ivy league college

The Critical Junior Summer: Make It Count!

If you’re an 11th grader, the college application process is drawing near. What seemed to be in the far distance when you were a freshman is now right around the corner. You’ve taken or are planning to take the SAT and/or ACT. You’re taking a slate of AP courses to show you can handle the rigor of a top-tier college’s curriculum. You’re working hard to maximize your grades, so that you can continue to be at the top of your class or continue to demonstrate an upward grade trend. But, what are you doing about planning your activities for the all-important summer between junior and senior year?

As Ivy League college admissions consultants, we are often asked what makes a student stand out. Beyond the “hard” factors we mentioned above, like grades and standardized test scores, participating in high-level activities that are valued by elite colleges can make a significant difference. What you do over your junior-senior summer can be crucial in that regard.

In the 9th and 10th grades, the activities you participate in and the classes you take both during the school year and over the summer can lay the foundation for future opportunities.

For example, a demonstrated level of interest in biology and the sciences by not only taking courses, but participating in and learning about research techniques, can make you a more competitive applicant to highly selective biomedical research programs that are available in the junior-to-senior summer. In the same way, participating in DECA or FBLA and engaging in entrepreneurial activities in 9th & 10th grades will help you become a more compelling candidate for selective summer university business programs as well as increase your attractiveness to businesses that take on high-school interns.

If you’re a junior with a passion for a particular field of study and a track record of participating in activities that augment your interests, good for you! The foundation you’ve built should help you be a more attractive candidate for a competitive summer program or, when combined with your junior summer activities, internships and/or academic programs, demonstrate to colleges that you have a history of deepening involvement in your area of interest.

On the other hand, perhaps you’re an 11th grader who has just discovered that passion for physics and engineering. Is it too late for you? Not at all! Relax – the colleges understand that you’re a teenager with changing interests. The whole point of the educational process is to expose you to different areas of study that may intrigue you.

However… now that you’ve discovered your love for engineering, it’s time to do something about it! Engineering is a great example, because you’ll find that top colleges with engineering programs will have you write about why you want to be an engineer in their supplemental essays. Sure, that physics lab on quantum mechanics was cool, but that’s not enough to sustain a 500-word essay on why you want to spend the rest of your life as a mechanical engineer.

There are a number of summer programs – some more competitive than others – that will expose you to the field of engineering in a meaningful way. By attending a program, most importantly, you’ll validate for yourself that you truly want to be an engineer. After all, it’s a professional course of study, where you’re making a commitment to a particular career as an 18 or 19 year old. You’ll also now be able to make a strong case – with passion and conviction – about why this area of study is the perfect fit for you.

As Ivy League college consultants, IvySelect focuses on helping students gearing for the Ivies and other top schools differentiate themselves by translating our students’ passions into an overarching positioning strategy. Assisting students in finding the “right” summer activities is an integral piece of the strategic planning we do.

Think of it this way – how do college admissions consultants differentiate one student with a 4.6 GPA and 2280 SATs from another? High grades and test scores are the norm in highly selective college admissions. Admissions officers at these schools are looking for students who will add to the lifeblood of the university and help form a dynamic and vibrant class.

IvySelect helps you define your passions and demonstrate how you’ll be a leader – in both the academic and extracurricular contexts. No matter which Ivy League college counselor on our team guides you, they will review what you’ve done and offer you strategic advice about what you could be doing during the school year and this coming summer to make you stand out from the competition. If you’re a 9th or 10th grader, we’ll help you lay that strategic foundation through detailed planning. And, for you juniors, whether you’re looking to amplify your passions further, or seeking to build your case for admission, we can offer you the expert guidance you require.