One of the most potent, yet underutilized ways to improve your college application is interning or volunteering while you’re still in high school.  Colleges love to see proactive students who already have a modicum of real world experience.  Ivy Admissions recommends that our students start searching for an internship as early as their Sophomore year.  


But, you shouldn’t do this just for the sake of getting into an elite university.  Finding a summer internship can give you guidance on your eventual major and career.  I have a close friend who recently graduated from one of the nation’s top nursing programs.  She realized by the beginning of her senior year, when it was too late to change majors, that she no longer wanted to be a nurse and would have preferred to study computer science.  If she had gone out of her way to volunteer at a local hospital while still in high school, she may have had that realization earlier on.


Regardless of what shape your life ultimately takes, find an internship that aligns closely with your current goals.  Interested in becoming a doctor? Shadow one! It can seem daunting but often it’s as easy as asking your pediatrician if they can connect you with someone.  Don’t limit yourself to local openings! Past Ivy Admissions students have had a great experience working with international NGOs (Non-governmental organizations) such as Humanity First.  Their Gift of Health program send students to Guatemala to provide free clinic services high-need, low-income populations.


On a similar note, campaigns are always looking for more volunteers to knock on doors, call prospective voters and lick envelopes.  It’s not the most glamorous work but it’ll give you valuable experience. Even better if it’s a cause you believe in! Additionally, starting early opens more opportunities for you later on.  The U.S. Senate selects thirty high school juniors to serve as pages every summer; they love to pick teenagers who are already engaged in the political process. But, you shouldn’t be discouraged if you don’t live in DC!  Ivy Admissions has placed students in many local senate and congressional offices.


There’s also no reason to narrow your scope to working with elected officials.  Nonprofits like the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center have summer-long programs designed to teach you the ins-and-outs of effective political organizing.  Once again, local non-profits are also a great internship source where you’ll get to do plenty of hands on work. Ivy Admissions has deep-seated relationships with great nonprofits across the nation.  One of our partners, the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, seeks to supplement public education throughout the Valley through a variety of summer programs; they’re always looking for more volunteers to help lead summer classes.  Just like shadowing a doctor, this is a great way to tell if teaching is the career for you.


While these internships impressive in their right, it’s also important to cultivate relationships while you’re working.  Getting a letter of recommendation from a local politician or staffer will go a long way towards making your application stand out.


An increasing number of companies in STEM fields offer summer internships for high schoolers.  Ivy Admissions has successfully guided students into competitive internships with tech companies such as Apple and Google and also lesser known but highly impactful internships like coding for hedge funds.  Government agencies are also a great source of summer internships; NASA offers over 100 internships each year (no word on sending you into space yet though). Some of these programs do require skills which may not be taught at your high school such as computer programming or upper-level calculus.  While Ivy Admissions may not offer computer science classes, we’re more than happy to find resources such as free online tutorials or local community college classes. Keep your eyes open for these sorts of opportunities and make sure that you have a shortlist of teachers that you can ask for a recommendation when you decide to apply.


Even if you don’t want to become a journalist, writing op-eds is a great way to boost your online profile.  Colleges have become increasingly savvy and more inclined to research their prospective students’ presence online.  Needless to say, admissions officers much prefer seeing a well reasoned op-ed rather than Facebook photos of you partying.  The Huffington Post and Wall Street Journal have made a point of publishing younger writers in recent years. However, you don’t need to have something published in a big-name news site.  Even writing something for your local newspaper is impressive and can go a long way towards building a portfolio. Editors love to hear from diverse perspectives and are eager to work with aspiring writers.  Consistency is key here. Publishing frequently show admissions officers a strong work ethic beyond your academic achievements and gives you a portfolio to share alongside your application.


No matter what you want to study, there are tons of firms who want passionate students to perform important work on the ground, but these opportunities don’t just come to your doorstep.  You have to be on the lookout for them, or you can let Ivy Admissions take the stress out of the search and bring you a highly curated list of options!  We have connections across the country and will help you secure a great internship so you can pull ahead of the pack once applications start.  Many marquee internships are incredibly competitive and turn down tons of qualified applicants each year. But there are tons of worthwhile opportunities that slip under most people’s radar because they’re not highly publicized.  We’ll identify a variety of internships for our students and have the inside scoop on what to expect from them, thanks to our contacts with many Ivy Admissions alumni. This service and network is a rarity among college consultants and we love to include it for our clients.