For students applying to college in the next year or two, planning out the summer is especially important. By participating in unique activities and thinking ahead, applicants can make themselves stand out among the competition. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects on college admissions, it is especially critical to develop a holistic resume that highlights not only academics, but social consciousness and diverse abilities. There are several different options to accomplish this.
Summer is the ideal time to learn something new and out of the ordinary: if the school year is spent knee-deep in chemistry, then try and acquire a new skill over summer break. Going into healthcare, teaching, or another occupation that involves working with people? Consider studying a language that may come in handy in a large metropolitan area. Most schools, hospitals, and government agencies encourage employees to be proficient in another language to allow for easier communication. Plan on studying Architecture or Sociology in college? Take a course at a local community college and get ahead on your major. Most 100 level classes will transfer over to a four-year university, so it is time well spent. A college class over summer also shows motivation and interest, which looks good to future colleges when application season rolls around. For students who have more specialty interests not easily found at community colleges, browse through the catalog at Coursera.org. Students can take classes in anything from Data Analytics to Medical Neuroscience taught by lecturers at Duke, Yale, and many other prestigious universities (even international ones). Coursera offers more than 5100 courses to satisfy all interests and encourage learning and exploration. While students don’t earn credit, they do earn a certificate that proves they took the course, and that’s enough to stand out to future colleges. The fees are reasonable and the schedule allows for asynchronous learning, so students can squeeze it in even with other activities.
The pandemic has made it more difficult to do summer internships, but there are still opportunities available to work virtually or make a contribution. Local universities are good places to start because they often have programs for high school students. There are plenty of websites that can help too, such as volunteermatch.com and even the job site indeed.com. Remember that colleges are looking for students who are active in their communities and who strive to make some sort of local impact. If an internship in business doesn’t work out, volunteering behind the scenes at a local food bank can still be a way to learn essential management, interpersonal, and decision-making skills. Students should personalize their resumes as much as possible: music students can play concerts for the elderly, environmental science majors can coordinate beach clean-ups, and art students can offer outdoor painting classes for kids stuck at home during distance learning. With a little creativity and planning, every future college applicant can develop a well-rounded activity list that shows off his or her strengths. Even holding down a part-time job as a beach lifeguard or Target employee demonstrates motivation.
Many colleges have supplemental essay questions that ask about interests and hobbies. For students who have many years of sports on their resumes, consider using the summer to learn an instrument or take a photography class. By venturing outside the traditional and leaving their comfort zone, applicants can demonstrate a wider scope of talents and abilities. Colleges are allowing more students to add links to their applications which show portfolios of artwork, film or music videos, or online businesses such as an etsy shop. Starting an online business not only illustrates creativity and entrepreneurship, but also shows drive and a desire for success. Starting a business isn’t your style? Applicants can also do tutoring for classmates who lag behind, shop for elderly or housebound neighbors, or volunteer at an animal shelter or museum to show a love for nature. While the pandemic has made travel more difficult, most volunteer opportunities are only a car ride away. Another option is leading youth groups through a religious organization or the San Diego YMCA.
Finally, another way to show innovation and leadership is to start a new club at school or participate in an already existing club. Most schools have a club listing on the website (typically on the ASB page), and students can sign up to get involved or suggest a new club to add to the roster. Although it is expected for Computer Science and Engineering majors to be involved in robotics clubs, how many of these same students belong to Speech and Debate? More options to consider would be poetry or creative writing clubs, school magazines, or service-related clubs that do fundraising for local causes.
Interested in design or illustration? Build sets for the theater group or work on murals around the campus. Many of these groups will still be active over the summer and need volunteers to prepare for the year ahead. If students want to start a new club, summer is the time for them to actively recruit members, write a proposal, and get a teacher sponsor.
Colleges look for applicants who know how to make a difference and will positively contribute to their campus as well as their community. By thinking ahead and planning accordingly, students can ensure they do a wide variety of activities that will get them noticed by their universities of choice. Don’t wait until application season rolls around to find activities and get involved. Summer is the perfect season to be proactive and explore opportunities that will complement the GPA and result in more colleges that say YES.
By Erika Brucia M.S. Ed
Erika Brucia earned her B.A. from NYU and M.S.Ed from Hofstra University, teaching both high school English & History in New York as well as California. She currently teaches part-time in addition to running her own tutoring business in Advanced Placement, ACT/SAT, and Writing Skills. She enjoys helping students with creative college essays and being a mother to her four high school and college kids. In her “spare” time, Erika has edited two books and published essays on a variety of topics. She hopes to begin her EdD program within the year, specializing in Language and Literacy.