So your teen didn’t get into a desired summer program this year? Don’t worry!
Because top schools value uniqueness, it’s often the case that an applicant who has put together a do-it-yourself (DIY) summer wins admission to a top college over the student who has mainly enrolled in formal programs, which provide pre-made curricula leaving little to student initiative. Believe it or not, more important than attending (what many consider to be) a prestigious summer program is filling one’s summer with meaningful, deep activities that display authentic passion and growth.
Admissions officers truly enjoy learning about students who follow their passion more than about those who do things because they think it will “look good” to a college. To get into a top college in 2021 and beyond, your child will need to really stand out from the pack. Believe it or not, the DIY summer is the perfect opportunity to do so!
So I suggest you help your teen think through what they really want to explore and build a customized plan. If it’s put together thoughtfully, it will surely serve your child’s admissions case. Here are some DIY tips for choosing the right summer activity for you that will help you achieve your college aspirations:
Select a summer program that aligns with your student’s desired college major.
If your student is thinking of majoring in science in college, select a summer program that has to do with science. The more specific you can be, the better. A summer program in Marine Biology or Neuroscience, for example, is seen more favorably by college admission officers than a summer program in science. Colleges prefer candidates who have a clear vision of their future plans and what they want to pursue in college. So your student should start by clearly defining what they want to study and pursuing that through their summer activities early.
Select a summer program that involves community service.
Colleges aren’t only looking for students who excel in the classroom. They’re also looking for students who can make a positive impact on campus and in the broader community. Community service is an opportunity for students to show their level of compassion, leadership, and awareness and it makes more of a difference in college admission decisions than most people realize. According to a survey of 264 college admissions officers, 58% said, “A student’s community service experience has a positive impact on his or her acceptance to our higher education institution.” Most (53%) also said community service was a tie-breaker between equally qualified students when asked, “Assuming all factors are equal (such as GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and rigor of curriculum), then community service details are an important decision-making factor.”3
Choose a unique/unconventional summer activity.
This doesn’t mean your child needs to enroll in a skydiving or ax throwing summer program. This just means don’t underestimate the value of a DIY summer. They are oftentimes more advantageous than a cookie-cutter summer program. Admission officers value uniqueness and students who take risks and think outside the box. So tell your student to have fun and get creative. It will undoubtedly payoff in the long run.
Choose a summer program where your student can showcase one or more of the 7Cs.
What are the 7Cs you may be asking? These are the 7 characteristics that colleges look for in applicants. They are, in no particular order, 1) collaboration, 2) commitment, 3) character, 4) curiosity, 5) creativity, 6) challenge, and 7) cultural intelligence. The summer activity your student chooses should allow them to clearly demonstrate as many of the 7Cs as possible since these are the things that colleges are looking for in applicants.
If your child keeps these criteria in mind when choosing a summer activity, they will undoubtedly put together an optimal summer. Here are some examples of using the criteria above to create a balanced and powerful set of summer activities that fuel your child’s admissions chances:
We hope these examples are helpful and give your student ideas of the many possibilities out there. Honestly, all it takes is a little creative and strategic thinking. I invite you to review our free College Planning Foundations Workbook for further explanations and exercises geared toward planning for top school admission.
If you find that you want additional help with discovering and choosing the right summer program for you, contact Blue Stars today. We would be happy to help you with the process.