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5 Last-Minute Summer Plans That Will Impress Ivy League Admissions Officers

May 9, 2024

As summer approaches, high school students may find themselves scrambling to find ways to make the most of their time off of school. Whether they were not accepted into their top choice programs, their internships fell through, or they simply haven’t yet made a plan, it’s imperative that students find enriching ways to spend their summers. Colleges look to students’ summer activities as a means of better understanding their passions and interests, and determining the kind of community members they will be outside of the classroom.

For those with Ivy League dreams, the pressure to maximize summers to stand out in the college admissions process can feel particularly daunting. While the deadlines for prestigious academic summer programs have passed, it’s not too late to engage in meaningful summer activities that will impress Ivy League admissions officers. While many students assume that admissions committees at top schools only care about intellectual pursuits, students can convey important elements of their candidacy through a plethora of summer plans, whether academic or non-academic.

If you are still unsure of how you’ll be spending the summer months, here are five last-minute summer plans that can help you demonstrate your passion, initiative, and commitment to personal and academic growth:

1. Secure an internship.

While securing a summer internship can be challenging, it can pave the way for the rest of a student’s professional and academic journey. If you have connections with local professionals, leveraging your network to find an internship opportunity can enhance your resume, help to build your professional network, and demonstrate initiative to colleges on your list. If you choose to intern during the summer months, you can maximize your time by demonstrating your willingness to go above and beyond; take the initiative to expand your skill set and explore areas outside of your designated responsibilities. You may find a new passion or outlet for your interests in the process.

2. Get a summer job.

While many students assume colleges are uninterested in their summer jobs, with the proper strategy, thoughtfulness, and hard work, students can leverage their summer jobs to stand out to Ivy League admissions officers. Whether you’re working as a lifeguard, camp counselor, dog walker, or administrative assistant at a law office, every job offers the opportunity to demonstrate self-motivation and leadership. Stepping up in the workplace not only allows students to develop critical life skills that will carry them into their college careers, but it can also highlight students’ willingness to contribute to their communities.

For students seeking a job or internship, sites such as LinkedIn, AngelList, and Idealist are fantastic online resources for sourcing opportunities in their interest area, location, and schedule constraints.

3. Take an online course.

Enrolling in an online course or certification program allows students to enrich their knowledge, skills, and expertise in a specific area of interest—whether it’s computer science, finance, environmental science, or creative writing, among others. Platforms such as Coursera, edX, and Udemy offer a wide range of courses taught by leading experts and institutions from around the world. Select courses that align with your academic interests, intended major, or core passion, and dedicate yourself to mastering the material. Completing an online course or earning a certification demonstrates self-motivation, intellectual curiosity, and a commitment to lifelong learning—qualities highly valued by Ivy League admissions officers.

4. Volunteer in your community.

Ivy League admissions committees seek to identify students who are plugged in to issues in their community and willing to mobilize their passions to make positive change. One of the best ways to demonstrate this quality is to use your free time during the summer to volunteer. For example, you could consider volunteering at a local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or food bank to help address food insecurity and support vulnerable populations in your community. While any type of volunteering will be beneficial for both your growth and those in need around you, it is best to identify a volunteering opportunity that aligns with your skills and interests and that you can engage with long-term throughout your high school career. By volunteering your time and energy to support those in need, you can make a tangible impact on your community while developing empathy, compassion, and a sense of social responsibility.

5. Develop your passion project.

Perhaps the most beneficial use of the summer months is brainstorming and building a dynamic passion project, a student-led initiative that puts passion into practice. Whether environmental conservation, mental health awareness, animal welfare, or technological literacy, students should be intentional about identifying their guiding interest and developing an independent project to more deeply engage with their subject or cause of choice. This could involve organizing a fundraising event, creating educational materials, or launching a social media campaign to raise awareness and mobilize support. By channeling your interests and talents into a passion project, you can make a meaningful contribution to your community while gaining greater insight into your core passions and interests.

Whatever students choose to do with their summer, they should keep in mind that all of their activities should work in tandem to tell a cohesive story through their college applications. Whether completing an internship, working a summer job, or taking a summer course, put your best foot forward and approach the process with self-reflection, motivation, and intentionality.

Originally posted on Forbes.

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