As a rising junior or senior in high school, your summer is an ideal time to select meaningful activities that will communicate your unique interests, passions, and motivations.  As you consider the following ways to make the most of this summer, keep in mind that concentrating on activities you truly care about will come across as genuine on your applications, as well as being an enjoyable use of your time.

1. Internships.  An internship will not only impart valuable skills and provide you with an inside glimpse at an industry you are interested in, but will also communicate a strong interest in an academic area or field to admissions officers.  Selective internship programs for high school students are ideal, as these show that the position was earned based on academic merit.  If you can’t find appropriate formal internship programs, consider reaching out to people you know with interesting jobs.  Politely communicate your interest, availability, and willingness to help out on whatever projects are available to these connections.

2. College Courses.  Because colleges and universities are academic institutions, you can never go wrong by demonstrating academic interests.  Community colleges and online college courses are affordable, flexible options for high school students to take classes for credit.  Maybe you didn’t do very well in chemistry, but you have a strong interest in geology. College courses can round out your academic profile and show that you have gone above and beyond what is required.

3. Summer Programs.  Academic summer programs for high school students can also demonstrate intellectual passion. Speak with your high school guidance counselor and search for programs online to find programs that fit your interests. Another popular option is to spend some time studying abroad. Immersion homestay environments, (as opposed to living in a dorm with other American students), show a stronger commitment to learning the language and participating in a new culture.

4. Self-Directed Study.  Do you have a strong interest in an independent activity, such as writing or music?  Creating an interesting blog, asking your local church to show some of your photography, or designing a computer program for your school or workplace are all creative, self-directed activities. Keep a log of the amount of time you spend engaged in these activities to show to your guidance counselor and include on your college applications.

5. Jobs.  For many high school students, summer jobs are a financial necessity. While working in retail, food service, or childcare may not be related to your career goals, having employment history can demonstrate responsibility. And you might get an interesting essay out of it!

Guest post courtesy of Dr. Joie Jager-Hyman, with College Prep 360.