Preparing for College: The Summer Game Plan

The summer is here, and for students, what this means, is that there are great opportunities to not only enjoy it with family and friends, but there are also plentiful [...]

The summer is here, and for students, what this means, is that there are great opportunities to not only enjoy it with family and friends, but there are also plentiful opportunities to further prepare for college. To make your summer engaging, below are seven strategies you can use:

1.      Develop Your Passion – Having a specific game plan for college admissions is beneficial. What this means is early on, you should develop your passions and strengths. The summer is a great time to do this. If your passion is business, for example, you can get a job or internship in an area of business that interests you such as marketing, finance, or entertainment. Another step you can take is to self-study for the AP economics test. And if you are bold, you can even start your own business; what a great experience this would be! The key is to use your summer to further develop your passion whether it is business, engineering, medicine, or any other area.

2.      Volunteer – There are many ways to volunteer and give back. Parents and students always ask where they should spend their time volunteering. The simple answer is to do those volunteer activities you really enjoy. For example, some students love working with animals so helping out at an animal shelter or veterinarian office would be a great volunteer opportunity. Other students like working with children so tutoring, babysitting, or spending time at a children’s camp would be a great way to make a difference. The important point is that you should spend some of your summer volunteering and giving back to your community.

3.      Travel – Students who have an opportunity to travel, especially internationally, have unique experiences, new insights, and a new appreciation for the world. When I read essays from students who travel, especially to 2nd or 3rd world countries, they always have fantastic and rich experiences–and many times their experiences are life-changing. Some of my students this year traveled to places such as Haiti, Dominican Republic, Africa, and Asia and they came back with incredible stories. Also, you do not have to travel abroad to get a life changing experience. You can look to your local or surrounding community. The important point is that traveling can be an important way to grow tremendously and it can also help enrich your college applications.

4.      Take Extra Classes – Taking an extra class or two at your high school or the local college is a great step to get ahead in your coursework and to show further passion for your area of interest. If your goal is medical school, for example, most high schools will not offer higher level science courses such as anatomy or physiology. So, what you can do is show your enthusiasm for medicine by not only exhausting your high school’s curriculum, but by also going the extra step to take further classes in higher level science courses. This action will both enrich your education and it will look great on your college applications.

5.      Prepare for the Following Year – Depending on what year you are in school, the school year can be very demanding, especially if you are a rising junior or senior. Why wait for the school year to begin to prepare for coursework or tests. Use the summer to get ahead! This means previewing future coursework, drilling on practice tests, and doing extra reading. There are also important SAT/ACT, SAT II, and AP tests to take so you can prepare for these tests also by taking courses, practice tests, and self-studying. Do not wait for the following year to begin and have a teacher, administrator, or parent tell you what to do. Be proactive, have a take charge mentality, and use the summer to get ahead.

6.      Work – Admissions officers like to see students who work. It’s that simple. Work shows students are responsible, that they can be committed, and that they can multi-task. Do not discount work and put it on the backburner for your college admissions game plan. I encourage all of my students to get part-time jobs during the summer and even during the school year if they can handle it. Grades and test scores always come first of course, but many of the most competitive students will maintain great grades, tests scores, and performance in sports and extra-curricular activities, all while holding a part-time job. Also, you do not need to get a fancy job. In fact, one of Stanford admissions officer’s favorite essays is about a student’s experience working at a coffee shop. Working part-time is a step you should really consider.

7.      Have Fun – The summer is a great time to be productive and prepare for college, but it is also important to have balance in life. Students should spend a good amount of time just having fun, whether it is spending time with family and friends, or engaging in hobbies and interests. The movie “Race to Nowhere” is a wonderful film that depicts the stresses students encounter as they push themselves to be top performers. Many times, the stress is so great that it leads to medical conditions, and even death. It is important to put your education in perspective with your lifelong goals. You should not be continually stressed out, and if you are, this is definitely a serious problem. Balance is essential and just being a kid and having fun is as important as working hard in school.

The summer is an important time where students can be productive. It is a time where students can really further develop their competitiveness as a future college applicant; but it is also important that students just relax, have fun and rejuvenate themselves. Remember, the key is balance. So work hard, but also simply enjoy your summer.

Jeff Haig, MBA

Educational Consultant

Strategic College Consulting, LLC

“The Experts in College Planning & Student Success”

Professional Member: IECA, NACAC, HECA, WACAC, NICCP

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June 16th, 2011


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