College Admissions and Summer Activities

College Admission Summer Jobs, Summer Jobs and Admissions, Summer Activities and University Admission

This is not where you should be spending your summer if you want to stand out to college admissions counselors…unless you get a job as a lifeguard. Contrary to popular belief, admissions officers tend to look upon jobs quite favorably (photo credit: Shalom Jacobovitz).

Peter Van Buskirk of “US News & World Report” put out a great post yesterday on what students should and shouldn’t do when school’s out for summer. Check out his post here: Summer Do’s and Don’ts for College Applicants. In our newsletter on high school summers and college admissions as well as our newsletter on lazy days of summer and college applicants, we urge students to avoid waking up late, to stay away from the beach, and to avoid watching TV and playing video games.  How students spend their summers are telling to admissions counselors. Summer pursuits paint a picture that you just can’t grasp as well during the school year.

Many students and parents think their child should attend a fancy summer program at a university — especially at the university they wish to attend. This isn’t necessary, the rationale behind the summer activity is blatantly obvious, and it rarely sets a candidate apart from other applicants. In the end, distinguishing yourself from other candidates will be key to gaining admission to the college of your choice.

Another popular choice is traveling abroad or doing an expensive service project in a foreign country. This isn’t necessarily the best idea either unless this service project really is the driving force of your life. What does travel in many foreign countries translate to in the eyes of college admissions counselors? Money. It means you can afford to travel. It means you’re rich, maybe even entitled. People generally aren’t inclined to go to bat as strongly for entitled people as they are for people who they think are more deserving of their support. It’s a matter of simple psychology.

We’ll be exploring in future posts this month what you should be doing this summer to set yourself apart from the pack but to give you a hint, follow your passions (unless your passion is watching “Gossip Girl” reruns on The CW). Pursue the activity you do during the school year. If you love science research, do research! If you’re trying to get recruited to play squash, work on that squash game. If you are worried that getting a job will look badly to college admissions counselors, you’re wrong. Get a job. Check back soon for more ideas on what you can do during your summer break.


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  • Brett D says:

    Hey Ivy Coach,

    That was very helpful!
    I work at Burger King and last summer I went a summer session at Brown and it was quite costly despite my fundraising. This summer I have been working full time at BK.
    I am the Chairman of the Teenage Republicans at my old school and will be going to a new one in the fall at the start of my junior year. I am going to start the local chapter of the Teenage Republicans at the new school since they do not have one. I have been thinking about attending TLC, which is the Teenage Republican Leadership Conference. The trip is going to be about $800, which is fine since I am working full time. But is this a good idea? I mean I would love to go, but I have just been worried about getting a car with my money. Also I was wanting to make sure that I am doing something for this summer.

    Does it sound like a good idea since I would like to work in Political Journalism in the future and eventually government?

    P.S. SOrry for the long comment!

    Thank you!

  • Ivy Coach says:

    Hi Brett,

    It does sound like a good idea to attend the Teenage Republican Leadership Conference but only because, from what you’ve written, it seems very important to you. Not only will it be good to demonstrate to colleges that you’re pursuing your outside-of-the-classroom interest, but it sounds like something you would genuinely enjoy. You should never do an activity just to get into college. College admissions counselors can typically see right through that.

    Are you sure you wouldn’t be eligible for a scholarship to attend the conference for free (or at a discount)? You should try emailing them at: Explain to them how much you’d like to go but how you have financial constraints. Let us know if they’re able to help you out with the costs.

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