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To Report or Not to Report? The Strategy Behind Listing Your Summer Activities

Students and parents ask me all the time to weigh in on summer opportunities. They ask me, "Is it worth it?" I have different responses depending on what they propose. If it's meaningful to the student, I encourage them to pursue it. But there's only so much a student can do in the summer, and they are often disappointed when they hear something they want to do or actually did is not necessarily valued by elite colleges.

As I prepared for my recent Facebook Live session on making the most of summer vacation, I was struck by an important criteria for students and parents to consider:

Is this activity or experience "reportable" on the college application?

In other words, if the student does this, is it something they can list on the "Extracurricular" section of the application and will colleges care? Now don't get me wrong, students shouldn't make decisions based on what colleges want to see on their applications. However, when a family is faced with sacrificing a summer vacation or not paying bills to allow their child to do something special over the summer, they should know if it's worth it.

Here is a foolproof list of whether an activity is reportable or not reportable on the application.

Not reportable but could be meaningful to do in the summer:
  • Studying for standardized tests.
  • Visiting colleges.
  • Doing summer reading for senior year classes.
  • Hanging out with friends.
  • Family vacation.
  • Exercising simply to stay healthy.
  • Pay-to-play summer programs on college campuses and abroad.
  • Pay-to-play community service trips.
  • On-line classes at colleges (even the elite ones) that do not give credit AND a grade to the student.
  • Working on college applications
  • Attending a camp (like sleepaway camp) as a camper.
  • Playing video games (my son will be disappointed to hear this one!). 
  • High school classes taken over the summer (but double-check that the class appears on the student's transcript in advance). 

"Not everything you do has to be "reportable." In fact, a well-rounded summer can reinvigorate you come fall." TWEET THIS 

  • Summer job (don't be afraid of the more manual jobs as they are more impressive than one might think!).
  • Internship (paid or unpaid).
  • Shadowing experience.
  • Doing any personal hobby as long as there is a goal in mind which then makes it more of a PURSUIT: training for a marathon, writing a draft of a novel, sewing to create a fashion line, building an art portfolio for an upcoming exhibit, recording music for a performance or album.
  • Independent research which leads to a paper or project.
  • Being a camp counselor.
  • Babysitting younger siblings.
  • Taking a real college class (community colleges are the best because they are low cost!) for credit AND a grade. 
  • Significant training for a blue-chip athlete.
  • Volunteer work (if it's local, it shouldn't cost the family anything!).
  • Fully-funded academic/art/leadership programs (Boys State/Girls State, Governor's School, MITES at MIT, etc.).
  • Creating own business.
  • Building a website.
  • Blogging.
  • Tutoring someone else.

I could keep going because there are so many things a high school student can do over the summer. It doesn't have to be structured like a job or internship. It can be self-directed too. If you think of any other opportunities and want to know if they are reportable, let me know and I am happy to weigh in. 

Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend, everyone! Let's kick off Summer 2018 with purpose and fun!