Summer vacation is a misnomer for students vying to be one of the fewer than 20 percent of applicants admitted to some of America’s best-ranked colleges.
The hot months between junior and senior year are a time for students to bolster their resumes with interesting activities, internships or jobs while working on their college application and other preparation materials.
Stowe college counselor P.J. Goldberg believes that a resume is a story for college admissions officers and says the more unique and selective the activity, the better it will look on a college resume.
Many students go abroad the summer before senior year for service work or exposure to other cultures, but this isn’t always the best approach, as it may only demonstrate the ability to pay for overseas experiences.
Goldberg believes students can find or create extracurricular activities they’re passionate about without leaving Vermont.
“This community embraces students and their ideas,” she said. “What you tell them can’t look like privilege.”
This spring, rising senior Jace Boerger he launched his own business called Lawn Sharks. He’s open for business any day of the week and charges for yard work on an appraisal basis. He hopes starting his own business will catch the eye of a college admissions officer.
Stowe High School guidance counselor Patricia Tomashot said summer is the perfect time for students to begin writing their college essays and working on the common app — a college admission application that can be used at more than 700 U.S. colleges and Universities.
In an email, Tomashot also suggested summer options including “internships, volunteer work, a part-time job (or better yet, start a business), summer classes at a local college, making college connections, create a positive online presence (blog, LinkedIn, ZeeMee) or even camping!”
These experiences make for compelling essays, but Tomashot reminds students, “just be prepared to talk or write about it.”
Rising Stowe senior Kevin Crawford is going camping — while learning wilderness and leadership skills — at the National Outdoor Leadership School. The Wyoming-based program teaches students to survive in the wilderness from counselors who slowly do less to help students until they can survive independently.
The course ends with students unsupervised to test their mastery of the skills they’re taught. Students are graded on their performance in leadership and wilderness skills at the end of the course as a tangible indicator of merit to admissions officers.
Vanessa Eliasson is another Stowe High student using her summer to get ahead. She plans to travel to Stanford University to work with Kelsey Doyle, a film producer employed by the college. Eliasson plans on majoring in business and thinks working for a film producer is a good way to get toward that goal.
Tomashot and Goldberg make it clear that there isn’t one right way to spend the summer before senior year.
“Necessity creates a story as well,” Goldberg said, pointing out that a student who has to stay at home to take care of an elderly family member or younger siblings can turn that into an interesting anecdote in an interview, or a heartfelt college essay. Needing to do something can be just as compelling as choosing to in the admissions process, she said.
Goldberg adds that it’s important to create a theme within your application. The best opportunities are ones that demonstrate a student’s passions and ambitions.
Students still looking for summer opportunities can get all kinds of help from the Stowe High School counseling department, Tomashot said. This can be through individual meetings, grade-level meetings, direct emails to students, updates to the counseling web site, hosting lunch-time summer program visitors, and others.