive, but just to give you an idea of what to look for. We strongly encourage our students to do something that tells a story and points to an interest or specialty of theirs that stands out. The more specific, the better. The summer before your senior year is not the time to pick a new unique hobby and pursue it with limitless gusto. That is the time to be introducing new passions onto your resume. It is the time to sharpen and hone the skills and interests that you’ve been developing along the way. For younger students, the rules are a little bit less rigid. If you have any questions about a program, anything we wrote about above, or need help brainstorming for your summer, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to help you plan an amazing summer.