Lifestyle

Use the summer to continue preparing for college

Question: I have been too busy during the spring of my junior year to make plans for the summer. How can I use the summer to make myself a more attractive college applicant?

Answer: Your predicament is a common one that many juniors lament this time of year. It can be downright impossible to juggle all the balls required of juniors in the spring, between college testing, AP exams, rigorous course loads and extracurriculars. Nevertheless, colleges will look carefully at how you spent the summer before senior year and will expect you to have made a contribution or an impact.

While summer is right around the corner, it’s not too late to make summer plans that will enable you to learn more about yourself and your career interests or give back to the community.

Often by the end of their junior year, students have begun to narrow down their interests and focus their time and energies on specific activities, jobs or sports that they have been involved with for the past few years. Since college admissions committees will want to see that you have delved deeper into your area of interest, it is best to look for an activity that complements what you have already been doing.

For instance, if you think you are interested in teaching and have spent time over the years babysitting and taking human development or psychology courses in school, you may want to find a position — paid or unpaid — working with children, either in a day care setting or summer camp. Likewise, a student who is interested in a career in the health sector might explore volunteer opportunities in a senior living center. For many of my clients, such hands-on experiences provide a more concrete understanding of what it is like to work with the elderly and/or infirm.

Often students are under the impression that they need to travel abroad to gain exposure to poverty. However, one only need venture five miles outside of Mercer Island to find disadvantaged communities that may benefit from service work. A great resource that I use with students is Volunteermatch.org, which allows students to perform targeted searches for volunteer opportunities in their geographical area and area of interest.

For students interested in paid service work, there is a great resource right here on Mercer Island through the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Job Link. To access these job opportunities, go to mercergov.org and follow the links to Youth and Family Services. You can either search online or go directly to their office in Luther Burbank Park and take a look at their job board, which offers a more extensive listing of jobs beyond Mercer Island.

Another option is job shadowing a professional who works in a field that interests you. This is not as simple to arrange and may require that you talk to many adults in the community to identify an individual to shadow. I often find that students can network with their friends’ parents or their parents’ friends to make these connections.

Finally, you might want to take a class, either locally or online, either for remedial purposes or to learn something you might not have had time to pursue in high school, such as a third language. You may still find vacancies in precollege courses on college campuses. Such precollege courses, offered all over the United States, not only expose you to college level material, but also allow you to sample both dorm life and different parts of the country.

Contact Joan Franklin at franklij@comcast.net.

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