Very few high school students appreciate how unique their summers are.  You have few responsibilities and an enormous amount of free time.  While you spend some of it having fun and catching up with friends, you should find a way to improve your college admissions profile.  This can be done in a variety of ways including internships, personal projects and summer classes.  Regardless how you decide to structure your summer, it’s an opportunity to take the initiative, spread your wings and explore your interests – all things that admissions officers love to see.

Finding an internship or consistent volunteering opportunity in a field you want to study is a great way to learn about a potential academic or career path.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, one-third of college students change their major at least once.  This is especially common for students who major in STEM.  A driver of this is that students realize they aren’t truly passionate about their first degree choice.  You can nip this problem in the bud by exploring a potential major while still in high school.  Students who are interested in environmental science can volunteer at a nature conservancy, or if you want to study medicine, shadowing a doctor can be helpful.  Many large companies and non-profits such as Google and The Metropolitan Museum of Art offer wonderful internships for high schoolers.  Additionally, don’t discount the power of just asking organizations for an internship.  In high school, I interned for a well-known New York City interfaith group by just sending an email to one of the program’s directors.  The internship search can take anywhere from three to six months, so ideally you would begin searching during winter break for your summer internship.

If you can’t find an internship that fits your interests, you can also use summers as an opportunity to work on personal projects.  If you’re interested in getting a creative writing degree, perhaps you could spend a summer trying to get some pieces published.  A friend of mine from high school spent the summer before his senior year writing a play and then produced it in our high school’s theatre the following fall.  The danger in working on a personal project is that it’s easy to fall into a state of inertia, so make sure you have a strict schedule for your project and can produce tangible results at its end.

Lastly, taking summer classes is a good use of your summer.  Try to take classes in a discipline that your high school doesn’t offer.  Maybe that includes computer science or Latin.  If possible, try to create some sort of capstone to your summer studies.  That will make your summer course selection even more impressive.

Those precious summer months aren’t just a time for BBQs and late-night bike rides; they should also be used to expand your horizons through internships, personal projects and classes.  Admissions officers love to see high schoolers who don’t stop learning when the summer starts.  A great project or internship can easily give you a boost over other applicants with similar grades and test scores.  And even though the summer is half-way over, it isn’t too late to get started!  So, what’re you waiting for?