What Summer Experiences Look Best On College Applications?

What’s one of the most popular questions admissions representatives get? I can’t tell you how often a student would ask me what summer experiences are best on college applications. 

But if you’re asking this question, you’re missing the point.  No one should embark on a summer activity simply because it will look good on a college application.

Be Meaningful and Mindful

Summer activities are meant to provide an opportunity for growth. The question you should be asking is “What summer activity will help me experience the most growth?” Some kids will find that mission trips are the most meaningful. They learn gratefulness and humility and feel useful as they learn to share their religious beliefs. Do you have a passionate interest in space exploration, research and discovery? Space camp would be incredibly meaningful. Still others might find working a summer job slinging burgers on a hot grill the most meaningful experience. Learning life skills like good customer service, reliability, and respect while earning money to contribute to family expenses is huge.  

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Understand that admissions representatives realize that summer experiences are often tied to parental resources. No committee is going to penalize a student whose parents couldn’t afford the mission trip to Haiti nor will they reward the kid whose family sent him on a research expedition to the Galapagos Islands.

Summer Experiences = Growth

What’s most important is how you’re able to articulate your growth from these summer experiences. Some kids are able to describe greater growth from bagging groceries all summer at Food Lion than kids who solo sailed along the Florida Keys.

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Know that the most compelling thing about summer experiences isn’t that you had one. It’s what you gained from it. If you want to know how you can use the summer experience as leverage for admission, then you need to learn to how to do some self-assessment. 

Figure out how the experience made you a better person.  And if you haven’t already, learn to write to convey your experiences in a meaningful way.

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