What Should I Do in the Summer Between Junior and Senior Year of High School?

There is no shortage of ways you could fill the summer between junior and senior year: sitting on the couch and watching all of Riverdale, sitting on the beach and playing on your phone, and sitting by your friend’s pool and sending snaps are all things you could do. But none of those things are going to get you into college. Fear not. We have a few thoughts on what will.

Have Vision

There are two real answers to the question “how should I fill my time?” First, you need to start your applications and finish them. Second, you must do something incredibly substantive with your time that expands on an underdeveloped of interest, or the area of interest in which you’ve positioned yourself as a specialist.

Finding the Right Activity

Some kids are just specialists. We worked with one student who is a mechanical engineer. So naturally, she was able going to be do research with a professor from Penn one summer. Because she already had a portfolio with an established specialty, we encouraged her to double-down in her desired field and reach as high as she possibly could.

However, if she weren’t clearly embedded in a niche, we would have advised her a bit differently.

For kids who aren’t obviously into one activity or academic area of interest, we encourage them to either pick something they like the most and get involved, or pick an area where they need to show growth potential, and find a suitable opportunity.

Another young woman we advised didn’t have a singular passion she could point to. After some discussion, we figured out that she had an underdeveloped interest in feminism. So, she started a feminist book club. It turns out, her favorite class is computer science, so she started a coding club at school. She also signed up to take online coding courses for the summer. While her summer activities included different interests, they were tied together by two central themes.

The other possibility that we like to emphasize is getting a paid job. We are huge proponents of kids working throughout their summer break. Your primary objective is to connect with the admissions counselor. Admissions counselors at fancy schools get a whole lot of applications from students who have paid for elaborate extra-curriculars: travel opportunities, voluntourism, activities that require resources. But showing the admissions committee that you know the value of hard work and have demonstrated leadership and management abilities in the real world is impressive (and refreshing).  

Getting Through the Applications  

Around this time of year, kids tend to get Peter Pan Syndrome and avoid their applications because starting the essays makes it all real. Here’s the thing though: you’re going to apply. It is real and one day in the near future, you’re going to college, so you might as well just start.

The trick is to get organized. By August, you must have your college list firmly in place, including safeties, targets, and reaches. We advise writing your common app essay in July so by the time August rolls around and supplements come out, you’ll have the time to devote to them. If you’re not done with your Common App by August 1st, it will be a scramble.

In August, create a Google Doc with all of the supplement questions and code them by common themes. For example, Tulane, Michigan, and NYU should be grouped together because they all offer the “Why do you want to go here?” question. The nice thing is, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can use the basis of the same story for essays with similar themes.  


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