The Best Way to Spend Your High School Summers

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

High school students walking up and down the stairs

Working Overtime: The Best Way to Spend Your High School Summers to Increase Your Chances of Getting into the Ivies

There are fewer things more exciting and relieving than the end of the school year. Months of stress and anxiety are all of a sudden washed away. All that awaits you is a long break of relaxation and good ol’ fashioned fun, right? Find ways on how to spend your high school summer to get into the best schools.

Four students are sitting on the grass while holding their books

Well, if your goal is to get into the Ivy League, you might want to consider spending your summer further developing your academic prowess. But don’t worry! It’s much more fun than it sounds.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at why summer programs are impactful on your college application and why admissions officers care what you do during the summer.

How to make the most of a summer program?

Participating in the summer program is enough to catch the attention of admissions officers. However, you are not just interested in standing out from the crowd. Your end goal is to earn a spot and one of the procedures Ivy League schools.

In order to accomplish this goal, you’ll need to do everything you can to make your application as strong as possible. Here are some steps you can take to make the most of your summer program.

Do your research.

What kind of summer programs exist within your field of study? What colleges or organizations are offering these programs? How long do they last and what’s included in these summer programs? These are all questions you’ll undoubtedly have when thinking about summer programs. And finding the answer to these questions is where you should start!


view of a female student writing an essay

Start planning early.

Summer programs are very popular among high schoolers looking to gain an extra advantage on their college applications. But just like colleges, these programs have a limited number of available spots.

That’s why it’s important for high schoolers to start planning early. You’ll need at least a few months to determine what summer program is ideal given your academic interests and goals. Beyond that, you’ll also need time to prepare your application. Yes! Even summer programs require an application.

But don’t worry. They’re usually short and to the point. If you know well in advance what program you want to join, you should be able to submit the required paperwork right when applications are accepted. Waiting too long puts you at greater risk of not getting a spot in time.

Sing up at the right time in high school.

Timing is one of the most important parts of successfully preparing for college. And summer programs are no exception to the rule. So, when’s the ideal time to participate in a summer program?

We typically advise our students to join a summer program either the summer after their sophomore or junior year of high school. This gives students a chance to narrow down their desired field of study while also making sure the summer program is completed in time to be included on college applications.

If you’re really ambitious, you could even participate in two summer programs both sophomore and junior summers. Just make sure the extra effort doesn’t take a toll on other areas of your application.

Apply to more than one summer program.

When applying to college, high schoolers are advised to apply to more than one school just in case their first choice doesn’t work out. Given the competitiveness of summer programs, you should also send out more than one application.

As long as you apply on time and meet the requirement, there’s a good chance you’ll get into your favorite. program. But it’s always smart to have a backup plan. Start by making a list of all summer programs that meet your criteria and list them in order of preference.

Only apply to the top three or four. That way, if you don’t get into your first or even second choice, you’ll still have a summer program to attend. This is especially true if you don’t have another summer before submitting your college application.

Find one related to your area of study.

If you already know what major or field of study you want to pursue in college, it’s important to find a summer program related to that subject area. Well, there’s no doubt you could find a number of summer programs that pique your interest, participating in one that furthers your experience and development in the area you intend to pursue in college will make a bigger impact on your college application.

Unidentified person typing on a laptop.

For example, if you want to study journalism in the Ivy leagues, but choose to attend a summer program relating to physics, your application won’t stand out. Admissions officers are looking for applicants who have a clear vision of what they want to pursue academically and professionally. A summer program is a great way to demonstrate your willingness to continue developing your skills. But it’s essential that you find one within your field of interest to maximize its impact.

Check to see if your school of choice posts any summer programs.

Many Ivy League schools host their own summer programs in which high schoolers can participate. If you knowing what Ivy League school you want to attend, it makes sense to check first to see if that school hosts any summer programs.

Admissions officers love to see students who have shown engagement in offerings from the school. Of course, if your school of choice doesn’t host any summer programs related to your field of study, you shouldn’t randomly choose one that they offer. The content of the summer program always takes precedent over the school hosting it.

Write about your experience on your college application.

Admissions officers only know as much as you tell them on your application. They’re not out there scouting students and keeping tabs on their activities. If you participate in a summer program, make sure to mention it on your college application.

When mentioning it, be sure to include information about what you learned, the skills you developed, and how it impacted your outlook in the field. For instance, instead of just saying that you studied the effects of verbal abuse on academic performance, you could mention how the experience reinvigorated your desire to help children in need.

Demonstrating how the summer program fits into your overall goal (in this example, becoming a child psychologist) shows admissions officers that you have a clear goal and are actively working towards it.

Pay attention to the dates and locations

When searching for summer programs, you might come across many that are interesting and within your field of study. So how do you further narrow down the possibilities? Although there might appear to be an unlimited number of options, there might only be a few that are feasible given your location and availability which is crucial on how to spend your high school summer productively.

Keep in mind that summer programs are offered across the entire country and at varying times throughout the summer, usually for at least a few weeks. Looking at the dates and location of each program can help you start limiting your options.

Ideally, you could find something close to home within driving distance. This proximity helps both you and your parents save some time and money. However, if you find a one-of-kind summer program a few states away, the investment might be worthwhile.

Work with a professional.

Summer programs aren’t top-of-mind for many students when compared to other parts of their college application. When starting the planning process, it can be difficult to know which summer programs will be most effective in helping you gain admittance to your school of choice.

That’s where AdmissionSight can help! As a college entrance experts, we have over a decade of experience helping students choose the right summer programs based on their personal interests, academic strengths, and long-term goals.

We’ll work with you one-on-one to determine the best summer program for you. That way, you can remain confident knowing your efforts pay off. After all, if you’re going to spend the summer doing something academic, you want to make sure it’s worthwhile!

Do colleges care what you do during the summer?

Yes! Admissions officers aren’t just looking at what you do during the school year. Colleges are also interested in how you spend your summers. It’s not that taking a vacation or enjoying a relaxing break will count against you. Rather, it’s that students who go above and beyond by continuing to develop their skills outside of the school year will get noticed by admissions officers.

Think about it for a second. Admissions officers have to sift through hundreds maybe even thousands of applications to find students that stick out from the crowd. Since most high schoolers simply forget about their academics during the summer, a great way to set yourself apart in the admissions contest is to make use of this free time.

Why participate in a summer program?

How to spend your high school summer? Participating in a summer program has a wide variety of advantages for college applicants. Overall, it makes for a stronger application. But the real question is how? Here, we’ll take a look at a few ways a summer program boosts your chances of getting into the school of your dreams along with some other benefits of attending.

It demonstrates initiative.

Colleges love to see applicants who are proactive about their education. Most students simply take the path of least resistance through high school by only taking the classes necessary to graduate.

In order to improve your chances of getting into top-tier schools, you’ll need to prove to admissions officers that you’re willing to go above and beyond the requirements. And what better way to show your initiative than to participate in an academic program in the middle of the summer? It’s definitely one of the best!

You’ll improve your skills.

As mentioned before, it’s ideal to find a summer program that lines up with your field of interest. On an application, these programs show that you’ve put in the work to hone your skills within your desired area of study.

While admissions officers only expect students to have a reasonable amount of abilities in their field, summer programs can help you stand out by improving your skills overall.

You’ll learn from experts in the field.

One of the coolest parts of summer programs is having the opportunity to work with experts within your desired field.

Many summer programs invite renowned professors, researchers, and professionals within the field to come host seminars, research programs, and other events. It’s the perfect time to become familiar with some of the leading names in the area.

You’ll gain a sense of independence.

Similar to traditional summer camps, summer programs can help students develop a sense of self-reliance. You’ll be 100% in charge of your own development during the program. Nobody is going to be there to direct you or manage your schedule.

A female college student smiles while looking at her laptop screen.

It’s a great trial run before college. Admissions officers will notice this independence, helping your application stand out even more.

Most people don’t do it.

Sometimes, standing out from other applicants is as simple as doing something that most people don’t do. Summer programs definitely fit this description as most applicants simply don’t participate in these programs.

Obviously, there’s more to it than showing up and putting the experience on your application. But there is something to be said about how your application will stand out even more for the simple reason that you attended and others didn’t

You’ll meet like-minded people.

There’s nothing more engaging than participating in an activity you’re passionate about with a bunch of other people who feel the same way. And that’s exactly what a summer program is! You’ll be exploring your desired field of interest with like-minded people.

You’ll no doubt meet a wide variety of interesting people, some of whom you might even develop a long-term friendship with. Make sure to ask where other program participants are planning to attend college. You might just make a good college friend before even attending college.

You’ll experience what it’s like to live on campus.

College visits are the closest thing most high schoolers have to experience what it’s like to live on campus. With a summer program, you get a lot closer to the real thing. Many summer programs have participants living on campus for a few weeks.

You’ll live in dorms, eat at the cafeteria, head to classes throughout the day, and all manner of other activities just like if you were in college.  It’s a great way to expose yourself to this way of life before even leaving high school.

Students walking and resting in front of University Hall.

This early exposure can help reduce the shock factor of transitioning from high school to college while also increasing your level of excitement. Just be sure to make the most of it when you’re participating in the summer program!

You’ll gain a better understanding of career opportunities.

Another aspect of summer programs that makes these activities so perfect for high schoolers is the exposure you can get to professional opportunities. Many of these programs focus on real-world applications and activities which you would potentially find in a career.

This is a perfect opportunity for students to get a glimpse of what it would be like to work in a position related to their desired field, especially when deciding what they want to major in.

Improve your chances of getting into the school if your choice

Summer programs are just one component of a well-rounded and strong college application. To really increase your chances of getting into the school of your dreams, you’ll need to make sure every aspect of your application is optimized. Sound difficult? It doesn’t have to be!

Working with a college entrance expert can make a massive difference in your college admissions experience. At AdmissionSight, we have over a decade of experience helping students just like you get into the school of their dreams.

In fact, 75% of the students we work with end up getting accepted into an Ivy League or Top 10 University. This success is due to the highly effective college preparation services we offer. All of our solutions are custom-tailored to the unique interests, goals, and strengths of each student.

Whether you need guidance when choosing classes or suggestions for choosing extracurriculars, we can help! We can even help you perfect your college essays, choose summer programs, prepare for college interviews, and much, much more.

If you’re interested in learning more about how our services can help increase your chances of getting into the university of your choice, Contact us today! We’ll be in touch with you shortly to schedule a free consultation.



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