Five Ways High School Students Can Make the Most of Summer Vacation

February 27, 2014 

summer vacationArticle contributed by College Advisor Cheryl DiLanzo.

When college admissions officers review your student’s college applications, they will be looking carefully at how he spent his summers. Here are some suggestions for how to make the most of summer vacations:

1. Volunteer — As long as the volunteer work is something that the student feels passionate about, it doesn’t matter what the nature of the volunteer work is. Students who are interested in animals may want to volunteer at an animal shelter or rescue organization. If the student is interested in health care, volunteering at a local hospital is a good option. Note that college admissions officers typically expect a volunteer commitment to last at least 40 hours total.hours. Volunteer experiences also make good college application essay topics because they allow a student’s passion to shine through.

2. Take a College Course — This is a great opportunity to show college admissions professionals how well a student can perform in a college-level course. I recommend taking a 100-level course in an area such as psychology, philosophy, or history. These are introductory courses that all college students take when enrolled in college. When students excel in these summer courses, they are demonstrating their ability to perform well in college. Assuming the student performs well in the course, the professor may be amenable to writing a letter of recommendation for the student. In addition, those credits may often be transferable to the college the student ultimately attends, so he or she will not need to take that particular course again.

3. Travel — Students who travel over the summer expand their knowledge of the world. Learning about the language and customs of foreign countries is a great way to experience the world around us. While traveling in the United States provides the opportunity to learn about our own country’s history.

4. Work — Many students have part-time jobs during school year and over the summer. Work is a valued activity for more than just the money—it helps students gain real-world experience and understand concepts such as time management, responsibility, accountability, and interpersonal skills. Plus, managers may be asked to write a recommendation for the student when it comes time for the college application process to begin. Having a job demonstrates to the college admissions office that the student is motivated. Colleges like to see that students have had some working experience.

5. Shadow a Professional — Shadowing involves observing a person who is an expert in the student’s desired field. For example, if a student is interested in engineering, spending time on the job with an engineer will give her a more realistic idea about the engineering profession and if it is a field she would like to enter after college. Learning what a student likes is just as important as ruling out what he or she doesn’t like. Being able to communicate to college admissions officers that the applicant has spent time is another way to demonstrate motivation.

For more information about this topic and for individualized college admissions assistance, contact me at or visit my website,


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