Preparing for College: How to Use Your Summers

Admissions officers also want to know what you’re doing outside of high school. Using your summer wisely is a great way to set yourself apart from other applicants. Below are four ways to take advantage of your summer.

Trying how to decide how to spend your summer? Use our Summer Goals Worksheet to match your passions with summer opportunities.

Summer Goals Worksheet >>


Demonstrate your work ethic to admissions officers by holding a job (of some sort) over the summer. Keep in mind that “work” includes a broad range of activities, such as:

  • Being employed by a local company
  • Working (paid or unpaid) for a family business
  • Holding an internship
  • Taking care of family responsibilities
  • Creating your own business/being self-employed

Each of the above are valuable additions to your college application. Family responsibilities are not “lesser” to having a paid job. The important thing is that you are demonstrating your responsibility and work ethic through how you spend your summer


Display your passion for a certain cause by volunteering over the summer. Even if you’re only able to volunteer a few hours each week, making the effort to do so will help you stand out. 

Keep in mind that genuine passion is very important in this particular activity. Volunteering just to fulfill a graduation requirement won’t leave a positive impression of you. Make sure to search for an organization with a mission or field you are interested in. If you are able to connect volunteering to your career interests, admissions officers will pay attention. 

Summer Classes

Prove your intellectual excitement by taking a summer course from a local college, high school, or even online. As a high school student, you might be able to get discounts on community college courses, and these classes can often transfer for high school credit. 

If you want to take a class not offered in your area, look into free online courses -- such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). While you might not be able to gain credit for these courses, you will be able to demonstrate your active interest in a particular area or career field. 

College Programs

Many colleges offer summer programs for high school students in a variety of subjects. This is a great opportunity to experience life beyond high school and to gain first-hand experience of college life. 

However, many summer programs (especially residential ones where you live on campus) can be quite expensive. Scholarships are available through the College Prep Scholars Program and many programs offer financial aid.