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Summer is just around the corner. High school students quite rightly think of summer as a time to relax and enjoy time with their friends. And they certainly should make sure to rest and have fun. But that should not be the only thing that college-bound students do over the summer.

While it is tempting to want to kick up their heels all summer long, college-bound high school students will want to pursue some activities during the summer to make their applications more competitive. That doesn’t mean that they can’t relax as well, but they should budget their summer to be both productive and take some time for much-needed relaxation. Read on for some suggestions about what students can do over the summer to boost their college applications.


If there is any activity guaranteed to help students do well on their standardized on tests, write excellent college application essays, and succeed in their college classes, it is reading. What students read is up to them, but reading widely—books, magazines, newspapers—will help students build vocabulary, reading comprehension, get a sense of what makes for good writing (and writing that is easy to read for others), and do better in their courses.

What’s more, in addition to being educational and important to improving high school and college performance, reading is fun! So choose high-quality material (think newspapers, current events magazines, novels, non-fiction, etc.) that are of interest and get reading. For inspiration, consider checking out your local library or bookstore; the staff can often give personalized recommendations.

Volunteer or do an internship.

All students, whether they are about to apply to college or are earlier in their high school careers, can benefit from doing activities that allow them to explore their interests. Students should seek out activities that appeal to them, not activities that they believe will “look good to admissions officers.”

The truth is, admissions officers are most impressed by students who know what they are passionate about and do activities that allow them to further pursue those interests. Students should think about what they are excited about doing or learning more about and do activities that will allow them to learn more.

Let’s say, for instance, that a student is interested in becoming a veterinarian. S/he might volunteer at an animal shelter. If a student is interested in journalism, s/he might get in touch with a local newspaper to see if an internship might be possible. Students should consider what it is they enjoy doing or want to learn more about. Once they have done that, they can look for opportunities in their communities (or farther afield) to explore those interests.

Getting a summer job to earn money can also be a good option. In addition to helping students earn their own funds, students are likely to learn skills that will be a useful in college, such as time management and taking initiative.

Take classes at a community college.

Students can also explore their interests by taking classes at a local community college. It is possible that those classes may count toward requirements at college later. Regardless of whether they get college credit later, however, taking classes in subjects that interest them will allow students to further pursue their passions and figure out where they want to go in the future.

Students about to apply to college should begin thinking about their college essays.

Good college essays are thoughtful essays. Take some time to look over essay prompts; figure out which one most applies. Do some self-reflection based on the prompt and take some time to jot down what comes to mind; these notes will be helpful when writing the essay.

Thinking about those essays ahead of time can help take some of the stress out of the process, too. By starting early, students will have more time to think through their ideas, improve them, and make sure they are reflected in their essays. Students don’t necessarily have to finish their essays in the summer to reap the benefits starting early on their applications. Serious reflection is an important element of writing a good personal statement. That said, students might consider beginning to draft their essays in the summer, since they will likely be less busy and have fewer obligations then as opposed to during the school year.


Make the most of your summer by doing some or all of the ideas above. But be sure to work in some time for some well-deserved rest and fun, too!

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