Summer’s Value for College Admission Applications (How To: Admissions Part 2)

SC Test Prep

Last time, I wrote about what actually takes place during the admission process and explained how the components of an application work together to result in either admission or denial. Standardized test scores, GPA, class rigor, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, application essays, and demonstrated interest all can play a role in determining the final decision. The question is, how can students (or their parents) ensure that their applications are as strong as possible in each area?

Unfortunately, when it comes to GPA, class rigor, and even letters of recommendation, there really isn’t a secret or trick although I know parents wish there were. Invested, responsible, and conscientious students are usually successful at the high school and college level and those qualities show in their class work and behavior. SC Test Prep can certainly help with standardized test scores and as a consultant I spend hours working with students on their individual essays.

What is more difficult and time-consuming, and what often requires more long-term planning, is maximizing a student’s level of demonstrated interest and their extracurricular activities. Luckily, summer is the perfect time for both! Here are some ideas on how to make the most of your vacation:

Visit schools!

Recently, I was told of a highly selective institution in the Southeast that will wait list an applicant with a 4.0 GPA and combined Critical Reading and Math score of 1600 if they have not demonstrated sufficient interest. There are multiple schools moving in this direction, but the simplest solution is to visit campus. Not only will it likely help your application, it is also the best way to decide if a school is a good fit for you. If after spending a day on campus you can’t imagine yourself living there for four years, it probably shouldn’t be on your list.


Volunteer, but spend your time wisely. As I mentioned in my last post, admission counselors will not be impressed by a few Saturdays at the soup kitchen or by one week spent helping out at Vacation Bible School. Instead, they are looking for duration of commitment and depth of involvement. Think one day a week throughout the summer working at a community center or nursing home or a months-long stint as a senior counselor at a camp you used to attend. If you know what you would like to study or the career you are interested in, even better. Find something related and you will present yourself as being dedicated to your future plans and attempting to make the most of your high school years.

Get a job!

Though it may not sound as impressive as some volunteer opportunities, in reality many admission offices view a 20-25 hour a week job as requiring the same sort of commitment. Again, a student is demonstrating that they are dependable, hardworking, and willing to do what it takes to succeed. Moreover, as with volunteerism, if a student can find opportunities within their proposed field of study, even better! To an admission office, what better way can a student prepare for a career in medicine than by working in a doctor’s office or for a career in law than by working for an attorney?

In some ways a student’s application and particularly extracurricular activities are all about appearances. The surest way for an applicant to appear lazy or disinterested to an admission office is to sit around all summer. Take my advice. I can’t guarantee it will result in acceptances, but I can guarantee it will change the way your or your student’s applications are viewed!