An increasing number of selective colleges are beginning to scrutinize how applicants spend their summers during high school. Some parents, in response to this trend, have blown thousands of dollars on summer programs that may provide for an enriching experience, but do little to distinguish their child from the rest of the applicant pool. Today, the majority of competitive colleges offer at least one pre-college program inviting high school students to explore campus, visit with faculty, and even take courses during the summer months. Most summer programs are nothing more than “cash cows” and will accept any high school student able to pay the bill. Participation in these summer programs will be viewed by your prospective colleges as evidence of wealth, rather than evidence of any special ability—even if these programs happen to be offered on an Ivy League campus. As such, they do NOTHING to improve your admission prospects.
However, there is a growing minority of selective summer programs that select high achieving high school students strictly on the basis of merit. A number of these programs are offered for free or at a relatively low costs, and will prove an impressive addition to your college application. The following is a list of top summer programs for high school students:
JCamp – For Journalism students
Internships are wonderful because they can give you great insight into what you would like to do for a living, as well as what you do not enjoy. The more internships you are able to participate in, the more marketable you will be, and the better you will understand your strengths and the type of work environment that you will thrive in. Start by looking at jobs within a sector which interests you. Talk to everyone you know about your interest and see if you can find connections with people who can introduce you with the appropriate people. Have your parents’ help, the more people who know what you are looking for, the higher your probability of success. If you can’t find a paid job, consider non-profits who always need unpaid staff and see if there is a position which aligns with your interest. Ask if your favorite high school teacher has a project which you would want to do over the summer. If your parents have a business maybe you can run their social media, or take on a project that they want done, but don’t have time to implement. Try a local lab or college and find something of interest. Work on a personal project which will differeniate you.
Colleges want leaders of all kinds. Finding venues where you can learn about the trials and tribulations of leadership is a great growth experience. This means offering to spearhead a project, running for an elected position, or working hard to be named captain or co-captain of a team. Start a club that your school does not have, and build it. Leadership is not for everyone, but if you try you will undoubtedly learn something from every experience. Maryland Leadership Workshop is a weeklong camp
where the “staff strives to empower teens to be the leaders they want to be in their community and agents of positive change in society.” I have had a few students who have participated and found it to be extremely worthwhile and fun. https://www.mlw.org/index.php/programs/summer-core-programs/senior-high-workshops-shw. They have an application and the deadline is coming up soon.
Many students attend camps of all kinds or run their own camp. I have had numerous students run a camp with friends, for younger children. Not only have they made a lot of money, but they master a lot of skills to make it work. College admissions officers likes seeing this because of the multi-faceted elements.
Some students attend camps for their sport, which allows them to improve, and get seen by coaches from colleges which interest them. Others go to a camp to learn something new or show colleges their academic prowess (see Learning from Part 1). If you would like to test drive a college campus, or see if you do want to pursue a certain career, there are opportunities available on many college campuses – just use Google or another search engine.
Enter contests in whatever interests you, whether it is writing, math, music, languages, dance, or photography. Share your talents with the community. Whatever groups you belong to see if there are opportunities to use your aptitudes to benefit others. Book your band to play at a Relay for Life, or have your theater group put on performances for special need kids. Ask a coffee shop to hang your photographs up on their walls. Find ways to make a difference in the lives of others by sharing what you do with the community at large. The more exposure and experiences you have the more appealing you become.
Summer gives you more than ten weeks. Find multiple ways to explore your potential.