The summer before your application year is actually the time that you can significantly boost your applications for admissions.
We usually recommend the following three activities that you can take during your summer apart from working on academics, SAT/ACT and your application requirements.
1. Summer programs
One possibility for summer is attending summer programs. These programs have different focuses: STEM, culture, arts, nature and wilderness, historical and many many more. The duration of these programs can vary between one week to ten weeks.
Programs are often offered by colleges and are held on their grounds. So students can already explore living and studying on that specific campus. Of course, these programs are not free. There are some that cost about $10,000, but there are some that have lower costs as well.
Summer programs offer students the chance to explore new areas, interests and exciting fields they might want to take as a major to graduate then. Some colleges credit points for participation in these programs.
Besides the knowledge and interest thing, there are also new friendships coming up with people around the world who attend the same courses.
We recommend programs that are planned and run by the colleges themselves instead of being held by a third party. It ensures that college teachers and professors teach the lessons within the program. It also ensures that your student doesn’t only get the possibility to grow. It also gets an insight into the way of teaching at this specific college.
The questions below will be useful when you are evaluating summer programs:
- What is the main philosophy?
- Why is this program unique?
- What impact does it have on my student?
- Does the program match the interests of my student, or will it be able to create new ones?
- Will my student be challenged or bored?
- How does it affect my student’s growth?
- Who is teaching my student? What level of experience does the staff have?
- How is success rewarded?
You should also speak to peers or seniors who have been to the program in the previous summers.
Since 2015, the leading universities in the world are putting a lot of their courses online as well that you can take in the summer. These courses are across fields and are either inexpensive or free.
Some of the courses by leading universities you can look at are listed below:
- Michigan: Courses include Python for Everybody, Data Science, Web Designing, among others.
- Cornell: Courses include Classics, Psychology, and Economics, among others.
- Yale: Courses include Engineering, Physics, and Diplomacy, among others.
- Purdue: Course include Medical Sciences, Economics, and Psychology, among others.
- Georgetown: Courses include Marketing, Film and Media Studies, and Humanities, among others
- Washington University: Courses include Business, Math and Statistics, and the Sciences, among others
- Emory University: Courses include Film and Languages, among others.
- Tufts: Courses include Behavioural Health, Logic, Psychology, and Anthropology, among others.
In addition to classes hosted by colleges, there are a variety of online platforms that have come up as well. Here are some of the platforms you can look at:
- Coursera works with universities and other organizations to supply online courses, specializations, and degrees across subjects, like engineering, data science, machine learning, mathematics, business, computer science, digital marketing, medicine, biology, social sciences, and others. For example, Johns Hopkins is offering a new class on the coronavirus pandemic and how it will be combated with epidemiology.
- edX - Initially created by MIT and Harvard, edX now hosts classes from over 140 schools, nonprofit organizations, and corporations. edX classes are delivered in weekly learning sequences.
- Udemy: Students take courses on Udemy largely to enhance job-related skills. Some courses even generate credit towards technical certifications. In 2020, there are nearly 160,000 courses on the website.
- Khan Academy: Many students have used Khan Academy, which delivers content through instructional videos and offers practice exercises and personalized learning. Khan Academy offers courses in math, science, programming, history, humanities, economics, and more. Khan Academy has partnered with famous institutions like NASA, The Museum of Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to supply specialized content.
Before jumping into a course, however, do your own research. Because there are so many options available and multiple platforms often offer identical courses, this means that some of these offerings will be of lower quality than others. Read the complete course description and browse any available reviews before selecting a course.
2. Campus Tours
The other things students usually do over the summer is campus tours. There is a school of thought that campus tours can play a role in college admission. According to Forbes, they found in a study they referred to from an article that “high school students who show demonstrated interest in a college by making an official visit to campus have an advantage in the admissions process over students who don't make a campus visit.”
This all ties back to the yield as the university wants the maximum number of students who they enrol to take admissions. If a student has visited a college campus, they are deemed to be more serious in that college than students who did not visit the campus. So in a way, campus tours have a way of raising the chances of you being admitted to your college of choice.
To book campus tours, check the college websites of campuses you want to visit for details on tours. All colleges list information about their campus tours on their websites. MIT, for example, have a dedicated page about tours along with tips and things to remember when going about the tours here.
When you're finally on a campus tour, it can be a little daunting to find out what you’re supposed to do. You're already there, and you can't even muster the courage to take the wheel and steer your way to success. Not to worry, we got a bit of a to-do list for you below:
While you're taking the tour, try to check out the academic buildings/departments that you want to apply to as well. Feel free to ask questions on the campus tours as well. You can check these articles here for some great questions but if you're not in the mood to read along, here are some of the questions you should ask on tour:
Don't let the campus tour be limited to just one campus: try to visit as many colleges in your list as you can. You can even make a comparison chart of pros and cons between colleges that you visited.
Can’t Visit? Here are some alternatives
Often, college visits are not an option for many, as everyone can’t afford a personal visit to all prospects. Also, distance and accommodation can be another challenge that can deprive you of this opportunity. Sometimes even if you plan a visit, there can be issues in scheduling the tour, and more often than not, limited students will be allowed to attend. If all options are closed for a college visit, you need not worry as there are some exciting alternatives if you intend to seek more information.
If the distance is an issue, try including colleges that are close to you and are financially practical. You can visit a rural school or close by city schools to get a perspective of a college education. If a campus visit is out of the question for a particular school, you can do some in-depth digging on the internet to know about that college's vibe. Often, colleges have visual tours uploaded on their websites or YouTube channels that can provide essential insights into college facilities. But amid all this, do not forget to isolate authentic information from advertised claims. You can use websites such as niche.com or Fiske guide for credible information. These websites can also let you in on events and activities happening in that particular college. You can also refer to some of the raking websites that list colleges based on the facilities provided.
Another source of relevant information can be social media channels. Almost all colleges are active on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, andLinkedIn. You can get in touch with them through social media platforms for important information such as upcoming events, tour schedules, etc. You can also connect with alumni network as the best judge of a college are students that have studied there. You can request an informal interview or just connect with current students.
College fairs are another way to demonstrate your interest to the representatives of top-choice colleges. Colleges invest a lotto promote their name and often participate in college fairs to make students aware of the opportunities they hold for them. You can visit such fairs and collect information in the form of flyers and brochures.
Recently, a lot of students are demonstrating college readiness and demonstrated interest through internships. Internships are a great way to supplement your academic learning with some real world experience. If the internship is aligned to your future course of student then thats even better.
Internships are a tricky business for high schoolers for a few reasons. Very few pre-existing internship positions are usually available and are often created based on connections. They are mostly unstructured, meaning you perform all kinds of tasks as and when they come up. And lastly, they are difficult to talk about meaningfully in your college applications because -- let’s face it -- you cannot pretend to know everything about a business after just a few weeks of unstructured work.
That said, having a solid internship experience can actually make your application stand out, precisely because of its inaccessibility.
It’s also a great addition to your activities list and a chance to acquire a solid letter of recommendation. As long as it is not negatively impacting your academic performance, a good internship will tend to boost your profile.
What does a good internship look like?
You should approach internships primarily as an opportunity to expose yourself to the professional world. Since they’re scarce and mostly involve spontaneous work, don’t expect an internship to neatly fit with your stated interests. Admission officers certainly don’t expect it too!
A good internship is one where there is some affinity between your interests and the workspace. If you’re interested in computer science, working even at the administrative section of a software engineering firm will give you an idea of project development and technologies in this domain. If your interest lies in business, helping out with a start-up’s Facebook page will also expose you to the client relations aspect of entrepreneurship. Are you planning to major in literature? There is abundant scope to work even in a sector like financial services by writing their marketing copy!
Any kind of work will have multiple departments and teams attached to it, so be open to finding your area of interest at any place. This is essential to create a good internship opportunity.
How should you go about finding internship opportunities?
The best way to find an internship is through family and friends: approach your parents, relatives, friends, and acquaintances. Maybe you have an uncle who works in a university and is willing to let you help him out with some research. May be your aunt runs a start-up that could use an extra hand. Perhaps your parents’ colleagues could take you on in their respective departments. Chances are you’re likely to find an internship only through these routes. Don’t directly intern under your parents; they can’t be the ones employing you and writing a letter of recommendation!
What can you do to make the most out of your internship?
Making your internship substantial is primarily about demonstrating a strong work ethic rather than trying to significantly contribute to the organization. After all, you’re a high schooler who is only around for a few weeks. Showing that you are willing to grind it through is all you need to elicit a strong letter of recommendation from your employer.
Speaking of which, don’t bluntly ask for a recommendation letter as soon as your internship is over! Be sure to first ask for an exit interview where you get an impression of your performance from your employer. If they are happy with your work -- and they better be! -- politely ask if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. An LoR will document your performance and may come in handy for your college applications and future employment positions. Your employer knows you want one, so it shouldn’t be a problem.
Lastly, take time to reflect on all that you have learned. Begin integrating your experience with your overall profile. If the experience has further fuelled your passion in that career path, great! If you think you might want a different profession, this will still have been a solid learning experience. Present it so on your college application!
Campus tours, summer programs and internships are timing consuming. Make sure you pick the correct activity that you want to undertake in the summer. Any of the above activities, if done correctly, will boost your applications.