Making the Most of Your Summer for College Admissions

Making the Most of Your Summer for College Admissions

January is generally the best time to dig into summer plans for high school students as many programs have application deadlines during the winter and early spring. Even though the pandemic is still looming, with the arrival of the vaccine, there’s some hope that by summer in-person opportunities may become available once again. Most programs will offer some sort of remote alternative if this is not possible. Just because it’s too early to tell, this should not delay your efforts to start identifying summer opportunities!

It’s important to remember that there is no specific activities formula that will get you into a specific college or type of college, and summer activities fall into this same category. In order to maximize your chances in college admissions, students should focus on activities that are impactful to them or contribute to their family. See below for options students can and should consider as they begin building their summer plans:
    • Additional Academic Coursework: Not all students will want to spend their summers continuing their academic learning (and that’s ok!), but particularly if there are subjects the student might like to explore that are not offered at their high school (or that wouldn’t otherwise fit in their schedule), or if taking a summer course offers them more flexibility to take other courses during the school year, this is a great plan. It may also be necessary for students who may have had a rough patch at some point during their high school career and need to make-up, re-take or add courses in order to maintain eligibility, particularly for the UC system.
      • Students may take summer courses at their high school if offered, or other high schools, even online high schools. Students who wish to challenge themselves are encouraged to explore courses at local community colleges or at local four-year colleges, such as UCLA Extension, where students can simply register to take courses with other college students. This additional rigor will be noted by colleges.
      • Many four-year colleges offer summer programs designed for high school students that include academic coursework and on-campus programming when possible. This is a great way to experience a college campus as well as college level coursework. Keep in mind that doing these programs typically does not influence your chances of admission at that particular college with the exception of some arts and journalism programs.
    • Internships/Jobs: Students interested in real-world experience may consider looking for a job or internship for part or all of the summer. 
      • Internships may be paid or unpaid and offer a variety of experience, but are designed to give students a taste of a particular field. They may offer a component where a student is able to shadow a professional in addition to completing administrative tasks. Some internships are posted by larger companies and organizations; you can also be your own self advocate and reach out to places that interest you to see if they would consider having you as an intern. Based on our experience, your counselor may also be able to help you identify and even contact individuals and organizations looking to hire!
      • For full or part-time work over the summer, look at online job boards, malls and outlets in particular for places that are seeking to hire. Some retail businesses often look for seasonal employees. Working and interning are great ways to demonstrate a strong work ethic and responsibility outside of the classroom, while giving you important experience. 
    • Research: Many students prefer to continue exploring their academic interests outside of the traditional classroom experience. Research is an excellent method to expose yourself to new facets of a particular topic, whether it’s hands-on lab work or academic research on a topic that’s important to you. Speak to your teacher in a related field about potential opportunities and contacts. You may also be able to find opportunities at local colleges and organizations.
  • Service/Volunteer Work: Giving back to the community is an important way to demonstrate your understanding of being a responsible citizen. There are endless ways to participate from food drives, to building homes, shelters, etc. Especially in these difficult times, many service organizations are looking for volunteers. Students may also be encouraged to come up with creative ways to fundraise for a charity that speaks to them.
  • Other Options: From camps and other summer program options to starting your own e-business, there’s really no wrong way to spend your summer – unless it’s doing nothing! Balance is important so please do use some time to rest and recover from the school year, but be sure to find ways to continue developing your skills and interests in order to bring robust experiences to your future college applications.
Resources for Summer Opportunities
  • High School College/Career Center
  • Local Community College website
  • College & University Pre-College Websites
  • UCLA Extension
  • Job Boards such as and Indeed
  • Summer Discovery

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