Summer break isn’t just about relaxation and fun—it’s an invaluable opportunity for high school students to bolster their college applications. By engaging in activities that showcase leadership, community involvement, and personal growth, students can stand out to admissions officers. Here are strategic ways teens can use their summer to make a strong impression:

Take on Leadership Roles at Summer Camps

Many summer camps offer opportunities for older teens to serve as counselors or assistant directors. These positions provide valuable experience demonstrating leadership, responsibility, and the ability to work effectively with others. These positions often come with challenges that require problem-solving and innovation—qualities colleges admire in applicants.

Tips for getting involved:

  • Research camps early: Positions fill up quickly, so start looking for opportunities early in the school year.
  • Choose a camp that aligns with your interests: Whether it’s a sports camp, science camp, or art camp, pick one that reflects your passions.
  • Prepare to show your best qualities: Be ready to lead activities, resolve conflicts, and set a positive example for younger campers.

Initiate or Participate in Community Service Projects

Colleges look for students who contribute to their community. Summer is a perfect time to start a community service project or join an ongoing program. Projects can range from organizing a local clean-up day to volunteering at a food bank or building homes for a housing charity.

Steps to start your own project:

  • Identify a need in your community: Look for something that interests you, such as environmental conservation or education.
  • Plan the project: Decide what actions will have a positive impact and plan them out from start to finish.
  • Recruit volunteers: Gather friends, family, and community members to help execute your project.
  • Document your work: Take photos, save documents, and get testimonials that you can use in your college applications.

Enroll in Academic Programs

Enhancing your academic skills over the summer can also be beneficial. Many colleges and universities offer summer programs that allow high school students to explore various fields of study or to advance their knowledge in particular subjects.

Benefits of academic programs:

  • Explore potential majors: These programs can help you decide what you want to study in college.
  • Get college experience: Experience life on a college campus, often including using college facilities and resources.
  • Improve your transcripts: Some programs offer courses for credit that can boost your high school transcript.

Learn a New Skill or Hobby

Learning something new adds to your skill set and shows your initiative to challenge yourself. Mastering a new skill can make your application stand out, whether you learn a new language, start a blog, or play a musical instrument.

Ideas for new skills:

  • Digital skills: Coding, graphic design, or digital marketing.
  • Creative arts: Painting, writing, or photography.
  • Physical skills: Yoga, martial arts, or dance.

Get a Summer Job

A summer job can provide extra spending money and valuable experiences that demonstrate time management, responsibility, and interpersonal skills. Whether you work at a local cafe, bookstore, or corporate office, the experiences you gain will be beneficial for your college application and beyond.

Choosing the right job:

  • Look for jobs that interest you: Align a job with your long-term career goals.
  • Seek positions that offer growth: Jobs that allow you to rise to a position of responsibility show that you are trustworthy and capable.

Making the most of your summer break can significantly strengthen your college applications. By taking on leadership roles, engaging in community service, participating in academic enrichment, learning new skills, and working a summer job, you demonstrate your commitment to personal growth and community involvement. Use your summer wisely, and let your future college see the proactive steps you’ve taken to prepare for success.