Summers and Extracurriculars
How you spend your summers and what you do with your "free" time can contribute to your college process:
In general, colleges want to see that you are active and interesting; what you do with your summers can help colleges know about what you like and enjoy. You do not have to do “high priced” experiences to be competitive. Often, staying in Charlotte and pursuing something in your “own backyard” is going to be helpful to your applications.
- Rest, rejuvenate, sleep.
- Read, read, read.
- Go on a family trip. With as busy as you are during the school year, a trip to the beach or to a family reunion is a great way to spend part of your summer.
- Get a part-time job; colleges love students who work.
- Travel. There are lots of programs for study abroad in the summer. Perhaps you are interested in a language immersion. Perhaps you will take a trip with Country Day’s International Studies office. Try a homestay experience. A program where you are learning to speak the language or living in the culture is often considered a better option than a sightseeing kind of trip. (*Note: the outdoor adventure kinds of trips are great experiences, but they are high-priced and colleges are aware of that. Do these if you love the outdoors, but keep in mind how colleges look at these trips).
- Attend a summer academic program at a college. Many colleges invite students to live in the dorms, take a few classes, and experience life on a college campus. If you have a favorite school, visit their web site and type in “summer programs” in the Search tab to see what might be available. If you do well in your courses, professors might be someone you can ask to write a recommendation for you. Just remember that attending a summer academic program does not necessarily enhance your likelihood of admission at that college or others.
- Attend a summer camp in an area you enjoy. There are camps for creative writing, engineering, architecture, art, photography, film—so many options. Try something you think you may be interested in studying in college.
- Volunteer. Think about your gifts and talents, how could you put those to work in a volunteer opportunity? Are you a computer whiz? Could you help older adults in a retirement community? Are you a lacrosse player? Could you help with a summer camp at Country Day or offer lessons in your neighborhood? Are you a book fiend? Is there a library that could use your talents? Volunteering in your community is a real bonus to your college applications.
- Leadership programs, like outdoor adventure trips, are often very costly. The content is good; you will hear great speakers and you will be with like-minded students from across the nation and world. These programs often send very formal impressive looking invitations to participate. It is likely they got your name and address from standardized tests that you’ve taken or perhaps from a recommendation by a faculty member. The “value-add” for these programs for college applications is minimal.
Similar to what you do with your summers, what you do during the school year is important. What story do you want to tell when you are applying to colleges?
There is not one “best” activity to fill your time outside of class. What do you enjoy? What do you think you would enjoy? Start doing those things in an intentional way.
Think in categories:
Academic pursuits/Academic honors
What do you hope to learn and do in your time in the Upper School?
There are no parameters and no formula for extracurriculars for the college admission process. The most selective colleges look for a depth in involvement rather than a breadth of involvement. Is there a way that your activity gives you local, state, or national attention? Does your academic passion lead you to do research in the summer? Are you the best soccer goalie in the region? Are you doing something great for the good of your community?
What IMPACT are you making? Colleges want students who will add value to their college community in meaningful ways. How will you contribute?