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How to Plan a Stand-Out Summer Opportunity

If you are a high school student already looking forward to your summer, now is the perfect time to start planning activities and experiences that are both memorable for you and impressive to top colleges.

Veritas Education works hard to ensure students have the tools and mindset to stand out on their college applications so they can attend the school that best fits their goals. We know top schools in the United States have incredibly competitive admissions rates. The students who are admitted to these schools have distinguished themselves from the rest as stand-out applicants.

Take a look at this pyramid that shows what top schools are looking for:

The pyramid begins with a strong foundation of academic skills and achievement. The vast majority of applicants to these top schools are bringing with them very high test scores and GPAs. So how do you stand out among a lot of high-achieving and deserving applicants? The secret lies at the top of the pyramid.

Applicants are successful when they demonstrate to colleges that they are core contributors to their local community, to society, and to their future college home. During the school year, you are naturally building evidence that you are a confident learner, a self-starter, and a thoughtful communicator. Summer break is the perfect time to focus on the top of the pyramid. Challenge yourself to find a summer opportunity that will distinguish you as a core contributor to the admissions committee.

We have 5 ideas that hopefully will inspire you to pursue a stand-out summer opportunity:

1. Community Volunteering

Volunteering with an organization for a long-term summer placement allows you to make a positive impact on your community or on a group of people. Many summer enrichment programs are looking for older students to mentor younger students with learning needs. By volunteering with other people, you can learn patience, empathy, and teamwork.

We often think of leadership as something that requires a title like “director” or “team captain.” But being a leader is mostly about making an impact. If you are looking for leadership opportunities to add to your college application, volunteering is a great way to develop some of those skills.

Try VolunteerMatch to search for volunteer opportunities in your area. Of course, you should check out BranchOut!, as it offers several options for you to contribute this summer. Whether it is app development, mentorship, or journal writing, we have something for everyone!

2. Taking Advantage of Travel

Some families take advantage of the time off of school in the summer and plan trips! No matter how far away you will be from home or whether you are traveling alone or with someone else, every travel experience expands your horizons and gives you an opportunity to contribute. Travel builds empathy, creativity, and independence as students encounter new cultures, people, and settings.

If your family has planned a trip this summer, do some research beforehand and learn a bit more about the place you are going. What about the destination excites you? If you want to study biology in college, spend some time observing the local plant life in your destination. Write a report when you’re back home comparing the local ecology. If you are interested in history, visit a museum or organize an interview with a local from the area. Send your interview to your local newspaper to get it published and build connections between cultures. A creative student may come back from a trip with a portfolio of photos or drawings.

There are many organizations offering summer and school-year study abroad programs designed for high schoolers including the Council on International Educational Exchange, EF Tours, and Rustic Pathways.

3. Shadowing Professionals

Job shadowing is a short-term work experience that will help you learn more about certain professions. If you are interested in applying to college as a pre-med student, spend some time this summer shadowing a doctor or medical researcher. A shadowing experience may confirm for you that this is the work you feel passionate about. On the other hand, you could also learn that a particular job doesn’t feel like the best fit. Shadowing is a very unique look into what future jobs are available to you and will help you do deep thinking about your passions. You’ll enter college application season more sure of your goals.

To find job shadowing opportunities, do some research on what jobs a history, or english, or physics major might go into after college. Find someone working in that field near you and reach out! They may feel really excited about showing a high school student what they do on a day-to-day basis. If you don’t get a response from everyone you reach out to, try not to take it personally, these are busy professionals.

4. Academic or Extracurricular Competitions

There are countless academic and arts-related competitions year-round, including the Academic Decathlon, BEST Robotics, Congressional Art Competition, John Locke Insitute’s Essay Competition, and YoungArts Competition. If you struggle to find extra time to devote to a team or individual competition during the school year, take advantage of your free time during the summer.

Entering a competition demonstrates to anyone reading your resume that you are a passionate self-starter and that you are willing to put in the effort to contribute something to society. In a science fair, your project can offer a solution to an ongoing environmental problem. In an art competition, you are sharing your talent with the public and contributing to the conversation around visual arts. You can really strengthen your leadership skills by joining a group competition. You will get experience recruiting a team, compromising between people with different perspectives, and problem-solving.

5. Personal Projects

A personal project is something you define for yourself! This is the perfect summer opportunity to build your deep thinking skills by focusing on a passion or talent of yours and exploring it in an authentic way. If you do not have the resources to travel or enter a competition, you can still produce meaningful work that contributes to a community or a field of study. It is a unique opportunity to link two of your interests together, distinguishing yourself as a candidate and creating a narrative.

For example, perhaps you are a biology student with a love for creative writing. This summer you can write a children’s book to teach young learners about biology. Volunteer to read it at your local library! Or maybe you’re hoping to study mathematics in college, but spend a lot of your free time playing tennis with your friends this summer. Research how mathematics impacts tennis! Film yourself playing tennis and analyze the video using mathematical models to improve your performance. If you are not sure what your passion/interest is, allow a professional to help you identify it. Veritas Education has many knowledgeable advisors who can help you build your passion and find creative ways to explore it.

No matter how you spend your summer, know that there are countless opportunities that align with your unique talents and interests. This spring is the time to decide how you will be a core contributor this summer and beyond.

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