extracurricular activity

It’s Not Too Early to Plan Your Summer Activities

Many non-academic factors contribute to your appeal as an applicant to an elite institution. These factors can be managed through careful planning, including the activities that you’ll engage in during the summer. How you spend your summers should reflect your academic goals and/or such positive attributes as leadership, dedication, and civic-mindedness.

As a college admissions consulting firm specializing in elite institutions, IvySelect helps you distinguish yourself from your competitors by translating your aptitudes and passions into an overarching strategic message. We make sure this message is communicated in a consistent manner to your target schools.

High grades and test scores are the norm for applicants to top-tier schools, so college admissions officials must differentiate among students with similarly excellent records. To do this, they discern which applicants are most likely to fill one of the school’s needs or add to the diversity of the student body. Admissions offices do this by taking into account each applicant as a whole person. One way that you encourage them to pick your application out of the pile is to draw positive attention to your summer activities. Fortunately, you have a wide degree of discretion in what you do over the summer.

While your curricular and extracurricular activities are largely constrained to your school’s offerings during the academic year, summer allows you an opportunity to pursue personal interests, engage in your community, and learn in college or non-school settings. Supplementing your academic performance and school-related activities with meaningful summertime involvement demonstrates that you’re self-motivated and focused on your area of study. Also, elite institutions value those applicants who demonstrate concern for societal needs because they’re likely to become equally engaged on campus and in the school’s local community.

As rising high school freshmen and sophomores, the activities you participate in over the summer can lay the foundation for future opportunities during the more important rising junior and senior summers. The activities that you participate in are closely reviewed in making crucial distinctions between candidates for the next freshman class.

Suggestions for summer activities that may be considered advantageous to your case for admission to elite colleges and universities are noted below.

  • Internships: Whether for a business, law firm, hospital, public agency, medical practice, or nonprofit, internships provide valuable exposure to your future field of study. They enable you to make the case that you’re set on your planned career path. Real-world experience as an intern, especially in a mentorship program, elevates you above other applicants in your field. (P.S. — you’ll remain free to change your field of study without undue penalties when you’re matriculating at a school).
  • Volunteering: Colleges value applicants with a track record of community service. It indicates the kind of enthusiasm, dedication, and commitment that may prove beneficial to the greater good of the school and its community. While in high school, volunteering presents opportunities to show your initiative and creativity. You may wish to consider launching your own organization to help a worthy cause to further demonstrate your positive attributes.
  • Academics: Taking college-level courses at top-tier institutions won’t guarantee admission to such a school. However, it does demonstrate your passion for a particular subject, your ability to do college-level work, and your desire to learn, attributes that make you a more desirable candidate. As a bonus, you often will earn transferable college credits. Taking substantive but non-credit bearing courses offered by top-tier colleges and universities can also make your academic profile more impressive.
  • Research: If you plan to pursue a career in science, participation in a research program displays a high level of commitment and can improve your chances of admission to a top-tier school. Some research programs are highly prestigious. For example, there are highly selective biomedical research summer programs that invite students who have demonstrated academic excellence and have also had previous lab experience. Officials at these research institutes select students who have been pre-vetted as young scientists with exceptional potential. Admissions officers at elite schools recognize the rigor of these programs.
  • Online Presence: Admissions offices are known to search the web for information on applicants. So, as a summer sideline, you should create a positive presence on the Internet. Through it, you can showcase your distinctive qualities, credentials, experiences, and technical skills. This gives admissions officers a unique perspective into you as a person. Use social media intelligently. It may be appropriate for you to set up a LinkedIn profile to highlight honors, awards, sports, clubs, and activities. Since colleges may review other social media to learn more about you, either scrub your Facebook, Twitter, and other sites of potentially embarrassing items or take the necessary technical steps to fully secure your privacy. If you develop a website, you may reserve your full name or a variation of it as a domain. On it, you can display an eye-catching logo and other attractive imagery. Be sure to include a blog that you’ll post periodically to reflect your ideas and observations in a light favorable to you as an applicant.

Your IvySelect college admissions counselor helps you define your passions and draw attention to them with a consistent message throughout the entire admissions process— your essays, interviews, online media, and the application itself. In addition to your academic record, we’ll learn your interests, preferences, aptitudes, skills, experiences, strengths, and weaknesses to develop a strategic plan to achieve your educational goals. We’ll advise you on summer activities that can have a positive impact as you seek admission to an Ivy League or other top-tier college or university.