What I did on my summer vacation....
The weather is warming, and school days for this academic year are dwindling.
How will you spend your summer vacation?
It's tempting to think about days by the pool or in the backyard, vacations to a theme park or camping, or binge watching a series on Netflix.
But don't overlook the fact that the long days of summer can also be a part of your college search and preparation process!
Does that mean you have to spend the summer working an internship in a windowless office? Of course not! However, take the time the consider the skills you are developing as a part of your summer job. If you're twirling a whistle at the community pool as a lifeguard, talk with your supervisor about taking on additional leadership responsibilities. If you are creating delicious lattes as a barista, cultivate a positive relationship with the manager so that he or she can describe you as a valued employee.
And during your off hours? Do some NON-required summer reading. Admissions officers at colleges often ask, "Tell me about your favorite book." If your answer is limited to Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, or the usual literary standards that you were required to read for your English course, it will be clear that you're not curious enough to read beyond what's required.
Here's a good list of books college applicants should have read: 101 Great Books.
Keep up with the news. Spend a few moments reading a major newspaper on line every morning. You should be able to say something intelligent about US politics, or about major issues abroad. If asked what your views are on Edward Snowden, don't confuse him with Edward Cullen.
Wait. They do look a lot alike, don't they? Has anyone seen them both in the same place?
You may also have received invitations to take expensive "pre college" courses at a prestigious university, or to participate in a "leadership program" at the state or US capital. While these are certainly great experiences, don't assume that they are a ticket to college admissions. Many of them are for-profit programs that prey on students' and families' quest for a competitive college application. In most cases, colleges see only that the family had the money to invest in the program, and don't view these programs as significant achievements.
The New York Times discusses leadership camps: Congratulations! It's an Honor! (It's a Sales Pitch):
So, no matter what you do, take initiative. Develop a skill. Be a leader. Read something you're not forced to. Develop well-reasoned opinions about significant events or ideas.
And wear sunscreen.