The end of the school year is just around the corner! Students should be planning and selecting activities for the summer that will help them develop skills. Colleges appreciate creativity and unique activities which demonstrate out-of-the box thinking and risk-taking. Perhaps you can try something new or take advantage of unique opportunities this summer! Or you can choose to build on your current interests and expand your scope. Regardless, do something you enjoy!

Yes, it is important to catch up on sleep and spend some time with friends and family, but to remain competitive in the college application process and have a meaningful summer, you should engage in activities that will build character and also reflect who you are.

Here are some ideas to consider:


  • This category can involve almost anything; a summer job at a supermarket, volunteering at a day camp, starting a community service project, or taking an art class at a local studio. 
  • Consider selecting something that you might continue during the academic year or pursue as a career interest. Colleges like to see long-term commitments from students and look for continuity in your activities. However, this does not mean you should not try something new. In fact, summer is great time to explore new interests.
  • Research and apply early. Some programs are free for participants but require nominations, and many require recommendations, transcripts, and counselor forms, possibly portfolios or interviews.


  • There are many special programs that enable students to pursue academic interests. Check out this list. 
  • There are also many virtual educational opportunities. Consult sites like In some cases, you might be able to earn college credit. If you are looking for a significant challenge, colleges like MIT (MIT OpenCourseWare) offer entire courses online, available to anyone as an open educational resource.
  • Read, read, and read books! Yes, read actual books for pleasure. This can help a lot with standardized testing and demonstrate an appreciation for learning.

Learn or Perfect Skills

  • Learn a new language. Try an app like Duo Lingo or connect with a native speaker online. Learn sign language or learn a programming language. Have you always wanted to create an app or build a website? There are many skills that you can learn over the summer.
  • Study a visual art discipline, such as painting or photography. Develop your portfolio if you plan to audition or showcase your talent.
  • Develop and build your athletic skills or coach at an athletic camp.


  • Start a Business – Though it might sound challenging, students might consider starting their own business. In a world of COVID shutdowns, it may actually make sense to create a project that students can develop from home. Students can demonstrate their creative side by making a website and selling on an online platform like Etsy.
  • Alternatively, offering landscaping services, outdoor party planning, face painting, or babysitting services are a great way to earn some spending money while developing business, marketing, and accounting skills.
  • Work – Colleges value work experience. In fact, one of the supplemental questions on the University of Florida application, specifically asks about the student’s work experience. Moreover, working teaches responsibility, leadership, and time management.
  • Externship/Internship – The difference between an externship and an internship is that an externship is typically an unpaid shadowing of a respected industry professional, while an internship is a paid or voluntary position with an organization to gain hands-on experience. Look first to family and friends for opportunities; they may be great resources for identifying externships/internships!
  • Remember that things outside of academics have a place here too – if you maintain a heavily trafficked personal blog, for example, do not forget to include it. College applications will allow you to highlight your online presence or provide links to personal websites.

Create an Amazing Resume

  • It is never too early to put together your resume. Starting your resume early will allow you to identify areas that need to be developed. It takes a lot of thought and a fair amount of time to effectively communicate all that you have done. Students need to portray their activities and interests in a compelling, accurate way. 
  • The resume will be a critical tool in your application process. Some colleges will allow you to upload your resume directly. Otherwise, you will be able to transfer the information from your resume into your applications. The Common Application, for example, allows students to list up to ten activities and up to five academic awards. A college planner can help you develop and populate a great college resume!

Junior? Get Started on Your Personal Statement and College Applications

  • Do not procrastinate! Start on your personal statement or Common App essay over the summer. Click here to see essay prompts.
  • The Common App goes live August 1st but you can start before that and complete many of the sections.
  • Starting early allows time to obtain feedback on your essay and to ensure that all application sections are completed accurately.

Whatever you choose to do this summer, this is a great time to explore opportunities, connect with others who have similar interests, and learn something new! Happy Planning!

Christina Assal, M.A., Certificate in College Planning