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Articles / Preparing for College / Getting Ahead This Summer

June 21, 2017

Getting Ahead This Summer

Yesterday was the longest day of the year. The first day of summer!

Most of you have finished your academic work for the year and have already started to do what the summer offers you in the line of work or adventure. Those of you who are particularly motivated to get ahead have likely begun your summer plans. If you're still looking for ideas, perhaps the following information from Scott Rhodes will help. He's been kind enough to share his expert information with Admit This! readers about how to get ahead of the curve across the coming months.

Scott is Vice Provost of Enrollment at Florida Polytechnic University, leading enrollment and recruitment strategies. He has an 18-year background in higher education and his responsibilities encompass undergraduate admissions, graduate enrollment and enrollment marketing, financial aid, student records and registration, and enrollment market research.

Here's what Scott has to say about your summer's potential:

You're done. It's time to take a nice break from the snooze button—and your alarm clock in general. No need to worry about rushing to the bus, or dozing off during calculus either. It's summer vacation.

While summer is the perfect time to take a break away from school stress, it's also a great time to think about your future. Whether you're interested in a sports, marketing, or a STEM career, your summer activities can distinguish you from your competition. But what can you do to make your summer months both forward-thinking and fun?

We'll investigate several options and the pros and cons associated with each. Each option will also include three scores to help contextualize the pros and cons: Flexibility, Finance, and Value. Each score will be rated on a five-point scale. The better scores are closer to “5" (1 being terrible, 3 being average, and 5 being optimal):

Flexibility – How much dedication is required? A full-time job means more work and less play time than other opportunities might.

Finance – How will your bank account benefit? Some options cost money, while others will fill your pockets.

Value – What are the non-financial benefits? This would include personal growth, experiences or lines on a resume. Keep in mind: the value score of an option may be reduced if the option poses high risk.

Get a Job/Internship in a Field that Interests You

Flexibility: 1 or 2 (depending on the number of hours per week)

Finance: 5

Value: 4

Let's assume you have a career field in mind; summer is your ideal chance to explore that area of interest. You have the time to experience the pros and cons firsthand, and make some money while you're at it. Dream scenario. Unfortunately, a summer job requires a lot of your vacation time … and you might have to continue waking up early.

Get a Job/Internship in a Field You Don't Know

Flexibility: 1 or 2 (depending on the number of hours per week)

Finance: 5

Value: 3

Even if you don't know what you want to do for you career, don't worry – you're not alone. How could you know? Without experience in a work environment, it's difficult (if not impossible) to feel confident about your future. Take advantage of your summer by taking a job or internship in a field you don't know well and learn about workplace characteristics.

You may want to consider taking a job that is skewed heavily towards one end of a spectrum. For example, if you get a summer job in a field that is highly sedentary, you will quickly learn if you like that work environment or if you prefer a more active position. This is an opportunity to learn about yourself and the types of environments in which you excel.

Remember: You aren't committing to a career by taking a summer job. Other jobs you can sample for singular experiences are lawn care, waiter/waitress, or summer camp counselor.

Attend a Summer Camp

Flexibility: 2 (due to amount of freedom at the camp)

Finance: 1

Value: 5

If you don't want to or can't work at a summer camp, consider attending one. Summer camps — like Circle F Dude Ranch Camp and YMCA Camp Wewa — provide opportunities to learn problem solving, self-reliance, and social skills. Most camps are designed to offer a healthy mixture of opportunities for pleasure and personal growth (and associated college essay topics).

Many summer camps strive to offer a diverse collection of experiences that can help you learn about specific careers and work environments. Just make sure to do some research and choose a camp that aligns with your goals.


Flexibility: 3

Finance: 3

Value: 5

While volunteering doesn't pay, it's an opportunity to give back to your local community and contribute to something bigger than your college career. Similar to a job or internship, volunteering also yields professional experience in a non-academic environment. Schools look for students who demonstrate and carry out passion, which is evident through volunteer work.

Consider volunteering at a local senior center, homeless shelter or non-profit organization. While volunteering does not provide financial compensation, the experience itself can be more than worth it.


Flexibility: 5

Finance: 1

Value: 3

Learning about other cultures or seeing historic sites can enrich your life in both tangible and intangible ways. Travel means something beyond a Disney vacation. It means exploring the ancient artifacts at Pompeii, or hopping between hostels in Europe. While you will have fun travelling, pleasure is not the only goal of your trip. Try to learn, too.

Whatever you do, document your experiences with a journal or blog. You want to remember this time — from the big picture down to the small details — so you can articulate it in future essays or interviews.

Start a Summer Business

Flexibility: 2

Finance: 4

Value: 3

If you can't get a job with a local business, why not start one of your own? Spend your summer mowing lawns, offering child care, or running errands for your neighbors. While starting a business requires a lot of work, the rewards include:

● A new business shows your ambition.

● You will learn about business management, organization, and daily operations.

● You earn money.

● If all goes well, your small business could continue past summer vacation.

This option comes with high risks, but it also comes with high rewards.

Learn a New Skill

Flexibility: 5

Finance: 3

Value: 2

If you don't want to devote your summer to an institution, focus your energy on developing your skills. By improving your human capital, you will be more appealing to both employers and admissions representatives. Plus, you'll be spending time doing something you enjoy.

Selecting a skill to develop takes careful consideration. Naturally, you want to make sure you enjoy the skill you select. It's also important to pick a skill that will show tangible, resume-ready results. For example, don't practice your creative writing if you don't enjoy and intend to use that skill in the years to come.

However, there are notable risks associated with this choice. It's easy enough to plan to spend your entire summer programming or learning a new language, but that kind of commitment can quickly dissipate. If you decide to go this route, find a way to ensure you will devote the time to developing your skills. Consider creating daily, weekly, and monthly goals that are associated with consequences or rewards. You could also ask a friend to hold you accountable to your goals as well.


We often hear cliches like, “Live in the moment" or “Think about your future." While these pieces of advice are sound, unfortunately, we too often reverse them. We “live for the future" and “brood over the present." We, as a society, spend our time wishing away today for the hope of an improved tomorrow, but are rarely encouraged to take action to better it.

This summer, take advantage of the opportunities that will allow you to enjoy your summer (“live in the moment"), but will also improve your resume (“think about the future"). You'll be glad you did!


Be sure to check out all my articles on College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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