Believe it or not, summer is finally right around the corner! Do your big plans currently consist of napping? Watching TV? Stalking social media?

No, no, and no, say admissions officers. They don’t necessarily care what you do this summer, but they like to see that you’ve done something. What is that something? Here are seven ways to make the most out of your summer, impress admissions officers and help your application stand out.

  • Get a paying job. It builds character, gets you active, and – better still – earns you money! Deliver newspapers, scoop ice cream, bag groceries, mow your neighbors’ lawns. Maybe you can referee soccer or baseball, become a camp counselor, wait tables, or babysit. Keep track of your hours – colleges will want to know the average number you’ve worked each week, and the average number of weeks you’ve worked over the summer.
  • Participate in research. If you want to study science or engineering, apply for a research program at a local university. Some programs are formal and have an application process, while others are less structured – in that case, contact professors to inquire about research opportunities in their labs. Also consider research if you’re interested in social sciences or humanities – projects in these areas can entail library research or interviews.
  • Take summer classes. Can’t get enough school? It’s impressive to tackle another class if you’re up for it. Consider a class at your local community college – you can get college credit while learning a new subject or exploring a favorite subject in greater depth. Another option is enrolling in a summer college at a university, where you live on-campus for three to six weeks and take a class or two, to get a taste of college life. Can’t make the trip? Many colleges and universities now offer online classes through sites like Coursera and EdX.
  • Go abroad. Many programs take high school students overseas to explore a foreign country. Some students will take family trips, either domestically or internationally. Make sure you give a trip an academic slant; that is, blog about your experiences, start a photo-journal, do some community service along the way, or study a foreign language.
  • Volunteer. Even if no businesses are hiring, that shouldn’t stop you from working. You can volunteer your time at a soup kitchen, cleaning up a park, raising money for a cause, or working in a hospital. Or, intern with a local company or organization that will help you develop your skills and gain additional experience.
  • Read. Go to your local library and get your hands on books that you haven’t had time to read during the school year. Your English classes can’t cover every classic – but you can! Or study a subject that interests you, and read books, newspaper articles, and magazines on a particular topic. Maybe you liked studying World War II or perhaps your chapter on ecology piqued your interest. If so, colleges will be impressed when you write your academic interest statement about your own in-depth studies on a particular subject.
  • Blog. Do you like music or TV (yes, you’re allowed to watch some TV over the summer) or have strong political opinions? Do you want to let others hear your voice? You should start blogging about your favorite topics. You’ll improve your writing and communication skills.

Most importantly, admissions officers want to see that you’ve gotten engaged with your community, or others’ communities, or that you’ve spent your summer trying to find out more about yourself – what you like, what you want to study and what you can contribute.

About the author

Kyle received a BS from Vanderbilt University and a certificate in college advising from Columbia University. Kyle has more than five years of admissions experience, including at the State University of New York as well as Rice University, where she was an Assistant Director of Admissions and oversaw the BS/MD program with Baylor College of Medicine. Kyle is an IECA Associate Member.

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