College application rates are on the rise -- some schools say due to increased interest from abroad -- and the admissions process is only becoming more competitive. Top students are dedicating their summers to immersive experiences that will make their applications stand out.
So how can you make sure you’re maximizing your summer to the fullest?
MAKE A TANGIBLE IMPACT
We've seen students start their own not-for-profit education initiatives, create websites that allow for the exchange of donated books, and organize charity fashion shows.
Colleges don't expect you to solve global hunger (though if you're interested, check out organizations like FEED or the FoodBank for Westchester for inspiration). However, they do pay attention to your ability to make things happen and the impact that you have on those around you. It shows them what kind of addition you'll be to their school.
Start small -- think of ways your unique skill set could improve your local community -- and take the lead. Independent drive and the ability to unite people behind your cause is also extremely attractive to universities. So start an online forum for women’s rights that provides advice and solace for victims of domestic violence. Found a local chapter of an animal welfare organization. Develop your own curriculum at a school for children with learning disabilities.
If you can’t lead your own effort, then join in wholeheartedly in someone else’s (however, steer clear of for-profit travel trips if you can).
EDUCATE YOURSELF IN AN UNTRADITIONAL WAY
Schools want applicants who seek out opportunities to learn -- and if you really want to impress them, it’s important to find innovative ways to expand your knowledge.
If you’re interested in the sciences, seek out opportunities to perform or assist in research. Many schools (including Princeton, Penn, Cornell, and UCSB) and even laboratories and hospitals (check out FermiLab, Regeneron, and Mount Sinai) give high schools students the opportunity to engage with academics in a hands-on way.
If you’re interested in applying to a business school, participating in an internship is pretty much a must, though all applicants should seek opportunities to learn through real-world experience. Excited by literature? See if you can work for a publisher. Passionate about politics? Volunteer for your local Congressperson and canvass the town. Looking to study law? See if you can intern for a judge or legal office.
If you do choose to take a course on a college campus, enroll in one for college credit. This way, you’ll have a transcript to show your prospective university, and proof that you can kick butt in a college-level classroom. If you hit it off with your professor, you can even even ask him or her to write you a letter of recommendation!
Curious about tap dancing? Take a class. Passionate about journalism? Create your own recorded histories project or start a blog. Earn your pilot’s license. Become an origami artisan. Work on a cheese farm for a summer.
Still at a loss? Get a job! Demonstrating work ethic shows colleges that you're gritty. LogicPrep Co-founder Lindsay has always been a bookworm, so she worked at a local bookstore. I, on the other hand, am an avid fan of pizza; I spent my summers bussing tables and wiping up marinara at a small-town pizzeria.
Colleges like Wake Forest, Columbia, University of Chicago, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, Princeton, USC, and more ask applicants to list their favorite books. And I can tell you now, they probably won’t be impressed by The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, or any other 20th century American bildungsroman they know you only read because your teacher assigned it. (Which I know totally isn’t fair because I’m a Fitzgerald junkie and The Great Gatsby is actually my favorite book!! But alas.)
I challenge you to use your summer to read at least three books. (Come on -- that's one book per month. You can do one book per month.) Choose books that you genuinely find interesting; if you don't know where to start, use The New York Times list of the 10 Best Books of 2016 -- or ask your LogicPrep instructors for some of their favorites!
Even engineers and scientists should sharpen their reading comprehension skills. Alan Turing: The Enigma, A Brief History of Time, or The Martian offer engaging narratives interwoven with mathematical and scientific theory.
LONG STORY SHORT
Do something. Anything. (Anything besides going back to camp for the 8th summer in a row.) You might find inspiration for an awesome college essay in the process -- and maybe even learn a thing or two along the way.