It’s that time of the year… the one you’ve been waiting for. Summer is the right time for maximizing your relaxation / fun quotient, social life and best of all, your profile. Before you moan and groan about just having emerged from tackling the never-ending battlefield of grades and exams, we’d like to quote the wise words of Isaac Asimov: “Life, unlike chess, continues after checkmate.”
Whether you like it or not, all summers in high school are important, especially if you’re looking to apply to colleges abroad. Universities typically seek students who are committed to extracurricular activities throughout the school year, but they love it when you make the effort to expand and stretch yourself in body and mind..
Therefore, what you do over the break will give you an advantage over other applicants who have similar test scores and GPAs. Here are 15 ideas that you can apply this summer to push your college application to the “yes” pile!
1) Open The Door For Inspiration, Before It Comes Knocking
Consume meaningful content and get started. It’s absolutely okay to not know which major you’re headed for. But it’s pertinent that you have a sense of direction of the areas you’re drawn to, or if you prefer the elimination method, areas you’re not interested in. Use your social media time or internet surfing time to explore talks or documentaries that could help you find new ideas or direction, that help you know more about yourself. Read up on things that are shaping the world around you; be curious about trends and their applications.
2) SWOT Bootcamp
Turn a weakness into a strength. Identify an area that needs strengthening: do you struggle with presentations or public speaking? Is creative writing a challenge for you, or is it networking? Take a class or join a group to help cultivate transferable skills that need practice, exercises and feedback. Alternatively, the internet abounds with audio visual content and study material to tackle just about every challenge, so you’ve the tool kit you need to build upon your ‘can be better’ areas. At least there are no burpees… maybe.
3) The Parent Particle
Pander in family time. Use this downtime to talk to your parents or elders, to share your thoughts and learnings with them. Learn to recreate a family favourite recipe or commit to purging your closets and putting together a garage sale. Our families are often our greatest cheerleaders and resources, as well as critics. Time spent with them can give you an insight about your strengths, bringing perspectives that will help you understand yourself better.
4) Ramp Up Your Competitiveness
Spare some time as study time. Leverage your time on hand to register and study for competitive exams and standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, TOEFL, IELTS etc. Utilize this time to revise and be exam ready, so there’s less on your plate once school resumes.
5) Plot Your Horizons
Familiarize yourself. Research your (dream) colleges; look at University websites, talk to friends, family members, and recent high school grads now in college. Even if you have no idea about which geography or major, visiting college websites will help you hone in on your likes and dislikes.
6) Homebound? The Internet Is Your Oyster!
Explore Coursera or edX. Enroll for a summer school program or take a course and curate your resume by building on your knowledge in your subject area of interest. A large number of universities and platforms offer courses (many of them free) on a range of subjects, from robotics to poetry, that you can participate in real-time or watch past lectures from reputed mentors.
7) Catch That Internship
Apply what you know. An internship is a structured opportunity to work (typically unpaid) for a set amount of time. Tap into your family and friends, and identify relevant opportunities that allow you to apply your skills and be hands-on. For example, you could assist a business owner in archiving data or developing their website. Or help a local services center with its social media profile. Perhaps a family friend is podcasting daily, maybe you can help them enhance their reach? This is a great way to build valuable connections and help determine whether a career is right for you.
8) Reach Out To The Pro’s
Shadow an industry professional. Even a day will give you a taste of a future career. Do your homework on industry leaders in your community or with your parents, identify experienced professionals in careers and majors that you are interested in. Don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with alumni or student ambassadors who live in your area. Make sure you have a good set of questions ready to ask them.
9) “What’s New?”
Have fun with learning. Pick up a new skill this summer, even if it’s unrelated to your academic pursuits. Maybe a new language, VR programming or the art of Washi paper? Learning for the sake of learning can be fun and rewarding, and you never know when you’re going to find something you feel truly passionate about!
10) Do Good.
Volunteer For A Good Cause. Without the stress of school routines, you have the time on hand to give back to your community. Find a cause that you are passionate about (e.g. the environment, animals, children, sports…) and mobilize it with real change. Volunteer roles offer the opportunity for meaningful, hands-on learning: explore such opportunities with programmes, organizations, charities, festivals, local non-profits, events and community groups.
11) Perfect Your Passion
Think depth along with breadth. For those of you already engaged in extracurricular activities, now is the time to take things up a notch. Several colleges and platforms provide great opportunities to upskill, develop professional credentials and delve deeper into your interests.
12) Unleash Your Creativity
Gain hands-on experience. Transform your talents and your interest into your summer project. If music is your raison d’etre, get together with some musically-inclined friends and perform with or at local gigs. Or you could tutor younger grade students in a subject you’re proficient in. Love creative writing? Explore and connect with journals that publish work by high school students.
13) Invest In Your Health
Chase those health goals. Instead of just hitting the gym, get a group of friends together and play a sport. Add the community element by putting together a summer sport league, or push your limits by learning something totally different from your usual preference: maybe outdoor yoga or dance? Summer is a great time to explore a new way to burn those calories and get the endorphins going!
14) Read Your Weight’s Worth In Books
Just read. Okay, don’t take that one literally, but we did want to grab your attention, and repeat, ad nauseam, how critically important it is that you read. If school or college prescribed reading lists seem overwhelming, begin with a book in the field you’re interested in studying. Pick a book that’s not on any list but seems fun to read. Many top universities require you to share your learnings from books recently read, so make an effort to read.
15) And… drumroll… have fun!
Remember to relax. It is summer after all and not all consultants are heartless ogres : ) Don’t stress if certain benchmarks are not attained. After the collectively disruptive recent past, perhaps you may want to disconnect and reclaim your peace and space. Maybe turn off your phone and go for a hike. Or do things you’d normally do indoors, outside: a concert, a play in the park, or a dance recital.
Here’s to a fun summer that even your admissions officers will notice!