As the school year comes to a close, many rising seniors take stock and evaluate what they're doing in their extracurricular life. They anticipate filling out the activities section of their college applications and in that instant, everything comes into focus. Sometimes a passion emerges late in the year or they realize an interest in an academic area but don't have any experience in the field. The beauty of being a high school student is that it's never too late to fill in the gap. If something is missing, there is time on their side.
Recently I started working with a strong academic student who is involved in an array of extracurricular activities. She wants to apply to a number of elite colleges in the fall. While her academic record, test scores, and involvement will make her competitive, she understands how selective the admissions process is. Over the second half of her junior year, she discovered a rare form of art which she not only excelled at but was enamored by.
When it came time to decide what she was going to do this summer, she asked me if she should attend an academic program for high school students on a college campus. I told her that would be the expected path for her and what a lot of students would be doing. Instead, I told her to go after that rare form art. It would cost her parents nothing and she would gain a whole lot more as a result.
"It's never too late to fill in the gaps in your #college applications" TWEET THIS
My student started emailing and calling every art studio in her area. She found just a few studios who do the same art she wants to do. When they didn't return her emails or calls, I told her to keep trying. She just needed one of them to say "yes" to her. And that's exactly what happened. With some targeted and heartfelt follow-up, she's on her way to developing this interest over the summer and gaining a mentor along the way.
For students who feel like they need something meaningful to enhance an extracurricular activity or possibly need to back up an academic interest, summer is the answer. Here are five ways to do something this summer that will give you an opportunity of a lifetime and strengthen your college application:
- Reach out to a company, individual, or organization you want to work with. Write the best email you've ever written providing reasons why you want to work there.
- If you don't get an answer, call them. It's much harder for them to say "no" when they hear your voice and your ambition.
- Offer to work for free. If it means you need to have a part-time job this summer to pursue a non-paying opportunity, do it. You won't regret it.
- Be willing to do anything—even manual work if it means you can be a part of something greater.
- Seek out a mentor while you're there. They can give you advice as you embark on pursuing this interest further.
Students' interests and passions are often just developing in high school. When they find that special thing they want to do with their lives (or for the time being), they can use the summer to pursue it. They will get much more than college acceptances by using the summer to catapult this interest. They will gain a better understanding of themselves and this will translate into personal fulfillment and professional success down the road.