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Ask the Experts: Summer Opportunities for College Prep

By Peterson's Staff updated on Sunday, January 27, 2013

Question I currently am a junior in high school. As summer approaches, I'm considering my options for activities.  I haven't really done a lot in previous summers - both summers I've been on a swim team, and after freshman year I went to swim camp, but that's about it. This summer, I will be on a swim team and I will be attending Buckeye Girls State. I'm not quite sure about the rest, however. I've been looking into summer programs, and though I've been accepted to one and plan to apply to at least one more, they're all pretty expensive. I'm considering instead to continue at my current job, plus get another in the mornings (I save at least 90% of my earnings). Would a selective university (Notre Dame, Boston College, Duke) prefer that I do an academic summer program, or is working over the summer a better plan? Thank you very much. - Laura

AnswerYou ask a very important question regarding the wisest use of your summer in terms of planning for college. It is clear to us that you are already have used past summers in a productive manner, and this is exactly what college admissions committees like to see: productive activities that relate to your personal interests and goals. In your case, training for swimming competition together with summer employment so that you can put money away are an ideal combination of a healthy and productive summer. You do not need to spend money on summer academic programs if you are a good student and are taking the higher level academic courses offered in your high school.

 

Question When is it a good idea to take summer classes, and what are the best places to take them? - Ashley

 

AnswerEspecially if you would like to pursue an academic subject to a higher level than is available at your high school, or to fill a gap in your high school curriculum, or to advance a year in a subject area, a summer class or two, or a comprehensive summer academic program could make a great deal of sense for you.

Some of you may have been participating in general types of academic summer programs through middle school and the early years of high school. By junior and senior summers, we often recommend more "serious" or "academic" programs. To start with, you might consider some of the programs at such boarding schools as Exeter (NH) or Choate (CT), which have a wide array of offerings in a supportive campus setting — particularly good for those entering 10th or 11th grade, and possibly 12th.

College campuses begin to ramp up their programs for rising juniors and seniors, and academic courses at Cornell, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Columbia, and other colleges can be quite demanding. In some cases you'll even be studying with college students from the college. Some programs, like Harvard's, last six to eight weeks and are very rigorous. Many colleges also host programs to explore such areas as medicine, engineering, communications, business, and any number of academic directions, some of which are more interdisciplinary, others more pre-professional or experiential.

Staying home and working, volunteering, or relaxing does not mean you can't pursue an academic interest. In fact, taking a course or two at your local community college or campus of your state university system is an inexpensive, flexible, and excellent way to go, and one that college admissions offices will regard highly. If you do reasonably well, your course credits will likely transfer once you enter college full time.

 

Question My son, a junior, works at the YMCA as a jr. counselor during the summer months. He also works after school one day a week as an assistant to the soccer instructor. Question isn't it more valuable for him, from a college admissions view, to do something he excels at and loves doing rather than taking summer courses at the colleges? Or paying for high-profile volunteer "camps"? - helen

AnswerYour son should continue to commit to the things he enjoys and is good at. Commitment and leadership are important qualities to develop, and ones that colleges certainly do appreciate. We agree: no need to pay for expensive opportunities to experience work or volunteerism if you are already able to find these opportunities close to home and in activities related to your core interests (such as a sport or camping). We encourage many students who have been involved in their summer camp for many years and who are excited about becoming a counselor to stay with it rather than changing course. They have earned their positions of responsibility and trust. Should he add an academic course in the summer? Possibly, if there is an academic subject he would like to develop further, and/or one that he is unable to pursue during the school year. Often this is a good thing to consider during the summer prior to senior year, again, if there is interest.

 

Question I have two questions: What kind of summer work can a student do to impress colleges besides a job at the local supermarket? I will only be 15 this summer so what kind of jobs can someone underage get? Thank you! - Francesca

AnswerWorking at something during high school is important, and many students need to work during the summer, and during the school year, to earn money to help support themselves, and to put money away for college. What impresses colleges is commitment and initiative. It's great when you can work at a job that allows you to grow and to develop personal interests. For example, you can work at a veterinary office or hospital if you have an interest in animal sciences, or at a local restaurant or hotel if you are interested in hospitality and business. Mowing lawns and babysitting are fine for earning money, especially if you are a freshman or sophomore who cannot drive or qualify for other positions. As you get older, you might be able to get more career-oriented jobs, such as working for a bank or law firm, interning at a fashion magazine or newspaper, or helping with draft and design work for an architect or builder. Any work experience you get is good for you.

 

Question i have a question, and im not sure if it makes much sense so im just gonna try to explain it the way i see things and so you guys can tell me what you think. Okey so i wanted to apply to a summer program at barnard one because i feel that i wanted to take a liberal arts class since most of my classes is science and math and i felt that since Barnard is my dream school it would make sense to take there that way i also get a feeling of the school, you know, But since i am lower middle class and an immigrant i took the cheaper program which is one week intensive Precollege at Barnard and i got 2/3 grant.

After i got in and accepted my counselor called me and told me that NYU Summer program wants to have students from my HS participating and that she wanted to recommend me to it since she liked my transcript records, NYU was also going to provide me with a 4000 scholarship, so i accepted and a week ago i found out that yes i was chosen along with a classmate to go to the program, which starts the same day as Barnard, is in the afternoon and lasts six weeks.

Now my question is when i apply to Barnard and they see this in my record that i participated in both programs if i chose to do so, will they take it badly. Is it a good idea to attend this NYU program when i am also attending the Barnard one which is one week long?

P.S i wanna let you guys know that i decided to go for the NYU program after knowing i was already in Barnard because i feel that i should take every opportunity this country provides me and not because i want to "impress" colleges.

Should i not do the NYU program, do you think this will look bad to Barnard. - jennifer

AnswerIt sounds like you have two great summer opportunities in hand. Both will help you in your quest to get into Barnard, NYU, and other selective colleges. Barnard will love the fact that you are not only taking advantage of their program, but also adding the more extensive NYU program. If you are able to manage both successfully, the combination will help you in your efforts to prepare for and gain admission to Barnard and other selective colleges and universities. Even though Barnard might be and remain your dream school, you should look at a broad list of institutions that fit your interests and overall qualifications. That will help ensure that you will open up appropriate choices, hopefully including Barnard, during your senior year. We congratulate you on reaching out for these kinds of opportunities!

 

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Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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