Summer Activities to Strengthen Your Application

Most high school students already know the importance of planning out their course load and extracurriculars during the school year, but many overlook the importance of pursuing summer activities that will boost your college application as well. That might sound like the last thing you want as a high school students want, but don’t worry: students don’t have to sacrifice their entire summer vacation to strengthen their applications. After all, summer should be a time of exploration and enjoyment. 

For your summer schedule, choose activities that will make your application more unique and attention-grabbing. Colleges are interested in what you’re doing year-round. If they see you are committed to exciting extracurricular activities during your summer break, it could move your application to the “Yes!” pile. 

Which Summer Activities Will Boost Your College Application?

We’ll go over some top summer activities that will boost your college application here. Grades and test scores are important, but you should also engage in creative and challenging pursuits that will make your application more well-rounded. Summer is the perfect time to do this!

1. Volunteer

Community service is a great way to show colleges that you are empathetic and committed to bettering your community. Over the summer, students should take time to volunteer for causes they’re passionate about. Community service doesn’t have to be a chore. With a little research, you can find volunteer opportunities that align with your career interests and values. There are plenty of options to choose from. 

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Both local and national volunteer positions are open to high school students during the summer months. While a bunch of shorter-term community service activities will obviously improve your application, if you can find a longer-term volunteer internship, it can make a big impact on your application by showing your level of dedication.

Try, for example, volunteering at a soup kitchen during your summer break, going to your local animal shelter, or helping kids read at your local library. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something that interests you personally! 

2. Take A College Level Course

College-level classes can boost your application this summer. While most students will want to turn their brains off and take a break, doubling down on your studies could be your chance to show colleges just how serious you are about your academic future. College classes won’t be easy, but by participating in them, you show schools your passion and curiosity and your eagerness to take on challenges.

What you pursue during the summer is up to you, but by taking a course at a local college that offers courses to high-school students,  you’ll get a head start and identify topics and majors you’re interested in. Plus, you’ll get a feel for college-level coursework. You can also try online college courses if they fit your schedule better. 

3. Enroll In A Summer Program 

Many colleges and universities offer some amazing summer programs for high school students. Participating in one of these programs could be your chance to experience college life early. These pre-college programs provide a glimpse into the academic and social life of a college student. In many cases, you can even live on campus.

Typically, these programs only last two weeks, but by participating you get to attend lectures, do coursework, and mingle with other potential college students. Summer programs are usually focused on specific fields, so, join a program that aligns with your academic or career goals. 

While doing a summer program won’t increase your chances of getting into the specific host college, these programs do look good on your college application.  

4. Find A Job

If you want to take a break from classes but still show colleges that you work hard, try finding a summer job. Students who work consistently over the summer months will impress colleges by showing to be responsible, motivated, and willing to go the extra mile. 

Your job doesn’t have to be related to anything academic either. As long as you hold the job during the entire summer or longer, doing so will let colleges know that you are committed and industrious. 

5. Conduct Academic Research 

Not every high schooler has the chance to perform academic research, but if you can find an open position, research can be a big boost to your college application, especially if you get the chance to work in an on-campus research lab alongside graduate students and professors. 

Research positions aren’t always easy to get, but we recommend emailing your local college. Contact professors and interns working on the research you’re interested in. You can also try cold calling them to show how serious you are. 

Finally, if your parents or family have any ties to universities or researchers, ask them if they know someone who will let you work in their lab. Even the smallest research job can help your college application stand out!

6. Take An Internship

Internships are available all across the country at all kinds of companies and research facilities. High school students who land internships will stand out, but keep in mind that, as a high school student, it can be challenging to get an internship. You’re competing with other college students and even graduates. 

Internships are usually unpaid, but they provide you with valuable work experience, and an internship will show colleges that you take the initiative for your future.  

7. Do Something Creative

Summer activities don’t have to be academic or even job-related. By putting your interests to work, you can show colleges how passionate and creative you are. 

If you’re interested in art, submit work to competitions or start up a neighborhood art club. Musically inclined students can hone their skills making music over the summer, perhaps by joining a band and performing gigs. 

college visit8. Visit Colleges

Though many students prefer visiting colleges during the Fall, we recommend doing so during the summer. Not only can you figure out which colleges are the right fit for you, but you can get a head start and see what campus culture is like. Since fewer students are around during this time you can talk to students and professors more easily. 

Best of all, if your college application asks for a supplemental “Why Us?” essay, you’ll be able to use specific examples from your visit to explain your interest. 

9. Begin Working on Your College Application

Finally, you can strengthen your college application by getting a jump start on the process. Filling out college apps can be daunting and time-consuming, but by starting over the summer, you’ll have time to figure out where you want to go and how to best present yourself.

 You don’t have to turn anything in right away either. Gather up your letters of recommendation, engage in summer activities to add to your app, and figure out what else you can do to make yourself stand out. And don’t forget to sign up for the HelloCollege Essay Bootcamp to get those pesky personal statements out of the way. Doing so will make your life a lot easier as deadlines start to come closer!

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The Hello College Team

HelloCollege CEO Andrea Emmons has spent the last 15 years guiding students and families across the country on their path to college. Andrea knows the profound impact proactive college planning has on the lives of students and is passionate about mentoring families through the process.
Kevin Krebs - Founder of HelloCollege

About Our Founder

Kevin Krebs

Inspired by his parents, Kevin’s journey from a first-gen, diverse, low-income background to Northwestern University shaped him. After experiencing challenges, including student loan debt, he founded HelloCollege and has spent the last 25 years helping students successfully navigate college admissions.

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