Plan Your Summer, Don't Be A Bummer

Summer is RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER... if not, already here! Many students think that the summer break is the opportune time to sit around and do nothing. But the truth is that if you're in high school, how you choose to use your summer holiday can make or break your college application. 
One of the best ways to ensure that your college application is a real winner is to ensure that your summer holidays are jam-packed with meaningful activities that contribute to the career trajectory you are embarking on.

The first thing to note is that there is no one correct way to make the best of your summer. In fact, the only wrong way, is to do nothing.

Hey! We're NOT saying that you shouldn't use your summer break to relax. After spending more than half of the past year working your butt off in school, you deserve some time to "do nothing". But summer holidays tend to last for 2-3 months. Doing nothing for 2-3 months? That simply isn't impressive when you're competing against students who are utilizing that entire time to pursue their passions.

In choosing how to spend your summer, you have a myriad of options. Some students might choose the academic route and pursue some advance proficiency courses or some extra classes during the summer to bolster their academic performance and scholastic resume. That is all well and good, but, never forget that colleges are always looking for a hook.

A hook is that one special thing about you that makes you stand out in your application. Essentially, what, outside of your academic performance, would make a college choose you. Do you have any special skills, a talent or passion for which you have demonstrable experience? The summer is a very good time to fine tune this aspect of your application.

Here are some of the best ways that the AIM Team recommends you to spend your Summer holiday, and develop that HOOK: 

Yes. The emphasis is on the word meaningful.
If you're seeking out summer internships / jobs to add weight to your college application, make sure that it's a role that has you doing actual work in the respective field, not running errands or making coffee. At the end of it all, you should be able to use your experience in the space to demonstrate competence in some professional capacity. Bonus points if this job or internship is based in your intended area of study.
Don't know what you want to study yet? Summer jobs or internships are also a great way to figure out what you want to pursue! Make a list of all the careers you're interested in and find opportunities that align with them so you can learn more about them and decide if that career path really is for you, or not. 
For example:
  • Want to become a dentist? Reach out to local dentist offices and inquire about potential internship opportunities.
  • Want to become a lawyer? Reach out to local law offices to see if they need any help over the summer.
  • Want to become a veterinarian? Reach out to local vet clinics and ask about summer job opportunities. 
  • Want to become an entertainment manager? Reach out to a local talent agency / radio station / television station / recording studio and see if they need any help during the summer!
  • Want to become a teacher? Look out for summer job opportunities for summer camps!
Remember too that not every internship opportunity will be paid. If you can afford to take on a more volunteer / unpaid internship role, use this time to develop your skills! You may not be getting monetary compensation, but you will definitely be developing a professional skillset for the longterm. 
If you cannot afford to take on unpaid opportunities, that's okay too! Just ensure that the opportunities you do take on are not only paying you monetarily, but also in skill development, network and career boost.
If you really want to stick to developing your prowess in the academic route, go for it! Many prestigious colleges and universities all over the world offer summer programs that allow for exploration in specific academic topics. Enrolling in a summer program will not only advance your knowledge in a certain area, but it will also help you get accustomed to the pressure level and cognitive requirements of higher level learning.
Be sure to include a reflection on the experience in your college essays. Do you feel more prepared for college? Are you even more terrified than before? A student with a few college level courses under their belt, gives the impression of being able to handle college work and having a clear idea of area of interest.
Please note that just because you are accepted and attend a summer program at a specific college, does NOT mean that you will be granted acceptance into that college during your application cycle. 
Looking for summer programs? Join AIM's College Essentials for FREE and check out our directory of summer programs just for you. 
Volunteerism is a very good tool, not only for giving your college application a boost, but also as a means of promoting personal growth. Remember that the whole point of planning your summer holiday means that you should be engaging in activities that you are passionate about.
Interested in Physical Therapy? Volunteer at a Physio Clinic.
Interested in Aging Services? Volunteer at a Retirement Home!
Interested in the Environment? Volunteer at a local environmental agency.
Get yourself involved in community volunteer projects and even join a service organisation or charter.
Better yet, why not organise a charity project of your own! You and your friends could start a summer camp for children or some other community-centred activity. This not only shows your commitment to your passions, but also your ability to be independent and self-starting. It's a perfect show of strong leadership skills. This will contribute to a solid college application that'll ensure you stand out.
This is where you can get super creative, while also showing off those skills of independence and initiative. How you spend your summer doesn't always have to be super formal and costly. You can always make do with what you already have access to, and explore your passions on your own.
  • Taking a trip with the family? Start a vlog on YouTube showcasing your travels! Bonus points if you focus the vlog on a passion of yours. For example food, art, architecture, etc.
  • Have an interest in a topic that you'd like to share? Start a podcast about saving the environment, or dissecting tv shows, or politics. Whatever aligns with your interests!
  • Spend time teaching yourself a skill. Learn to play the guitar, teach yourself how to trade on the stock market, teach yourself how to knit! 
Use this time to identify, develop or otherwise explore a skill, hobby or passion that will help in the construction of an outstanding college application.
This is a given, but among all your other activities, including rest, ensure that you are carving out some time to review the content you'll need to know for your upcoming exams. That ranges from the ACTs and SATs, to your high school's exit exams if necessary. You don't want to find yourself with an impressive summer portfolio and poor grades.
Get a head start on your SAT Prep with AIM! Click HERE to get started now.
It's important though that you don't spend your entire summer studying for exams. You spend so much time doing that during the school year. You want to use your summer to pursue activities that you don't get a chance to explore during the school year. So if you are doing exam prep, make sure that it's not your ONLY summer plan. 
Don't forget to enjoy your summer! Study, work, rest and HAVE FUN!! It's all about the balance.

Need help finding that balance, or just need some guidance in how to plan your own, unique summer experience? Contact the AIM Online Academy today! One of our stellar college counsellors will get you on the winning path in no time!

Author: AIM Online Academy
AIM Online Academy (was AIM Educational Services) is the leading college prep provider in Jamaica, that helps students maximize their potential as they make the journey towards college in the US, UK and Canada. For over a decade, AIM's team of College Experts & Essay Coaches have assisted students from all over the Caribbean, the USA and Canada get into the college of their dreams with enough scholarship and financial aid to actually attend.

You can find out more about how AIM Online Academy can help YOU here:

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