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You already know that competition to get into college is pretty fierce. So instead of sleeping away the balmy summer months, why not secure a great job, sharpen your skills at a first-rate camp, help out with a community service project, or trek around the world with a summer program? Not only will you have a ball, but these experiences really help you shine on your college applications.

Join a study abroad summer program

Thinking of studying a foreign language when you get to college? Why not take advantage of all of the summer study-abroad opportunities available? If you have experience in a second language under your belt, then you pretty much qualify for these types of summer programs, which can range anywhere from two weeks to two months of study in an exotic locale. And when we say study, we mean that yes, you will spend some time in a classroom, but you’ll also have a ton of time to see all the sights.

Find a summer youth program

Camp is not just for kids. There are tons of camps for teens, too — camps that aren’t the traditional smack-mosquitoes-in-the-woods type, but camps where you can focus on your academics, the arts, sports, or other special interests. If you want to improve your jump shot, for example, then why not sign up for basketball camp? Or if you need a supportive place to let your creative juices flow, then a summer camp program designed for artists can help you take your work to the next level.

Participate in community service
Volunteering either on your own or with a student summer program is a great way to get your foot in the door to your dream career. For example, if you’re interested in a career in medicine, you could volunteer a few hours a week at a hospital or nursing-care facility. If you think you might like to try journalism, check with your local newspaper to see what internship opportunities are available. You could also volunteer to do some community service with your local church or synagogue.

Colleges and universities absolutely love students who put out the extra effort to help others in exchange for nothing, other than that warm and fuzzy feeling of doing something good (which, in and of itself, is a great reason to volunteer).

Land a great summer job

If you’re not into summer programs, securing a summer job is an excellent way to show colleges, universities, and your parents that you are maturing into a responsible, successful adult. And what better way to earn a little respect and gain valuable real-world experience — not to mention cash! There are literally thousands of jobs out there, and employers welcome high school students looking to earn a little summer cash.

So where should you begin looking? Well, the classified ads in your newspaper are a great place to start. Employers who seek seasonal employees generally start advertising job openings in the spring.