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Summer activities that help college applications

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College-bound students give their applications a boost with summer activities that express their individuality.
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Here are a few ways students add depth to college applications over the summer

The thought of filling out college applications can feel overwhelming, but donít fret. College admissions boards donít only consider prospective studentsí grades and test scores, they look for individuals with depth and active interests outside of the academic setting. While students may not have time during the school year to participate in as many activities as they would like, selecting summer activities for college applications is just as important in demonstrating the qualities that make an applicant stand out.

Colleges donít expect applicants to travel the world, and volunteer, and play a sport, and work a part-time job. You canít do everything, but you can put thought into how you choose to spend your time. If you want your summer activities to help reflect the dynamic person you are on a college application, consider a combination of one or two of the following types of activities.

Work a Part-Time Job

For many high school students, getting a part-time job is either a necessity or parental requirement. To college admissions boards, work experience demonstrates responsibility. The type of part-time job you have can also show a deeper level of commitment to your passions. If you love music, for instance, a retail job in a music store or instrument shop indicates a drive to develop your expertise. An athlete working in a sporting goods store or an aspiring writer working at a book store will have daily opportunities to exchange knowledge with customers. Try to find a job that will help you grow.

Part-time jobs are an important consideration in summer activities for college applications. Colleges consider work experience just as valuable as volunteering and extracurricular activities. The bonus for students, part-time jobs often double as fun social settings. Odds are that youíll find yourself in a friendly environment with co-workers who share your interests. 




Volunteering is good for a personís well-being regardless of age. For students, volunteering offers the opportunity to learn on their feet and take action on the issues they care about. Remember, as with taking a part-time job, itís a good idea to be selective on the places you volunteer for. While a long list of one-off volunteer gigs shows compassion and willingness to work, it wonít tell an admissions board anything specific about who you are and what you care about. One long-term commitment clearly shows that an applicant is dedicated, dependable, and engaged with a cause.

Every volunteer job is different, but most are extremely flexible in terms of hours. Many organizations welcome volunteers and offer a set schedule of shifts depending on the number of hours you can commit to. If you have specific areas of interest within an organization, it never hurts to ask for a specific type of assignment. The tasks of volunteer work vary widely and tend to be very basic, but youíll learn a lot and possibly scratch the surface of a future career.

Popular types of volunteer opportunities for teens include: tutoring, acting as a camp counselor, coaching sports, visiting hospitals and senior centers, and lending a hand at an animal shelter or library. Less common types of volunteer work may involve maintaining hiking trails at a local park, administrative work on a political campaign, or helping to organize events for a national non-profit or your local historical society. If youíre having trouble narrowing the field, try browsing the daily volunteer opportunities for teens listed on DoSomething.


Thoughtfully evaluating volunteerism fills an important gap in summer activities for college applications. Although many students look for volunteer assignments to fulfill high school service hours, others take the extra step of making their volunteerism meaningful to college admissions officials.



Traveling the world is a fantastic way for students to broaden their world view, but itís also expensive. While traveling great distances may not be feasible for most students, there are plenty of summer activities that offer the benefits of adventure and new experiences without the price tag. For instance, summer camps often need student chaperons for day trips to local places such as national parks and museums. If you do plan to travel to foreign countries someday, perhaps to study abroad in college, consider joining or starting a language club over the summer to build cultural knowledge and continue to sharpen language skills over the summer. 


Summer activities that expose college applicants to diverse cultures and the different challenges people face around the globe show the type of open-minded, curious individual that many colleges strive to attract to their campuses. Remember, you don't need to fill a passport to demonstrate these qualities. Consider volunteering for a global non-profit with local opportunities. Idealist includes a comprehensive directory of thousands of non-profits.


While summer is a time to relax and enjoy time with friends, itís also when teens can step away from the text books and grow from real world experiences. Students stand out to college admissions boards when they can account for their time with actions that reflect their passions. If you have college on the brain and want to use your time productively this summer, think about the story your experiences will tell about you.

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