What Should I Do This Summer?
Although it may feel like the new year has just started, high school students should be thinking about their summer plans now. Why should you plan for July when the winter snow hasn’t even melted yet? How you use your summers is a key element that college admissions officers at selective American universities look at when considering your application. They are looking to see what you do with unstructured time.
Are you someone who explores your academic and career interests? Are you someone who finds interesting community service opportunities? Are you someone who initiates a learning project or even a small business with a few others? Do you think ahead? Are you resourceful? Do you have unusual hobbies? Or do you just plan on playing online games or lying on the beach the whole summer? (By the way, there’s nothing wrong with playing games or a beach vacation—but these should not be the most significant activities of your summer.)
The list of possible options for summer activities is endless. Here are just a few examples of how some of our students have creatively and effectively used their summers:
- Collected dental supplies donated by local dentists, created dental hygiene kits, and distributed free kits to underprivileged village children
- Started a small reading club business for elementary-aged children
- Joined a political organization on a trip to the nation’s capitol to protest an international issue
- Took several art classes to produce a portfolio for college applications
- Taught senior citizens how to use the computer to communicate remotely with family and friends
- Organized registration for an industry conference as a part of a business internship
- Organized and participated in a charity sports tournament, with the proceeds funding a health-related charity
- Conducted research on an independent project at a university laboratory
As you can see, there are many options for students, and a structured program is just one of many options. For more on how to pick a good summer program in the U.S., please see this post. Here are some questions for you to consider as you think about how to spend those precious weeks of freedom:
- What grade level are you entering? Students entering 9th and 10th grade have more flexibility to explore different options. Although you will report your activities from these summers on your college applications, you should feel free to take that archaeology class or experiment with Jamaican cooking or polish your German language skills even if you know that you won’t pursue those interests in your future academic career. Use your first summers of high school to explore possible fields of study or to build on skills (such as programming or a foreign language). Students entering 11th grade should start thinking more about gaining experience in their proposed field of study (see below). And students entering 12th grade may want to consider completing what some call a “capstone” or “signature” project. (More on this in future blog posts.)
- Do you know what you want to study in college? As mentioned above, rising 11th graders should start to gain some experience in their potential majors. For example, potential computer science majors may want to think about using their programming skills in some sort of community service. That can be as simple as helping younger students learn coding or as developed as creating a website for a non-profit organization. Potential science majors may want to join an academic program focused on their specific interest area, making sure to get some time in an actual laboratory. Potential business majors may consider volunteering in some business or marketing capacity for a non-profit organization or starting their own small business. And again, by the summer before 12th grade, students should be using their summers in a way that aligns their academic interests with their other talents and skills—more on this later!
- Have you finished your standardized testing requirements? Starting in the summer after 10th grade, most students who are hoping to attend a university in the U.S. should invest some time in preparing for standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, TOEFL, IELTS, etc. The summer is an ideal time for more intensive study and preparation. Though you may or may not take an SAT or ACT on the first available test date in the fall (October for SAT, September for ACT), it’s very helpful to solve math problems, develop reading comprehension, and memorize vocabulary words when you don’t also need to finish homework and study for school exams. The most competitive students finish at least one round of standardized testing by the end of 11th grade, putting them in a prime position to submit early applications in the fall of 12th grade.
With so many options for your summer, you should not have any difficulty finding something that is both personally interesting and reflects well on your college application and resume. If you’d like more individualized help in planning your summer, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free consultation with one of our counselors in Istanbul or Izmir.