While all of the kids we work with have summer plans by now, we understand that there are some high schoolers out there who haven’t firmed anything up just yet. We know the year has been really busy, but planning something productive for your free time is crucial to the college acceptance process. This process is not new, so while this may sound a little harsh, we’re wondering what you’ve been doing for the past several months. In this post, we’ll talk to you about how you should think about planning your summer. Ultimately, however, it’s all about planning ahead and being ambitious. So, it’s time to kick it into high gear.
Structure Is Everything
Parents always ask us if their kids should be pursuing a summer internship or registering for a summer course at a top-notch university. The truth is, it doesn’t really matter what you do, it matters that you do something productive. They want to know that you structured your time efficiently. This decision is actually a little bit easier for kids who waited until the last minute because your options are now more limited. By now, most classes and programs are full. Your best bet is to apply for an internship or develop and propose your own internship somewhere in your community.
In general, a summer course at a top-notch university isn't our top choice. It might seem ambitious to do a summer course at Brown, but it doesn't increase your chance of getting into Brown or provide anything novel or interesting in your application.
Choosing an Internship
Think about your interests. Are you interested in medicine? Politics? Design? Get really specific about your focus and pick three to four sub-areas inside of that broader area of interest. Then, figure out which of those sub-areas needs to be elevated. For example, let’s say you are interested in architecture and furniture design and already have an architecture program in mind for college. You’ve taken AP calculus and physics and are president of the art history club, but you haven’t done as much in the world of drawing or design just yet. Your internship should fill that gap. Reach out to the top architecture firm in your area and pitch yourself or intern with a theater production designer. Just make sure that whatever you do, your work doesn’t consist of making copies and going out on coffee runs. You need to be working hard and really becoming immersed in the sub-area you’ve chosen.
We know we just told you that you’re too late to get into a top-notch summer class. That’s only half-true. Universities want to make money. Many open up a few spots for late-admission. Do your research (read: CALL THEM) and only take a class that is both in your sub-area of interest and at a reputable school. One note: taking a class at a specific school won’t help you get in there.
Think Globally, Act Locally
We should get this printed on a t-shirt because of how often we say it to parents. But we shall repeat: DO NOT do a community service trip. Please. Do not do a community serivce trip. In a few months, college admissions teams across the country will be reading several hundred essays about different versions of the same community service-trip story. They are going to be bored to tears. Community service trips do not “look good” on college applications. Often times, they just give the admissions committee the impression that a kid comes from a certain socio-economic bracket. Show them your drive, not your parents’ wealth.
That said, doing something of service is a great way to spend your summer. Get interested in what’s happening in your community. With your sub-area in mind, immerse yourself in a great cause that is already in your wheelhouse. Using the architecture/furniture design example, work with a local organization that is remodeling houses in low-income or disaster-affected communities. Offer to help build a set for an elderly theater group. Get creative and above all, work hard.
Research is a great way to spend your summer. We would argue it's the best way to spend your summer. Professors need assistants and motivated, unpaid high schoolers are some of the best candidates to fill those spots. Unfortunately, finding a research assistant position is tough this late in the game. They’re just not that easy to secure because professors aren’t going to allow just any 17 year-old into their lab. You actually have to have a demonstrated interest and competency in the subject.
If you can secure a research position, we have found that these kids have a higher correlation with Ivy League acceptance—obviously, everything else has to line up, too (high test scores, stellar grades, impressive extra-curriculars), but doing research with a professor is equivalent to a 36 on the ACT in terms of caliber of summer activity. Only one other activity comes close.
Start Your Own Business
Starting your own business as a high schooler is impressive. The fun thing is, it doesn’t have to make money. Admissions committees generally really like to see kids who have started their own businesses. We’ve helped a number of students do this and have seen a pretty good return on college acceptances, particularly for those interested in going to business school.
Need help securing a prestigious summer internship? Reach out to us. We specialize in helping kids secure competitive internships.