Admit it: Even though our past weekend brought snow and no signs of spring, it is time to examine summer opportunities. Students applying to selective colleges possess strong vitae that include exceptional grades, phenomenal test scores, challenging curricula and demonstrated intellectual passions. Recently, parents of a rising sophomore came to the office determined their child was bound for the Ivy League. When I asked about plans for summer, the parents replied, “Oh, we hang out at the pool in the summer.” Although play and leisure are critical to a student’s development, “hanging out at the pool all summer” will not abode well in an admission office. As admissions becomes more competitive, schools are searching for students who are enthusiastic and engaged learners that spend ample time pursuing artistic and intellectual ideas inside and outside of the academic arena. Crisp Consulting + Coaching would like to offer a few strategies for looking for summer endeavors.
Look high and low. Students should consider their artistic talents and academic strengths when selecting a summer program. A young woman with a passion for writing may consider Smith College’s Young Women’s Writing Workshop. A young man interested in contemporary political and environmental issues may undertake the LENS program at Wake Forest University. An aspiring pianist may want to spend the summer at Brevard Music Center. A student should capitalize on academic interest or creative talent to demonstrate an intellectual passion for learning that goes beyond the confines of the academic year and the walls of the classroom.
Look Into. Students who have ample experience in summer programs should also consider community service or work. Volunteering or working in a job that correlates with an academic pursuit is another way to demonstrate intellectual passion. A student with a passion for animals and veterinarian medicine could spend a summer volunteering at the local Human Society. Working as a patient transporter at the local hospital can demonstrate your aspirations of medical school. It is a mistake to rely on parental connections to secure a high-level internship with the banking industry or a law firm. Admission officers will view this as a disconnect with your true passions and aspirations. Working is a definite option for students who come from a background that is perceived as privileged. A zip code such as 90210 and a boarding school pedigree can make for competitive course in admissions. Working can highlight a venue of learning that can balance this perception while offering some useful and practical skills.
Look Carefully. Select a summer path because it aligns with your future goals and not because of a brand name. Students are always shocked when hearing that attending the Brown Pre-College Program will not secure their admission to Brown University or that the Vanderbilt PAVE program has little bearing on the upcoming Vanderbilt admissions. Outside of the Yale Ivy Scholars with its very low acceptance rate, many of these programs have high acceptances or are first-come-first-serve. In addition, schools turn a substantial profit with summer programs for high school students. Vet the program carefully and examine if it supports your intellectual and creative development . Also, examine the leadership and faculty of the program. If the best program for your passion is at a local college, then that should be your summer focus.
Whether you are working at the local recycling center inventing new systems for sustainability or studying film history in Southern California, your summers should demonstrate your passions outside the classroom. These strategies can make a difference in the admission office and lead to a rewarding and fulfilling summer and, if you plan accordingly, there will be ample time to sit by the pool.
Brian D. Crisp is an independent educational consultant with Crisp Consulting + Coaching who works with families in Asheville, Charleston, Raleigh-Durham and Savannah to optimize and realize their unique educational fit and admission success. As a former professor, administrator, and teacher, Brian has the knowledge and skills to counsel families in all aspects of educational planning.