High School Juniors…What To Do The Summer Before Senior Year 

summer before senior year

It’s finally here, the season of summer. A time to sit back, relax, and take a break from the rigorous demands of high school, right? Unfortunately, that may not be entirely true. The notion that senior year is a time to coast and take it easy is a fallacy generated in the same rumor mill that also tells you that unicorns are real. The reality is that if you are applying to highly competitive schools, you have a lot of work cut out for you during your senior summer.

Senior summer presents a tremendous opportunity for you to continue, extend, create or mitigate your experiences, depending on your needs.

Continuing Your Activities

If you have consistently been involved in an organization throughout your high school years, your senior summer can be an excellent opportunity to showcase continued involvement. Many people have the misconception that colleges are looking for a long list of experiences on a resume. However, this “check-off-every-box” approach is easily detected by admissions officers and does little to support your candidacy. If you have gaps in your experience or lack certain activities that are impeding your growth as a high school student, then, by all means, use your senior summer to fill in those gaps. 

For instance, if you want to challenge yourself academically by taking a more advanced course during your senior year, but you lack the prerequisite requirements, consider enrolling in a summer course that will allow you to advance academically. Alternatively, if you have been light in community service and involvement, you could use your senior summer to engage in such activities. It is essential to select organizations, activities, and courses that genuinely interest you and align with your past experiences or future plans. This way, your involvement will seem like a seamless part of the bigger picture you are trying to paint as an applicant. Understand what colleges are looking for in extracurricular activities.

Extending Yourself

This step goes beyond mere continuation. It means taking your involvement to the next level. For instance, if you have been a camp counselor for three summers, you could step up to become the lead counselor during your senior summer. You could also challenge yourself athletically and earn a new designation or title for your sports team during the summer. Better yet, you could take the initiative to enroll in an advanced course that goes beyond what is offered at your high school. Colleges love to see this! Not only does it demonstrate a sustained commitment to an activity, organization, or interest, but it also shows initiative, leadership, and passion. More importantly, it signals to colleges that this is something you will bring to their campus if you are admitted. If the opportunity presents itself for you to step up, or if you have to create this opportunity for yourself, without a doubt- you should heed the call.

Creating Something New 

Perhaps the only thing that speaks louder than extending an activity is creating new ones. These are the stories that get featured in local and national publications or go viral on YouTube. They are the kind of ventures that do not require you to point out how fantastic you are because someone else, usually with a much larger platform, is already doing it for you. Recently, I watched an internet story about a boy in southern California who did not just volunteer at a soup kitchen, but he, along with his father, created a program to feed poor neighborhood residents breakfast every Sunday complete with corporate sponsors and dozens of volunteers. This level of engagement sends a message to colleges that you are not the type of person to sit around and complain about things; you will institute change. Consider the impact that this sort of proactive person could have on a college campus; it could be game-changing.

 Look around your community and identify areas where you recognize a need. What is lacking? And, more importantly, what can you do to spark that change? Alternatively, which industry would you like to learn more about? As the job market continues to struggle, internships abound. If you want to learn more about social media, propose an internship at a local PR firm looking to enhance its social media presence. Just because there isn’t a job posting for an opportunity yet doesn’t mean there isn’t a need; this is where you can create that opportunity.

A word of caution here- do not force the issue. Once again, choose an area that aligns with your interests or past involvement, so that you are more likely to stick with it and it is in line with your values and the story you are trying to communicate to the admission committees.

Mitigating the Weaknesses

Nobody likes to admit their weaknesses or deficits, but we all have them. If your weakness happens to be in the area of test-taking, don’t let that be your downfall. The summer offers the perfect opportunity for test preparation. With so many applicants now taking test-prep courses, you are almost certainly at a disadvantage if you do not. Not the best at math? Consider taking a course at a local college during the summer to get ahead of the material that will be presented during senior year. Often, a weakness is only as much of a hindrance as you allow it to be. You may never become a Nobel Prize-winning mathematician or get a perfect SAT score, but proactively addressing your weakness may be the boost you need to make it a non-issue.

A heads-up for the fall of your senior year: it will likely be overwhelmingly busy. Instead of testing your time-management skills to the limit, use the summer to review and familiarize yourself with the Common Application and try responding to the essay questions. When senior year comes, you will still find that you are incredibly busy, but the feeling of being overwhelmed will be slightly diminished.
Remember, you are not alone in this venture. Admit Advantage is here to assist you if you need some support with the college application process. Figure out if you need to continue, extend, create, or mitigate your experiences and make the most of your senior summer. Then, if time permits (which there will be plenty of, don’t worry), kick back, relax, and enjoy the rest of your senior summer!