Although we are still in the middle of winter, it is important to start looking forward to summer and planning accordingly. Today, we are going to take a look at how you can plan your high school summers for college admissions.

The Importance of Summer Planning

Many students may think of summer as a time to relax and do absolutely nothing. It’s true, you can use your summer like this. But it is important to note that summer is also a great opportunity to work on something that will set you apart from the crowd when it comes to applying to college. It is also possible to find a balance between relaxation and proactive work towards something meaningful.

It is common for colleges to ask a question like “What did you do last summer?” in their supplemental essays. You will find it difficult to come up with a good answer to this if you didn’t do anything. Summer is a time that you can spend beefing up your resume and extracurricular profile while not having to worry about your school-year classes. It’s understandable that many students feel overwhelmed with their heavy course loads during the academic year and think they can’t dedicate much time to extracurriculars without hurting their grades. Summer becomes a logical time to focus on extracurriculars when school is not in the way.

If you take advantage of your summers, prepare well for them, and work on something meaningful, you will find yourself with a much stronger resume when it’s time to send your applications. Moreover, you will likely have more experiences to draw on when writing your personal statement and supplemental essays.

How to Plan for Summer

Let’s take a look at a few things you should keep in mind when planning for your summers.

Start Early

Do not wait until the week before summer begins to decide on what you’re going to do. Meaningful projects require thought and planning. This takes time. Proactive students will begin considering what they are going to do over the summer sometime between the start of the academic year and the start of second semester.

This doesn’t mean you have to have it all perfectly figured out one year ahead of time. You might, but you don’t have to. This means that you seriously begin brainstorming and considering options at this time. You start to ask yourself what you want and what you don’t want. You understand that if you’re going to make the most of your summer, you’re likely going to need a few months to plan for it and set things up so that when the summer begins you can hit the ground running.

If you’re planning to apply to a summer program at a university or other kind of institution, many deadlines are up to 7-4 months before the start of summer, so it is critical that you are aware of this beforehand so you have time to prepare thoughtful applications.


The options are endless. You could come up with a million different things to do over the summer. Don’t feel limited by more structured programs and classes offered at schools/colleges. These may be good options, but they are not the only ones.

A few things to consider are independent projects, volunteering, research, paid (or unpaid) work, internships, shadowing experiences, and academic programs/classes. The best way to narrow it down is to think about what you want to spend your summer working on – is it something to do with biology? learning to code? teaching kids? sharpening your business skills? seeing what it’s like to make money at a job?

What are you passionate about? What energizes you? Once you have discovered this, then you can begin to look at how you can engage with this most effectively. Let’s say you love computer science. You could do an independent project creating an app that solves a common problem people face. You could volunteer your time teaching kids how to code from scratch. You could do computer science research with a professor at a local university. You could get an internship as an apprentice software engineer. You could shadow a family friend at their CS related job. You could take a class at a university or participate in a structured program. The options are endless. The best way to stay organized with everything is to write down your options.

Choose the Right Activity

Once you’ve landed on CS, then you can consider all of these different ways of engaging with CS over the summer. One of these is not in all cases better than the others. It really depends on what the specific opportunity is. So you will need to carefully evaluate the details and compare them to see what makes the most sense. Generally speaking, you will want to find an activity that is substantial and consistent.

Substantial means that an activity is accomplishing something that you (and admissions officers) would find meaningful. It isn’t meaningful to say you just watched YouTube videos relating to computer science all summer. It is meaningful to say that after watching a few videos, you took that knowledge and applied it to successfully build your own app that many people are now using. Consistent means that an activity goes on for a decent amount of time. Attending a one day intro seminar to CS at a local library isn’t very consistent, because it is a one day event. What is consistent is an internship that you go to Monday-Friday for 8 weeks straight.

Create a Plan

Now that you’ve decided on what you’re going to do, it’s time to start planning. Let’s continue with the example of computer science. You’ve decided that you would like to research a topic relating to computer science and produce a paper by the end of the summer. This is an excellent way to spend your time, but how are you going to turn it into a reality?

You will have a far greater chance of succeeding here if you plan ahead. So, in this example, you could start by spending time deciding precisely what your research topic is going to be. Once you have done this, you can begin finding professors at local universities that have similar research interests. You can create a list of them and start reaching out one-by-one introducing yourself and letting them know of your interest in research. Propose working together on a project. Perhaps they already have a system set up to work with high schoolers. You may have to send them a resume or work sample to show your skills. If one of them agrees to work with you, you will then have to figure out how it’s all going to work. What are your deadlines? Responsibilities?

You can see how all of this is going to take time. Everything we have discussed thus far are things that should be set before the summer begins, so that you can start the actual research as soon as classes get out. For this reason, planning ahead of time is critical. Ideally several months before the start of the summer.


Take the summer seriously. See it as an opportunity to work on your extracurricular profile and really set yourself apart through a meaningful activity. Universities love to see an engaged and proactive student. Start by brainstorming and writing down what you’re passionate about and what energizes you. Decide what you would like to spend your summer doing, whether it’s computer science, dance, working with kids, or making some money to build savings. Then, figure out what the best way to engage with your choice is. There are many different ways to do things. Ultimately what matters is that you settle on something that is substantial and consistent. Then, plan several months ahead of time to be sure that by the time the summer starts, you can hit the ground running.

Today, we’ve taken a look at how plan high schools summers for college admissions . At American College Counselors, we work one-on-one with students to help them develop a unique summer strategy that will maximize chances of admissions success at America’s top universities.

If you need help on planning your summer, the college list, interviews, applications, essays, resumes, or anything else related to the admissions process, please contact us to set up a free initial consultation where we can get to know each other a bit better and explain exactly what we do. Send us an email at [email protected] or call/text us at +1(954)-593-6230.

The American College Counselors Team