Many parents and students inquire about what summer activity is most pleasing to the admissions gods. Everyone is itching for something specific, and I hate to disappoint, but the answer is: Anything. Something. We’re genuinely not that picky about how you fill your summer time. Nor is it necessarily time that needs to be “filled.” It is summer, after all. Time can be well spent in pure relaxation and reflection. That said, the summer can be productively geared toward pursuits that make you happy and, someday (though this should be a secondary consideration), helps an admissions committee understand you and your motivations. In your hyper-scheduled existences, the summer is a 2 to 3 month clean slate. Use it wisely.
Tips on Summer Activities! (because you can only spend so much time
Instagramming at the beach)
To help you make the most of it, I’d like to pitch a few ideas for possible summer activities. It’s not an exhaustive list, nor are these activities that we recommend over others. Different types of students will be drawn to different types of things (or forced into something by circumstance), and that’s all well and good. I just want to run through a few options now to get your wheels turning. Then, in my next blog, I’ll provide some guidance on how summer experiences can translate into excellent fodder for the admissions process (think essays, conversations with interviewers, etc.). “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” can be hit or miss, so we’ll discuss how to make the most of it. But first, ideas!
1. Get a job. Do it for the skills, the money, and the stories. Oh, the stories.
Early forays into the work force can serve many purposes. Earning money, resume-building and development of organizational and interpersonal skills all come to mind. Low-on-the-totem-pole teenage employment is also often the source of stories and life lessons that will carry you through to adulthood. Personally, I have done time as a nanny, a salesperson in a jewelry store, a cashier at an Italian restaurant (run by a Greek family), and a clerk at a family-owned Christmas store (this was in July at the Jersey Shore, mind you…. same three Christmas CDs on loop all day, every day). Jobs are a pretty practical option, and sure to build character.
2. Volunteer: Volunteering for a zombie run encourages community health
and requires fun costumes.
Plenty of deserving causes need any help they can get so, with a bit of spare time on your hands, chip in! Whether it’s reading to kids at the local library or digging boreholes in Uganda, the outcome is the same: you add to society in a hands-on way. From hospitals to homeless shelters and puppies to people, pick something you care about and contribute to the greater good.
3. Do research: No time like summer to pursue your secret love of cryptozoology.
The learning process can take many shapes, but some students take optimal joy in the traditional sort of learning pure academia provides. If you live near a university, reach out to professors in your area of interest who might be in need of free labor. If you don’t have access to formal research, do it on your own. Dig deep into a topic you care about outside the constraints of high school. Read books and blogs, search around online, watch documentaries, get in touch with experts in the field. Learning just for fun can be incredibly rewarding, and is great preparation for college.
4. Go on an adventure: You can’t unearth the long-lost fortune of One-Eyed Willie
from your couch.
Exploring the world can put you out of your comfort zone, and force you to see yourself in a new way. Our planet is incredibly diverse, so take time to travel or try something new. Some of you will have the opportunity to go abroad, and that’s great. But keep in mind that it’s not the only way to wander. If you live in the middle of the city, take public transit as far as it will go and see the stars at night. If you live in Chinatown, stroll through Little Italy. If you’re from somewhere far flung, visit the next town over or the nearest city. If you’re always with a crowd, go somewhere alone. If you keep the company of peers exclusively, sink time into a social situation with adults. Just spend quality time outside your bubble and see what happens.
There are many other options, like athletic training, academic programs, camps, caring for little siblings, you name it. But whatever you do, do something. Any activity you pick will add a touch of color to the application we see next winter. More on how to maximize that next time.
What Jumbos do on their summer vacation