Don’t Waste Your Summer - Point Avenue

Don’t Waste Your Summer

Don’t Waste Your Summer!

Boosting your college application with Extracurricular Activities during the summer is crucial for rising juniors and seniors.

After a long year of classes, exams, and extracurriculars, summer has finally come, and that means FREE TIME. Maybe you'll stay up late watching TikTok videos, or finally answer those burning questions you haven't had time for, like: I wonder if the members of BTS really were Boy Scouts? (if you don’t know the reference, then you’re not a real fan.) These are all reasonable ways to spend your summer…if you don’t care where you go to college

If you care, and since you're reading this, I know you do, then keep reading. Because this summer, you will do everything you can to make sure your college application stands out, and for all the gamers who want to spend their summer in the latest skins, shredding the competition, remember that Fortnite is dying to steal your future.

What characteristics are we looking for in a summer activity? Firstly, it must be college application-worthy. What does that mean? In case you have to ask, you haven't even looked at the Common Application yet. I suggest that you do. You can try to map your summer plans with one of those categories, but that would betray your true purpose of demonstrating that beyond your stellar grades and perfect test scores, you are a unique individual. Consider these things when you plan your summer activity:

  1. 1. Leadership - Not only are there essay prompts that want to see this quality, but it’s a trait you should practice. Much of your high school career consists of learning from others and following instructions. Activities that show leadership convey vision, management skills, ambition, and most importantly, hopefulness.
  2. 2. A Desire to Be Challenged - No one said applying to college would be easy, nor should your summer activities be. Choose an internship, job, course, or any endeavor that will encourage your growth and demonstrate your eagerness to stretch yourself.
  3. 3. Go for the GOAL - An activity with a clear objective is always more appealing than one where the objective is ambiguous. Research in science or volunteering that will continue after you start school are exceptions to this rule, but in general, we want you to set a goal that you intend to accomplish. You want the WIN!
  4. 4. Explore - This might seem to contradict achieving a specific goal, but it doesn't when you consider the summer-long activity rather than something you do over a weekend. Academic achievement is part of university life, but learning and discovery are also. A sense of discovery is difficult to sustain throughout life, and your enthusiasm shines through everything you do.
  5. 5. The Passion Project - Universities search for those students who are passionate about specific subjects or even hobbies. The days of looking favorably upon the 'well-rounded' candidate are gone. There's an old saying: Jack of all trades, master of none. Choose an activity that demonstrates your interest in learning more about that one topic you can't stop thinking about.

To give you a better understanding of how Admissions Committees (ADCOMs) evaluate a summer activity for college applications, let's examine two examples of students (names have been changed for privacy) who did it right and had the results to prove it.

The first is Victoria.

Victoria was a sophomore who wanted to study business but was unsure about what aspect of it she wanted to affect. At Point Avenue, she was provided with a wealth of readings on economics and business, inspiring her to take an accredited marketing course at UPenn Wharton, study AP Economics, and start her own small business selling designer clothing.

Still, she lacked an activity that demonstrated her leadership, problem-solving skills, and involvement in her community. A Point Avenue mentor introduced her to Kiva U, a platform that focuses on microfinance and financial inclusion, and recruited other students to form her team and find their first investors. Through their hard work, they were able to raise $4,000 USD in capital through rounds of fundraising and provided microloans to farmers, women, and single-mothers in Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa.

Victoria found activities directly related to her interests to showcase her leadership skills, and her efforts paid off with an acceptance to the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. 

Let’s look at another example.

Kevin was a junior when he came to Point Avenue. After playing basketball for most of his life, he suffered an injury which prevented him from ever playing seriously again. But his passion for basketball remained.

Kevin knew that playing basketball was a privilege in his city and only wealthy communities and schools could afford the equipment. His mentor connected him with other Point Avenue students with similar interests and started Hoop Dreams. Their mission was to increase access to athletics in underserved communities by building basketball courts and holding free basketball clinics for children.

They developed a budget and connected with construction firms, while Point Avenue simultaneously connected them with Think Playground, a social enterprise that raises awareness about public spaces, to locate plots of land suitable for basketball courts. In the end, they raised $43,000 USD and built 2 basketball courts, donated 22 hoops to 11 schools, and held several free sports clinics.

Kevin transformed his love of basketball into social change. Hoop Dreams possesses all 5 characteristics that make ADCOMs take notice. He now studies political science at UC Berkeley--his top choice.

I hope you now see what's possible. You can make a significant impact on the lives of others and yourself in just three short summer months. Save the beach for later. Summer can be many things for the college applicant, but one thing it can’t be is wasted. You may still feel confused as to where to begin, so here is a list of activities that can be personalized to help you achieve your college dreams.

  1. 1. Find an Internship - There are many companies, non-profit organizations and groups looking for eager, and ambitious high school students to help them over the summer. You will get paidin experience and connections. Internships will often result in glowing letters of recommendation, a sense of accomplishment, and, in some cases, future employment. Send your resume to every organization that interests you for openings. The more internships you apply for, the more likely you are to get a positive response.
  2. 2. Take College Classes - Many universities offer pre-college courses, or programs that enable high school students to experience what a college class, or the college experience is like. You'll have the chance to experience your first choice of schools, explore your future major, and show the school you're serious about attending. You can find a program you're interested in by searching for 'pre-college' or 'summer' at a college you're applying to. (Don't forget to stop by the admissions office while you're there.) Here are some sample links: ColumbiaHarvardBrownGeorgetownStanfordUCLA.
  3. 3. Take Online Courses - If attending a program in person at a college is out of your reach, consider diving deeper into subjects that interest you by taking courses online through Coursera or EdX. They’re taught by universities around the world and are far more accessible than the pre-college summer programs (and sometimes they're even free!).
  4. 4. Commit to a Passion Project and Change the World - Victoria and Kevin demonstrate how helping others and exploring the world outside your circle are factors in securing university admission. It takes time and dedication, but it is definitely worth it. Discover what you are passionate about, and use that passion to help others in your community. There is no better way to show a school you are ready to be a member of their community. If starting your own project seems too daunting for you, find a local organization that is already affecting change in something you care about. Join them and start helping! Your commitment may bloom into a project you can't even imagine right now.
  5. 5. Research, Research, Research - Get involved in a research project. During the summer months, many economists, scientists, and professors conduct research projects they don’t have time for during the school year. Contact your local university and see what research possibilities are available.
  6. 6. Get a job - Universities like students who work for obvious reasons. It shows motivation and responsibility. The ideal job would be in a field you are interested in. However, any job can open up other opportunities and teach crucial money-management skills.
  7. 7. Start or Continue Prepping for SAT/ACTs - Yes, universities still care about test scores. More so in 2022 than in 2021, and I have never met a student who didn't want to take the test once more. It's a good thing SAT and ACT give you more than one opportunity to take their tests, and because most schools consider your superscore (your best score from each section), you should do whatever you can to achieve that score.
  8. 8. Volunteer - Your community needs you. You know it. ADCOMs at universities know this as well, so for an application to cross their desk in 2022 with no volunteer work is like insulting them face-to-face. Dedicate yourself to it and make it a longstanding commitment. Chances are it will be the most rewarding experience of your life.

One more thing. Summer activities will likely be used for your supplemental essays, and some may even use them for your personal statements. Choose activities you are interested in writing about. It's difficult to write about an experience that you feel was forced upon you for the sake of your application. If you don't care, then your reader won't either. The summer before you apply for university will never ever again come around, so don't waste it.