Students might groan at the thought of a “fun but productive summer” spent at a summer program. To them, this just means more nights spent at home in front of a book (except this time they get to watch their friends drive off to a concert from their window). But, summer extracurricular activities don’t have to be draining. In fact, a summer program should be joyful and exciting.
When colleges evaluate a student, they want to get a clear picture of the student and what gives the student their spark. Although a select few universities will recommend or require a college interview, most do not—so the only way they can judge this is by leafing through their extracurricular activities. And you don’t want to leave summer as a long, awkward gap on their resume. The following is a list of what you should consider before enrolling in a summer program.
1. Does the program match who the student is?
Many times, if a student has achieved enough to be given an opportunity to go to a gifted summer program by a college, they will feel pressured to go. And maybe it is the smartest move. Yet a student should always stay true to themselves and what they want from their education. If a student has a talent and passion for learning new languages, maybe they should go travel abroad. If they are very career minded, they should look at internships.
2. Does the student have a good sense of their talents, passions, and personality?
If not, summer is the perfect time to explore a plethora of extracurricular activities. They might start by visiting a college adviser, mentor, or career center and asking for guidance. They could take self-assessment tests, such as the Myers-Briggs or the Big Five, to get a better sense of who they are and what they’d like to channel their energy into.
At this point, they should pick a handful of extracurricular activities—three or four that will suit them best. These don’t have to be “programs,” but a variety of courses or activities offered by their high school, local community college, or some local organization. Then, at the end of the summer, they can try to pick one extracurricular activity to pursue during the school year.
3. Find out what summer programs a dream college offers to high schoolers.
If a college is smart, they will offer summer programs for high school students. It’s a great way to promote their university’s mission while recruiting potential students. A pre-college program may be the best idea for a high schooler who feels anxious about attending a university. These programs range in scope and might focus on leadership, law, science, the arts, journalism, and more. The best part? Most will offer college credit for their attendance.
The summer is a chance to explore—and it should be nothing else than that in high school. Students need a chance to relax, but that doesn’t mean it should go to waste if they’re serious about building their reputation. The summer after they get into their dream college? They can frolic and drive off into the sunset all they wish.