Create a Summer that Sizzles For Your Child's Personal Development and the College Admissions Process

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Summer—it is just around the corner. We may idealize it as a time for sleeping in, playing outside, and freedom from homework. While that sounds nice, it is also a great opportunity to encourage your child to develop skills, passions, and interests that will add to her personal growth and set her apart from the thousands of other talented college applicants. Now the time sign up for activities that enable your child to grow as a person. Consider the following possibilities for summer:

1. Internships

A summer internship in an area your child is interested in strengthens her application by demonstrating dedication and passion. For example, your child may be interested in becoming an Engineer. What better way to develop her academic and professional interests and to stand out in the college application process than with a guided summer research project like those offered at Southern California Science Academy. Summer participants are mentored by an expert in a student’s field of interest and present their written findings the following school year. Find similar programs in your community based on your child’s interests

2. Summer school

Summer is a great time to take a class at local four-year or community college. Your child can use summer school to accelerate her studies in a field, alleviate some of the pressure of her course load during the school year, or delve further into a field that interests her. By doing well in a college class, your child will demonstrate her ability to handle college level coursework, which is what admissions officers look for first and foremost in applicants.

3. Service or interest organizations

Whatever cause or interest your child is passionate about, encourage her to assume a leadership position in it. Leading a community service organization will connect your child to something bigger than she is, while she develops coveted leadership experience. College admissions officers seek leaders with demonstrated experience and success to propel their student-run organizations forward.

4. International experience

Colleges seek applicants who are able to work abroad and with people from all over the world. As a result, many selective colleges, require applicants to study a foreign language in high school, and after they enroll, demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language to graduate from college. Your family could consider an international experience that fits your child’s interests and foreign language studies to demonstrate her international awareness and ability to meet any foreign language requirements. For example, an applicant studying Spanish that is interested in medicine could volunteer with a medical mission in Mexico over the summer. The experience would strengthen her Spanish language skills, demonstrate her interest in a particular field (medicine), and highlight the applicant’s commitment to service—all important components of the college application that admissions officers value.

The most important part of the college application process is to stay true to the skills, passions, and interests that make your child unique. By encouraging your child to excel in what matters most to her, she will develop the skills and leadership that college admissions officers covet.

Greg Kaplan is a college application strategist and author of Earning Admission: Real Strategies for Getting into Highly Selective Colleges. Kaplan focuses on empowering families to develop their children’s high value skills, interests, and passions and market the value they would bring to colleges. Kaplan is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business and UC Irvine School of Law, where he received close to a full tuition scholarship. See for more information.