Summer. Just the word conjures up thoughts of sunshine, ice cream, no school, and meet-ups with friends. But while those months off of school are perfect for relaxation, they are a good time to create strong, well-rounded experiences for your future college applications as well!

This coming summer, take the time to dig into your passions, explore your interests, and show colleges what inspires and motivates you most as a person and student. Investing yourself in summer activities, be it research or a job, shows that you are a driven, diligent individual – someone colleges want to have on their campus.

One solution that a lot of students use to impress colleges during their vacation is signing up for a summer program at a university or organization, whether it be acting in a theatrical conservatory program or studying computer science course at the local college.

However, while summer studies can be an effective way of delving into interests or preparing for college-level courses, they are not always the most feasible financially or time-wise. Do not feel as though you must pay a small fortune and dedicate [#] intensive weeks to a specific program.

There is a multitude of ways you can stand out to colleges and have a productive summer vacation that are completely free. Here are some different ways to make the most of your summer without paying a large amount.



Interested in public health? Art? Writing? Basket weaving? Chances are there is an internship out there for you. Internships are typically unpaid positions in which the intern essentially does entry-level work for a professional position.

Internships can usually be found in every field, and can bean effective way of gaining experience in various fields, checking out what it really means to work in a specific department or discipline. While internships can often seem like thankless positions requiring an absurd amount of coffee runs, they are vital in providing you with a strong background for future applications, job or college wise.

While it can seem that most internships are geared toward college students, take heart! Here are 14 Awesome Internships for High School Students.

If it seems that in your area organizations are only on the lookout for college students, reach out to companies in the field you are interested in working in, either through phone or email. It may take quite a few letters and voicemails, but local companies often need (and appreciate) some help.



Why not spend your summer both enjoying yourself and creating positive change? There is a plethora of non-profits that you could volunteer your summer for, either local, national, or international, that need your help.

A fulfilling and important experience, volunteering could change your relationship to both yourself and the outside world. It portrays that you care about your relationship to others in society (good information for colleges to know when they are creating the group for next university class) and that you are passionate about being productive with your free time.

Volunteering lets you learn more about yourself, how you affect others in society, and is a much better way of spending your time than watching Netflix at home. Food drive organization, camp counseling, and non-profit fundraising are just some of the ways that you can begin giving back to the community and spending your available hours meaningfully.

If you are more entrepreneurial-minded, find your own unique way of reaching out to others and make society a little bit better. Whether you create a summer camp for local kids, lead weekly park cleaning walks, or organize a music show at the senior center, you can easily find a way to make a positive impact on those around you.

You do not need to travel far to start changing the world. Universities like to see that your surroundings are important to you and that you actively seek to better it: by volunteering, you can not only portray that facet of yourself, but do something worthwhile for others.


Get a Job

Colleges admissions officers are looking for hardworking and passionate individuals who are always willing to better their community and learn more about themselves. And sometimes, there is no better way of doing this than simply taking the summer to work.

You do not need to work somewhere prestigious or selective: there is absolutely nothing amiss with working at the restaurant around the corner or at the toy store across the street. A job can give you vital experience to put on your résumé, an income, and a chance for universities to see that you spend your free time wisely.

It is often far more impactful for universities that you spent your time responsibly and maturely working during your vacation period, rather than doing a pre-made, paid-for summer program. Although the job you work will probably not be in the field you are planning on going into, and although it can get tough at times, it exhibits your professionalism and grit, two skills any college would appreciate. And as an added bonus, no matter what kind of job you get, you can always find some excellent stories for your college application essays.


Personal Projects

If nothing sounds particularly appealing to you, use the time to work on some personal projects and bring them to fruition. If there was a musical you always wanted to write or if you had some independent science research you desired to investigate, summer months give you plenty of free time to explore those interests.

Putting in time and effort into creating something personal can mean a lot to college admissions counselors, who want to see that you are serious about pursuing what you are enthusiastic about. Bringing to life an idea that you have been considering is not only a gratifying experience for yourself, but lends itself to an impressive activity and stellar college essay material.

Although, personal projects need a quick word of warning: when deciding to pursue independent work, make sure you have a specific project in mind. It is simple to plan on doing something and later get distracted from your original goal. Map out a timeline for your project and hold yourself accountable to it: self-discipline is key here. If you find yourself putting self-set deadlines off and procrastinating on the work that needs to be done, take a moment to sit down, reevaluate the priority of the project, and find a way of self-motivating. There are a large number of apps and strategies that can help you stay organized and on top of your personal goals.


The Takeaway

As long as you work hard (without forgetting to have some fun!), your summer can become an enriching and productive experience. Focus on doing something that really matters to you and choose an activity that is not a financial or emotional strain. One internship or job can mean much more to the admissions office in understanding who you are and your accomplishments than a summer spent taking a pricey program.

Remember, there is no right or wrong in figuring out an effective way in spending your summer, but this list provides a good point to start planning. The most significant thing is for you to learn and grow, both as an individual and student. College admissions officers will pick up on that.

Nadiya Atkinson

Nadiya Atkinson

Nadiya Atkinson is currently a sophomore at Williams College. She is a prospective double major in theatre and psychology, interested in exploring the political and social agency of performance. When she is not studying, she loves to sing with her a cappella group, complain about The Fountainhead, and unicycle.
Nadiya Atkinson