If you’re a second-semester high school junior, what seemed so distant a couple of years ago will soon be upon you — you’ll be fully engaged in the college application process. You may already have accomplished much of what’s required to earn admission to a top-tier institution regarding the academic, or “hard” factors. You’ve taken the standardized exams and earned high scores. You’re performing well in AP courses that demonstrate the likelihood that you’ll succeed in a college curriculum. You’re earning the highest GPA and class rank that you’re capable of achieving.
Although you can still accomplish more academically, most of the variables that you can still affect in the time remaining are among the “soft” factors. High on this list is your choice of activities for your upcoming final high school summer. While your extracurricular activities during the school year are limited by time constraints, summer may allow you to more fully pursue your passions and interests, engage with your community, and learn in ways that further your educational goals. Supplementing your academic performance and in-school extracurriculars with meaningful summer activity demonstrates to admissions officers at top-tier institutions that you’re self-motivated and focused. They value socially aware individuals who are likely to become engaged students and leaders on campus and within the local community.
If you have a passionate interest in a particular field of study and a track record of participating in activities that reinforce this interest, then you have an advantage in planning your final summer. The foundation that you’ve built should make you a more attractive candidate for competitive summer programs in your field such as: 1.) Internships, 2.) College academic courses, and, 3.) A summer research position. These three types of activity prove to colleges that you have experienced a deepening involvement in your field of interest over time.
Whether for a business, law firm, hospital, public agency, medical practice, or other type of organization, internships provide valuable exposure to your future field. They enable you to make the case to admissions officers that you understand your projected career path. Real-world experience as an intern, especially in a mentored program, distinguishes and elevates you above many other applicants in your field.
Succeeding in one or more college academic courses, especially at a prestigious college, demonstrates your passion for your chosen field as well as your ability to do actual college-level work. So, for example, while taking a course in genetics at Yale won’t guarantee admission, it will give admissions officers at colleges to which you apply a glimpse into who you are academically and where your interests lie. This attribute makes you a more desirable candidate at highly selective schools. As a bonus, you’ll usually earn transferable college credits. Even non-credit summer courses offered to high school students by universities such as Columbia, Brown, Duke, and Yale indicate your determination to expand your knowledge in your chosen field.
If you plan to pursue a major and a career in science, a summer research position displays a high level of commitment. It’ll also improve your skills in the field. Some research programs are highly prestigious. For example, there are highly selective biomedical research summer programs that take students who have previous lab experience and have demonstrated academic excellence in science. When the scientists at a research institute select students they’re effectively “pre-vetted” as exceptional young scientists. Colleges recognize these programs, so they boost an applicant’s chance of being accepted in a science department at a top-tier school.
Perhaps you’re a junior who has just discovered a passionate interest that motivates you. Is it too late for you? Not at all — college admissions offices understand that you’re in high school and your interests have been changing. One of the benefits of a good education is that it exposes you to many different subjects until you eventually focus on one field of study that may intrigue you.
Let’s say, for example, that you recently discovered your affinity for engineering. You should act on it now. 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 enrolling and succeeding in such a program, you’ll validate that engineering, as a professional course of study, is a good fit for you and you for it. Admissions offices are wont to notice this as proof of your high level of interest in engineering, so you’ll benefit from it.
As a college admissions consulting firm specializing in the Ivy League and similarly elite institutions, IvySelect focuses on helping students differentiate themselves by translating our students’ passions into an overarching positional strategy. Assisting students in finding the “right” summer activities for them is an integral piece of the strategic planning that we do for students. Think of it this way – how can college admissions offices differentiate one student with a 4.6 GPA and 1500 SATs from another? High grades and test scores are the norm among applicants at top-tier colleges. Admissions officers are looking for students who will add to the lifeblood of their institution and help form a dynamic and vibrant freshman class.
IvySelect helps you identify and refine your passions so you can demonstrate to top-tier schools how you’ll contribute to their diverse needs in both an academic and extracurricular context. Your IvySelect consultant will review your unique profile and offer sound strategic advice about what you could do this summer to stand out further above the competition.