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Last Updated On: April 13th, 2022

Before you know it, spring semester will be over. While everyone looks forward to summer vacation, it is important to remember that just having fun in the sun doesn’t help you get into college. There are different things you can do this summer to improve your chances of getting into your top college picks. Here are some ideas and some resources to help get you started:

Get an Internship (paid or unpaid)
“Internship” is just a fancy word for a limited-time position to give work-experience to a student. Regardless of whether it is a paid or unpaid internship, internships look great on college applications. Try to get an internship in an organization that relates to your major interest if possible, but even an internship in a completely different field can be helpful to get you into a great college.

Summer is a great time to do community service. Colleges want students who contribute their time and energy to helping others and making the world a better place. Again, try to volunteer for an organization that relates to your major interest if possible, but even volunteering in a completely different field is helpful to get you into a great college.

Get a Job
Lots of students are under the misconception that colleges won’t be impressed with simply working during the summer. Not true. Colleges appreciate students who don’t just rely on their parents for money and are willing to work to pay for the things they want. From frozen yogurt shops and fast food restaurants to summer camps and amusement parks there are a lot of businesses looking for extra workers in the summer.

Pre-College Programs
Lots of top colleges and universities (two examples are Stanford and Brown) have pre-college programs on their campuses during the summer to give high school students exposure to what classes are like at their school. These pre-college programs come in both STEM and non-STEM fields and vary in speciality. Remember, however, that these programs are money-making ventures and are completely separate from the college’s admissions office. That’s right … there is no correlation between having participated in a college’s pre-college program and later getting into that college. In addition, there are companies that offer a variety of programs on college campuses that expose students to different types of careers. Both types of programs give you an opportunity to see what it is like to be on a college campus and give you a sense of whether you would like to attend college in that city or town.

Take Classes
Your education doesn’t have to stop for the summer just because the school year is over. Maybe you want to take a summer class at your high school to improve your grade, to get rid of a requirement, or to get ahead (particularly helpful for math). Another idea is to take a class through a California community college. Remember, California high school students pay zero tuition for California community college classes, regardless if they are in-person or virtual. This is a great opportunity to solidify your interest in a particular field or to try something you aren’t sure of. You might discover that you have an interest in sociology, philosophy, or communications. Just remember that each community college has its own application and process for high school students to enroll, but they all require your high school counselor to sign off.

  • (general info about California community college classes)
  • (to find online community college classes)

Job Shadow
It doesn’t have to be for an extended period of time. Even if it is only for a day or two, actually spending time with someone who does an occupation you are thinking about for yourself can be very helpful!

In Conclusion …
When it is time for you to apply to colleges, you will find that you need to list the extracurricular activities you did from 9th-12th grade, and colleges will expect to see that you did something with your summers, too. The ideas above are things you can list on your college applications to help show colleges what a great candidate you are for their school.

However, don’t forget that there are also things you can do this summer to improve your chances of getting into the college of your choice but which you aren’t going to actually list on your college applications. These include:

  • Learning more about colleges by attending college fairs (in-person or virtual) and going on college tours (in-person or virtual).
  • Studying for the SAT/ACT. Although no longer being used by the UCs and Cal States and being paused by most schools during the pandemic years, test scores are once again required by certain universities (e.g., M.I.T.) and can really boost your application at others where scores are still optional to submit.
  • Meeting with a certified college counselor to help you (and your family) find the right college for you.

–Sandy Epstein, BA, MA, JD, and Certificate of College Counseling

Just this year alone, the students Sandy worked with were accepted to:

Stanford, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Cornell, Univ. of Chicago, Northwestern, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Pomona, Tufts, USC, Univ. of Michigan, Boston College, Univ. of Notre Dame, Bates, Washington Univ. in St. Louis, Emory, Colorado College, Smith, Case Western, UNC Chapel Hill, Dickinson, Connecticut College, Holy Cross, Occidental, Harvey Mudd, Syracuse, Villanova, Sarah Lawrence, University of Miami, Bard, Lehigh, Lewis & Clark, Pepperdine, Fordham, Loyola Marymount, and multiple students accepted into each UC campus, including UCLA, Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, and UC Irvine.

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