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5 Ways to Maximize Your Academic Summer Program for Ivy League Admissions

Jul 8, 2024

Participating in a rigorous, merit-based academic program over the summer is a fantastic way to build your resume and meaningfully engage with your subject of interest. While prestigious programs enhance students’ applicant profiles, the degree to which they set students apart from other applicants largely depends on students’ willingness to take initiative and make the most of their summer program. Simply attending adds an impressive line item to a CV, but it does little to make an application memorable in a sea of applications submitted by other talented and well-qualified students.

Whether the Yale Young Global Scholars, the Summer Science Program, or the Kenyon Young Writers Workshop, there are a plethora of opportunities for talented students to deepen their knowledge over the summer. Afterwards, it is imperative to showcase your involvement in such programs to Ivy League and other top colleges beyond listing them on your Activities List. If you want to stand out to your dream school, here’s how to make the most of your academic summer experience and elevate your college application profile in the process:

1. Build Your Network

Summer programs offer a valuable opportunity to build a network with reputable scholars in your field of interest. While attending a merit-based program at a particular school will not in itself increase your chances of acceptance to that university, getting to know the school’s resources and esteemed faculty can offer you a window into what studying there would be like and provide a network of people who can answer your questions about the school’s strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, the connections you make with your peers can follow you through your collegiate career and beyond.

In order to establish these relationships while participating in a summer program, show genuine interest in your peers’ perspectives and contributions, and identify instructors or mentors who inspire you. Ask thoughtful questions, seek advice, and express your gratitude for their guidance. When the program comes to a close, be sure to collect contact information from your peers and academic mentors, and share updates as you embark on the college admissions process. You should also take the time to set up and update your Linkedin profile so that they can passively keep up with your progress over time.

2. Make Your Voice Heard

An academic summer program may be a student’s first foray into rigorous, college-level academics, and as such, it can be an intimidating experience. Many such programs take place on college campuses, and the prestigious environment filled with knowledgeable professionals can make you doubt yourself and retreat into the crowd, but resist this urge! Remember that attending a rigorous summer program is a special milestone in your academic journey, and you will get out of it what you put into it. The more you use your voice, ask questions, and put yourself out there, the more likely you’ll be to establish lasting relationships, have your questions answered, and enrich your knowledge.

3. Log Your Reflections

Meaningful self-reflection can help you understand what you have learned and how you have grown from your experiences, as well as prepare you to articulate these insights in your college essays and interviews. To do this effectively, keep a daily journal during the program. Write about what you learned each day, how it made you feel, and any new interests or goals that emerged. Reflect on challenges you faced and how you overcame them. At the end of the program, review your journal entries to identify key moments of personal and academic growth and consider how the program shaped your aspirations and influenced your future plans. You can also use your reflections to brainstorm ideas for your college application essays or a passion project related to your area of interest. Admissions officers appreciate reading students’ genuine, thoughtful insights about their experiences and development, and having a collection of your reflections will ensure that your application materials genuinely reflect your takeaways from your summer academic experience.

4. Start a Blog or Vlog About Your Experiences

Creating a blog or vlog will allow you to document your journey, showcase your communication skills, and demonstrate your passion for learning. It will also provide tangible evidence of your engagement and accomplishments, and may allow you to connect with others who share your interests. WordPress, Wix, and YouTube are great platforms for beginners to share insights from their classes, projects they are working on, interviews with peers or instructors, and reflections about their experiences. Doing so can be a great way to not only make your resume more compelling and cutting edge (as many are increasingly converting their resumes into web portfolios), but also to connect with others who share your interests and provide a window into your personality for admissions officers.

5. Publish your work

Depending on the summer program you attend, you may have the opportunity to produce or publish written work, whether research, creative writing, or critical essays. Even if this is not a formal aspect of the program, students should consider how they can develop their ideas and publish them on a platform that accepts high school students’ work. This could be through a literary magazine at your school, a research publication, or an online blog. Doing so will not only showcase your writing and research skills but also your dedication to sharing knowledge and contributing to your community. If your work is published, be sure to mention it in your college applications, and include links when possible (the Common App Additional Information Section is a great place to do this). This will impress admissions officers and show that you have taken your summer academic program seriously, translating your experiences into tangible, shareable achievements.

With intentional strategy and effort, your participation in a rigorous summer program can enhance your college application profile and offer a tangible example of your commitment to your core passion. By taking an active role in your own learning, you will build confidence, maximize your connections, and gain valuable insights for the college application process and your future career.

Originally posted on Forbes.

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