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What to Do the Summer Before Senior Year to Impress Colleges

a lifeguard sits in a tall chair overlooking the beach and water


As a high school student approaching your senior year, you know college applications are right around the corner. Fortunately, summer gives you a valuable opportunity to engage in activities that showcase your strengths, commitment, and readiness for the challenges that lie ahead. 

This article will explore things you can do the summer before your senior year to prepare for application season and impress colleges. Because using your time wisely this summer can make a significant difference in the college admissions process, we encourage you to make the most of it. 


Volunteering is seen favorably in the eyes of college admissions officers, as they value students who actively engage in their communities and demonstrate a commitment to making a positive impact. By volunteering, you can contribute to a worthy cause and impress colleges with your dedication and compassion.

For instance, you might volunteer at a local food bank to help distribute meals to those in need. This experience showcases your empathy and highlights your willingness to address societal challenges. Alternatively, you could volunteer at an animal shelter to care for and provide companionship to abandoned or abused animals. Again, this demonstrates your love for animals and ability to show kindness and compassion in challenging situations.

By actively engaging in volunteer work, you demonstrate to college admissions officers that you care about causes and possess the qualities of responsibility, empathy, and commitment they seek in prospective students. 

Get a Summer Job

Securing a summer job or internship demonstrates your ability to handle responsibilities and showcases your readiness for the challenges of college life. It also provides an excellent opportunity to save money for your college education.

There are abundant job options that offer financial benefits and valuable experience. For instance, becoming a lifeguard requires responsibility, strong communication skills, and remaining calm under pressure. In addition, lifeguarding teaches essential life-saving techniques and shows your commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of others. This experience can be particularly valuable if you're considering a healthcare, sports, or public service career.

Working as a camp counselor is another rewarding job that offers a unique set of skills and experiences. As a camp counselor, you can mentor and guide younger campers, develop leadership skills, and create a positive and inclusive environment. This job shows your ability to work collaboratively with others, adapt to different situations, and provide meaningful experiences for children.

Internships are also valuable options for gaining experience and building your professional network. They allow you to explore a specific field and gain practical knowledge and skills. Whether you intern at a local company, nonprofit organization, or research institution, the experience can provide insights into your desired career path while enhancing your resume.

It's worth noting that some jobs can lead to scholarship opportunities. For example, certain companies or organizations may offer scholarships exclusively to their employees or provide financial aid programs for students pursuing higher education. By actively seeking out job opportunities, you gain valuable work experience and increase your chances of accessing financial support for college.

By pursuing a summer job, whether it's as a lifeguard, camp counselor, intern, or in any other capacity, you demonstrate to colleges your ability to handle responsibilities, manage your time effectively, and contribute to the workforce. Additionally, the experience and skills gained from these jobs can positively impact your personal and professional development, making you a more well-rounded and competitive candidate in the eyes of college admissions officers.

Ask for Letters of Recommendation

Requesting recommendation letters from teachers, mentors, or others who know you well is a fundamental step in the college application process. Approach this task strategically and give your recommenders ample time to craft thoughtful and personalized letters, like during the summer break. Here are some points to consider when asking for recommendation letters:

  1. Choose the right recommenders: Select individuals who have significantly impacted your academic or personal development. This could include teachers who have taught subjects relevant to your desired field of study, coaches who have witnessed your growth and dedication, or mentors who have guided you in extracurricular activities or community service.

  2. Ask in person: Whenever possible, approach potential recommenders to discuss your college aspirations, goals, and why you believe they would be the ideal person to write your recommendation letter. This personal interaction allows them to understand your motivations and highlights the depth of your relationship.

  3. Provide necessary information: When making the request, share relevant information about yourself, such as your academic achievements, extracurricular involvements, and any specific experiences or projects you would like them to mention in the letter. This information will help them tailor the letter to reflect your unique qualities and accomplishments.

  4. Give a timeline: Clearly communicate the deadlines for submitting the recommendation letters and give your recommenders ample time to complete the task. Ideally, approach them well in advance, preferably during the summer before your senior year, to ensure they have sufficient time to write a thoughtful and impactful letter.

  5. Provide guidance and materials: Offer your recommenders a copy of your resume, a brief summary of your accomplishments, and any specific requirements or prompts outlined by the colleges you are applying to. This information will assist them in writing a comprehensive and well-rounded letter that aligns with the expectations of college admissions officers.

  6. Express gratitude: Remember to express your sincere appreciation for their willingness to write a recommendation letter on your behalf. Recognize the time and effort they will invest in supporting your college application process.

These letters play a crucial role in highlighting your character, achievements, and potential to college admissions officers, ultimately strengthening your college applications. So why not take the summer to ask for them

Participate in Leadership Roles

Engaging in leadership roles within clubs or organizations during your senior year can significantly enhance your college applications and demonstrate your ability to take the initiative and make a positive impact. Here are some details to consider when participating in leadership roles:

  1. Choose relevant clubs or organizations: Select those that align with your interests, passions, or academic pursuits. For example, consider joining clubs related to your intended field of study, community service organizations, cultural or diversity clubs, or student government associations.

  2. Seek leadership positions: Once you have joined a club or organization, actively pursue leadership opportunities. This could involve running for a club officer position, such as president, vice president, secretary, or treasurer. Alternatively, you can take on project management roles or lead specific organizational initiatives.

  3. Demonstrate commitment and dedication: As a leader, showcase your commitment and dedication by actively participating in club activities, attending meetings regularly, and taking responsibility for organizing events or projects. Displaying reliability and enthusiasm will contribute to the club's success and highlight your leadership qualities.

  4. Foster collaboration and teamwork: Encourage collaboration and foster a positive team environment within the club or organization. By delegating tasks, actively listening to members' ideas and concerns, and promoting inclusivity, you can demonstrate your ability to lead and work effectively with others.

  5. Document your achievements: Record your leadership accomplishments, including any positive outcomes, increased membership, successful events, or notable contributions to the club or organization. This documentation will be valuable when it comes time to update your resume or write about your leadership experiences in college applications.

By actively participating in leadership roles within clubs or organizations, you demonstrate your ability to take charge, collaborate effectively, and make a positive impact. These experiences highlight your leadership skills and showcase your commitment to personal and community growth. Admissions officers appreciate students who show initiative, responsibility, and the ability to inspire others, making your involvement in leadership roles a valuable asset on your college applications.

Apply for Scholarships

The summer months provide an ideal opportunity to start your scholarship search, allowing you to maximize your chances of finding cash for college. While some scholarships may not accept applications until later, compiling a comprehensive list of potential scholarships now is helpful. 

Start by researching local scholarships offered by community organizations, businesses, or foundations in your area. These scholarships are often tailored to students within specific geographic regions or those who meet certain criteria, such as academic achievements, extracurricular involvement, or unique talents. Targeting these scholarships increases your chances of receiving financial support from within your community.

Additionally, explore national and international scholarships available to students with diverse backgrounds, interests, and goals. Organizations such as foundations, corporations, professional associations, and nonprofit institutions often offer scholarships based on various criteria, ranging from academic excellence to community service, leadership abilities, or specific career aspirations. Cast a wide net and consider scholarships aligned with your strengths, passions, and future ambitions.

With all of that, staying updated on scholarship deadlines and requirements is essential, even if they fall later in the year. Mark the deadlines on your calendar and create a detailed timeline to ensure you have ample time to gather necessary documents, write essays, and secure recommendation letters. Being proactive during the summer allows you to start working on scholarship applications early, reducing stress and increasing your chances of submitting strong and polished applications.

Remember, the more scholarships you apply for, the greater your chances of receiving financial aid. Even smaller scholarships can add up and make a significant difference in reducing your college expenses. By dedicating time during the summer to explore and compile a diverse range of scholarships, you position yourself for greater financial opportunities and ensure a smoother transition into college without the burden of excessive student debt.

Research Colleges & Universities

The summer provides a valuable opportunity to conduct thorough research on potential colleges and universities, allowing you to make informed decisions about your future academic journey and, ideally, build a balanced college list. 

Start by considering the size of the institution. Reflect on whether you thrive in a larger community with diverse opportunities, extensive resources, and a bustling campus environment or if you prefer a smaller, more intimate setting with closer relationships with professors and classmates. Research colleges and universities that fall within your preferred size range, noting specific features, benefits, and drawbacks associated with each.

Next, contemplate the setting that best suits your lifestyle and academic goals. Determine whether you thrive in a city's vibrancy and cultural offerings or if a serene and tight-knit community in a rural location is more appealing. Research colleges located in different settings and evaluate their advantages and disadvantages in terms of extracurricular opportunities, access to internships or job placements, and overall quality of life.

Another essential factor to consider is the academic programs and majors offered by each institution. Reflect on your passions, interests, and long-term career goals. Research colleges are known for their strong programs in your desired field of study. Explore the course offerings, faculty expertise, research opportunities, and internship connections that align with your academic ambitions. Creating a list of colleges that offer programs of interest will significantly assist you during the application process in the fall.

Utilize online resources such as college websites, virtual tours, and interactive college search tools to gather comprehensive information about each institution. Take advantage of college fairs or information sessions offered during the summer, either in-person or virtually. Engage with current students or alumni through online platforms or networking events to gain firsthand insights into their experiences and perspectives.

Going into your senior year with a list of colleges aligning with your preferences, such as size, setting, and academic programs, will streamline the application process when the fall arrives. Ultimately, this preparation will help you select the institutions that are the best fit for your goals, increasing your chances of finding a college or university where you can thrive and excel academically.

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