Last Minute Summer Ideas for Juniors who want to go to a Top Tier College

Here we are. It’s June. You’re a rising senior. Finals have been truly crazy. Second-semester has been a ton of work. You just took the ACT again. And now, summer is upon us. Let us guess: you haven’t figured out what you’re doing for the next 3 months.

Before we delve into our solutions and let you know that it’s fine and you’re going to be okay, let’s talk a bit about planning ahead. You know as well as we do that this situation was entirely avoidable. You could have thought about this a few months ago, submitted some applications with minimal effort, considered your options, and perhaps have even picked up the phone to inquire about an internship. You could have even listened to us 6 weeks ago when we laid it all out for you.

The reason we’re being harsh here is that, while you are fine, and while we will help you figure out your summer based on timing and options, this is not how you want to approach the college application process. You don’t want to leave it to the last minute, and you certainly don’t want to be backpedaling and stressed out with deadlines immediately upon you. It’s not a good approach and it never results in a successful application.

One bright side to not having summer plans is that you could use this time to write your essays ahead of time and have them done by the time you go back to school. We’d advise you to make essay writing and application completion a central priority of your summer, per the Senior Timeline.

You and I both know by now that enrolling in a summer program at a college doesn’t improve your chances of being admitted. So, let’s skip that charade entirely because nearly every college program is filled by now. And the ones that are open are probably not worth your time. We’ve compiled a list of a few things that we think would, in fact, be worth your time while also signaling to colleges that you spent your summer actively and effectively. Read: not wasting away.

Here are some ideas that we had:

Community service

What we’re advocating for here is for you to engage in your community in a way that is meaningful. We aren’t saying that you should do a volunteer tourism program abroad and hop on a plane to Costa Rica to “volunteer” there. No. Keep it local and keep it relevant. Do a search on local organizations that are doing work that align with your interests. For example, if you’re interested in sustainability and ecological sciences, contact your local parks organization and see if they need volunteers doing something that you have some skill and interest in.

Get a job

Any job, really. Work at a coffee shop, a bookstore, or a local gym. There is something powerful to be said for being held accountable to a schedule, showing up, interacting with customers, and getting paid to do it. It shows commitment and motivation. It’s not a glamorous internship or a flashy research position at a hospital, and that’s why we think it’s a great way to spend your summer. In your free time when you’re not working, you can brainstorm essays, take an online course, read a ton of books, and engage your interests in high-quality ways that are meaningful.

 Research and apply to scholarships

Something that very few students find the time to do, but that you might have the luxury of having time to, is to do extensive research on scholarships. It could help you immensely in the college process. There are tons of scholarships out there with certain requirements—too many to reasonably keep track of—but this is a great use of your time if you’re at home and need something tangible to do. Create a spreadsheet and do some research. Some of the essays you write could certainly be applicable for your college applications, and you might end up getting some money in the process.

Build or create something

This can be done in addition to any of the above and is something that we encourage every student to do each summer. You’re creating deliverables that you can write, talk, and expand on throughout the college application process and beyond. If you’re interested in cooking and sustainable eating, then spend your time recipe developing and testing, photographing, and creating a cookbook. If you’re interested in engineering, create a rocket this summer that culminates in a launch that you somehow publicize and record.

If you need help coming up with a project, let us know. We love coming up with unique ways for students to create something wonderful.