Summer activities matter for highly selective college admission. There are many folks — and we’d even argue a majority of folks — who believe that there are certain things that high school students should do over the summer months to improve their odds of getting into highly selective colleges. The problem is that what the vast majority of these folks believe doesn’t match with reality. Such is often the case in the world of highly selective college admissions. What many parents and students believe is that students should be doing activities we hereby call “fancy-pants activities” to get into the colleges of their dreams. By this definition, fancy-pants activities may consist of any of the following: going on a service trip in a third-world country, traveling around Europe to learn about art and architecture, and attending a summer program at a highly selective college.
You don’t need to be doing these fancy-pants activities in order to get into the colleges of your dreams! In fact, these fancy-pants activities can often hurt your odds. What do you think that it says to an admissions officer when you spent your summer afternoons observing the Mona Lisa in The Louvre and strolling around Josephine Bonaparte’s rose gardens? It says you’re extremely well off and quite privileged. Do you tend to root for people who are privileged? Or do you root for the underdog? Because, from what we at Ivy Coach know, America roots for the underdog. We rooted for the underdog when a group of feisty college students upstaged the Russians in what would be known as The Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Olympic Games — and ultimately turned the tide of the Cold War. We rooted for the underdog when George Mason advanced to the Final Four and Butler to the Finals of the NCAA Tournament. People root for underdogs. It’s just a fact of life…a good fact of life.
So don’t feel like you need to do fancy-pants activities to impress college admissions officers. These activities will not impress them. They’re by no means original. And you’re setting yourself up to stink of privilege. Wouldn’t you rather be an underdog? Wouldn’t you rather have the fire in your belly of an underdog? Who wouldn’t.