Summer is upon us, and many students are trying to think about what they can do to strengthen their college applications. The fact is, there are lots of things students can do besides relaxing and having some fun that they all look forward to. Let’s talk about how to plan your summer activities so you can have fun and still enhance your college applications.

First of all, decide what activities you have been involved in so far and see if you can find a way to take them to a deeper level. For example, if you are a high school swimmer, get a job as a lifeguard or teach swim lessons out of your home. If you are a dancer, teach dance lessons or get involved in a community performing project. The Tulare County Office of Education, Enchanted Playhouse or Encore Theater in Tulare have programs for students. Colleges like to see depth of involvement in your activities, rather than how many activities you can list on your application.

Next, think about opportunities that will allow you to be a leader. If you are involved in your church, organize a fundraiser for a good cause – one that you believe in. Maybe you could sponsor a younger student for church camp. Or perhaps if you are a singer, you could organize a group of friends and put together a little show and go to assisted-living homes and entertain the residents. Find a local project that you and some friends would enjoy doing together and commit some time to it over the summer. How about having a yard sale after you gather items from your neighborhoods. Decide together what you might like to do with the money you earn.

Try to find something to do that you are passionate about (a hobby or favorite activity) and that can impact others in a positive way. A quick note of caution: Colleges like sustainability; that is, they like to see students who stick to an activity for the entire time they are in high school, so if you are going to start something new, be sure that it is relevant to something you are already doing (i.e., if you start a photography business, be sure that you have been involved in photography before).

There are plenty of other things to do in the summer. Here are some ideas:

  • Take a college class that interests you or will free up your schedule next year.
  • Take an online class for fun. Udemy.com has lots of short interesting courses to offer.
  • Get a job, internship or volunteer or job shadow. Be sure that it is in something you are interested in either as a hobby, for fun or as a future career.
  • Travel.
  • Start a business.
  • Don’t forget to make some college visits.
  • Oh, and one of the most important things you can do if you are in high school is to study for the SAT or ACT. This one breaks the rules on fun!

Have fun over the summer, but also be productive in a positive way.