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Using the Summer Productively: 3 Ways to build an Activities List for College Admissions


Summer is traditionally a time for relaxation, travel, and rest. But for high school students gearing up for college applications, summer offers a unique opportunity to strengthen their activities list, providing a platform to showcase their passions, develop new skills, and gain invaluable experience. In this blog, we’ll explore how to use your summer productively to enhance your college application and make you stand out to college admissions committees.

1. Aligning Summer Activities with Your Personal Narrative

The best summer activities are those that complement your personal narrative and pursue a clear passion in line with your intended field of study. This narrative is a powerful component of your college application, giving admissions officers insight into your interests, experiences, and goals.

For example, if you intend to apply for pre-med programs, a productive summer will be one that favors activities, programs, and volunteer efforts focusing on medical or foundational STEM work. This could include volunteering at a local hospital, interning at a research lab, or even participating in a biology-focused summer camp. These activities not only deepen your understanding of the field but also demonstrate your commitment and passion for medicine.

Remember, the key is to choose activities that reflect your unique interests and aspirations, rather than simply trying to tick boxes. Authenticity is crucial, and admissions officers can often discern when a student is genuinely passionate about their activities versus when they are simply trying to impress.

2. Seeking Out Hands-On Opportunities and Skill Development

The activities most respected by colleges are those that provide challenging, hands-on opportunities and teach you relevant new skills in your field. Admissions officers value experiences that allow students to demonstrate initiative, leadership, and problem-solving abilities.

Consider seeking out internships or summer jobs in your area of interest, engaging in research projects, or even starting your own initiative. These experiences often require a significant time commitment and responsibility, which is an excellent way to demonstrate your dedication, maturity, and readiness for college-level work.

Further, these hands-on experiences can help you develop tangible skills that are relevant to your intended field of study. For example, an internship at a tech start-up could help you hone programming skills, while organizing a fundraising event could improve your project management and communication abilities.

3. Pursuing Competitive Programs and Internships

Competitive programs, like university-hosted summer programs or professional internships, are challenging to get into, but they can shine brightly on your applications. They often offer unparalleled exposure to a field, allowing you to learn from experts, collaborate with like-minded peers, and gain a deeper understanding of what a career in that field might entail.

However, remember that these programs are not the only pathway to a compelling activities list. Many students create impactful, impressive portfolios through local or self-initiated projects, volunteer work, or part-time jobs. The goal is not just to have a prestigious name on your application, but to demonstrate passion, commitment, growth, and learning.

Conclusion: Intentional Choices and Balance

In the end, an intentional choice will always be more productive than one selected to fill time, and balance will always be more favorable to you than unceasing busywork. While it’s important to pursue challenging experiences, remember that rest and relaxation are also essential. Don’t sacrifice your wellbeing for the sake of your resume.

Invest your time in activities that genuinely interest you, align with your academic and career goals, and provide opportunities for growth and learning. Use your summer not just to build an impressive activities list, but to explore your passions, learn new skills, and grow as an individual. Remember, college admissions officers are not just looking for accomplished students; they’re looking for well-rounded individuals with a passion for learning and a commitment to making a difference.

Local Resourses

The San Francisco Bay Area offers a wealth of opportunities for students to gain experiences and develop their activities list. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Exploratorium: Located in San Francisco, the Exploratorium offers a variety of summer programs, including internships and volunteering opportunities. This could be a fantastic opportunity for students interested in science and education.

2. Stanford University Pre-Collegiate Studies: Stanford offers summer programs across a wide range of disciplines, from humanities and arts to science and math. These programs can provide a rigorous academic experience and a chance to explore potential majors.

3. Techbridge Girls: This organization encourages girls in the Bay Area to explore STEM fields. They have various programs throughout the year, including summer camps.

4. California Academy of Sciences: Located in Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences offers summer internships and volunteer programs, providing a great opportunity for students interested in biology, ecology, and environmental science.

6. 826 Valencia: 826 Valencia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting under-resourced students with their writing skills. They offer volunteering and internship opportunities for high school students.

7. InternMatch: InternMatch is a platform that connects students with internships in various fields. It’s a great resource to find summer internships in the Bay Area.

8. VolunteerMatch: This platform can help you find local volunteering opportunities in your area of interest.

Remember, the key is to find activities that align with your interests and goals. Whether it’s an internship, a summer program, or a volunteer opportunity, the most important thing is that it allows you to grow and develop in a field that you’re passionate about.

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