Summer is perfect for sleeping in, long days at the beach, and relaxing with friends. And you should definitely do those things.
But with a little careful though, summer can also be a time for boosting your chances of getting in to your dream college. Even if you’re not heading in to your senior year, it is never too soon to build skills, pursue extracurricular activities, and discover more about who you are and what your want.
Here are five ways to get started:
Get a job
This one may be a little obvious, but it is a traditional way to spend a summer for a reason. Even as more and more high schoolers skip summer work in favor of enrichment or relaxation, holding down a job teaches — and demonstrates — commitment, time management, responsibility, and teamwork. And the chance to save a little money is always a bonus.
Keep a journal
Make a habit of writing down a few paragraphs every day about what you did, inspirations that struck, feelings you had about events and activities. Admissions officers love to read applications that weave together all aspects of an applicant’s life and personality into one story. A journal gets you into the habit of thinking about who you are and of putting those insights into words. By the time you need to write essays and answer supplement questions, the concept will be second nature.
Attend a summer program
There is a pre-college summer program for just about every need. Committing to an academic program on a college campus can help you understand the realities of college life, letting you make a more informed, persuasive case when you complete your applications. A program that takes you on an outdoor adventure shows off your openness to new experience; community service programs demonstrate and nurture your senses of community and empathy. And any experience that takes you out of your everyday life is a chance to learn more about yourself and what you want in the future.
Read, read, read
Chances are you’ve been assigned some summer reading. But don’t stop there. Read local and national newspapers to keep up with current events, check some new nonfiction out of the library, or grab that classic novel that’s been sitting on your parents’ bookshelf forever. Regular readers do better on standardized tests and get better grades, both of which are important to your college applications. But even more importantly, reading forces you to consider new perspectives and engage with the world beyond your regular routines, habits of mind that will both impress admissions officers and eventually make college a richer, more rewarding experience.
Put yourself to the test
You may be relieved at the thought of a few months without schoolwork, but summer really is the ideal time to study for the SAT, subject tests, or ACT. Take practice tests online, review materials using test prep books or the resources at Khan Academy, and consider hiring a tutor or taking a class — test prep professionals can help you make the most of your study time by tailoring your work to your particular strengths and needs. Incoming sophomores and juniors might want to consider getting ready for subject tests in topics they have already studied, while the information is still fresh in their minds, rather than re-cramming chemistry at the beginning of senior year.
No, I am not saying you should hit the books instead of the beach this summer. But carving out some time to prepare yourself for your future will let you have fun this summer and a little less stress down the road.