With summer just around the corner, many high school students are putting together their plans of how they’re going to pass the time. Many students (as well as their parents) will be thinking of ways to improve their odds of getting into the colleges of their dreams. Maybe this means participating in an expensive summer program at a university. Maybe it means going on a trip to a foreign country so that they can become more aware of the world around them. Maybe it means going on a service trip to Chile to build houses with Habitat For Humanity. Don’t get us wrong — building houses for people in our world who need them is a very honorable thing to do. What a great way to make a difference in the world! But if you’re building houses in Chile only so it’ll help you get into college, know that it’s not going to help you. And neither is traveling around the world or attending a fancy summer program at a university.
What does traveling around the world say to an admissions officer? It says that you’re wealthy, that you can afford to see the world. Do you think the admissions officer reviewing your application can spend the summer traveling to all sorts of countries in Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa? Not on their salary. What kind of feeling passes through your thoughts when you want something that someone else has? Jealousy? Resentment? Is that the kind of feeling you want going through your admissions officer’s head when reviewing your application? Likely not.
You don’t need to travel the world or attend a fancy summer program to improve your odds of getting into college. If you want to do community service, you can make a difference in your own neighborhood and, maybe in doing so, can change the world. There’s that old saying, “Think globally, act locally.” Instead of doing what you think you should be doing to get into a highly selective college, do something that you actually want to do. If that means getting a job, get a job. Work as a lifeguard. Save lives. Work in an ice cream shop. Do science research. Endeavor to read every book in the biography section of your local library. Now that could make for a great college essay. And, if reading and gaining knowledge are fun for you, it would have that added bonus.