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College App Advice: Maximizing Summer Break

Written by Allison Lee (Wharton '24)

Do you ever think about what to do over the summer to impress colleges? Senior year of high school will probably be the busiest, most important, and exhilarating time of your adolescent life when looking back a few years later! You will have a lot on your plate during this time of year, because you’ll be thinking about prom, extracurriculars, college applications, school work, exams, and also figuring out scholarships/financial aid. It’s very important to make the most of your summer before moving into your senior year. Remember that this is the perfect time for college prep and for exploring your different passions to maximize your potential!

College Prep

If you are considering attending a four-year college, it is important to first take time to finalize your college list. College lists change as you find out more information, and you can always come back and edit it when you are starting to write your applications. Nevertheless, it’s always good to have a list of around 10 colleges, consisting of a mix of reach, target, and safety schools. Do your research, think about different options (e.g. private or public universities), and choose the colleges where you really want to spend your next four years and thrive! After you have chosen your colleges, write down the due date of each application next to the corresponding university. At this point, also choose which colleges you will apply to for early decision/early action and regular decision.

Now, the hard work begins: actually writing your college applications. The number of school-specific essays that you are required to submit varies by college, but focus first on the common application essay. Common App essay topics are open to all students well in advance, so begin brainstorming some ideas and start drafting your essays because you will probably feel overwhelmed trying to work on it alongside all of the other work you'll have once the school year begins. Don’t be afraid to make multiple drafts and reach out for help- your peers and teachers are great resources for revising and editing your essays!

Exploring Your Potential

Of course, colleges want to see that you are committed and engaged in your extracurriculars throughout your high school years, but they would also love to see that you are making the effort to step out of your comfort zone! Challenge yourself over the summer with some new activities that show who you are. Get started early and use the list below as inspiration to stand out from other applicants!

When I was looking for what to do over the summer, I tried to find out what others had done to enhance their resumes. At the time, I remember it really felt like the last opportunity to strengthen my applications.

1. Take college courses for credit

  • Many colleges offer summer courses for credit taught by actual university professors. After the exam, you receive an official transcript and you then can use these credits for your university credit in the future (depending on the university and the type of summer program). Since, these classes are college-level and very intense (you are trying to complete 12 week courses in six weeks over summer), colleges recognize the effort it requires and it really stands out on your application. If you want to pursue this option, look over the different summer programs at least six months before the date because most of the competitive summer programs require applications, transcripts, and recommendations from your high school.

2. Look for internship opportunities

  • Try applying for an internship at a company, or a non-profit organization you are interested in. It may be very competitive to get one, especially among high school students, but it proves that you are willing to try out for a new experience and that you are very passionate about what you want to do! Increase your chances of being accepted by being proactive– set up a LinkedIn page, send out cold emails, and don’t be discouraged by rejection.

3. Volunteer in your local community

  • Colleges prefer long-term commitment to community service activities instead of helping out in different communities just for a day. For example, when I was in high school, I visited the local elderly center with my group of friends regularly. We performed a variety of tasks such as assisting with basic care duties, but our main roles were to organize entertainment and events. As a club, we held musical performances during holiday periods when the elders were particularly lonely. For more information on making an impact as a young adult, check out this article.

These are just a few tips to get you started, but remember everyone’s experience is different. Make sure you explore your passions and find opportunities that suit you. You’ll never have a summer as important as this again!

About the Author:

Allison Lee ('24) is a rising sophomore at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She has been a member of the Wharton Women Dollar Scholars committee since the Spring of her freshman year. She graduated high school in South Korea, but she has studied and lived in other countries including the United States and the UK. She enjoys exercising, dancing, baking, playing golf, and watching movies, and she has played the oboe for 10 years. For questions, you can reach Allison at

Photo by Belle Co from Pexels

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