Resume Padding Out, Summer Thriving In

Bob Carlton
November 30, 2023
min read
Resume Padding Out, Summer Thriving In

Can you believe it’s already winter break? While Summer 2024 might seem far away, now is the ideal time to start crafting plans to thrive next summer.

Why does thriving during the summer matter? Research shows that students who are deeply engaged in activities are way more likely to thrive during the school year. Students who thrive in their activities are 2.5 times more likely to excel in school and 4.5 times more likely to feel hopeful about the future. Not to mention, the activities you choose often play a big role in your college applications—summer is a prime time to take a big step into what interests you.

Here are some of the top myths we see students have about thriving in the summer:

  • Picking activities to pad your resume is smart. Nope! Do what you truly enjoy and are interested in.
  • Fancy programs get you into college. Not really. Colleges want to see your initiative.
  • Summer jobs are boring. Actually, they teach great skills for the real world.
  • Volunteer hours only matter for quantity. The truth is, quality of experience matters more to colleges.
  • Stick to what you already excel at. This is often the farthest thing from the truth—try new things to explore interests.
  • Your summer must be fully scheduled. So not true. Make sure to leave time for friends and downtime too.

How to Make a Perfect Summer Plan

As you start your planning, you may want to follow these five steps:

1. Reflect on Your Interests

What existing hobbies could you develop further? Which causes get you fired up? What new skills do you want to gain? Identify what sparks your excitement.

2. Set Inspiring Goals

Come up with 2-3 personal growth goals that excite you, like volunteering 20 hours with an animal rescue or mastering video editing to start a YouTube channel. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable and motivating.

3. Find Great Options

Research activities like volunteer opportunities, pre-college programs, jobs, internships, and classes that will help you achieve your goals. Start by checking out this resource with over 1000 options for summer 2024.

4. Craft a Weekly Schedule

Map out how you’ll spend each week pursuing your goals and relaxing with friends. A flexible schedule will allow both adventure and downtime so you start next academic year feeling energized.

5. Take on a Leadership Role

Look for at least one chance to take on more responsibility as a leader, like directing a volunteer project or coaching a sports team. Volunteering is also a wonderful way to learn leadership skills and better understand the larger world.

Identifying Activities That are a Good Match

As you research options for the upcoming summer, make sure to consider these four criteria to find activities that are a match for you:

  • Initiative: Consider how much initiative the activity requires. Developing an independent project shows more initiative than attending a program. Consider whether you prefer self-direction or an established structure.
  • Challenge: Is the activity a stretch or outside your comfort zone? Challenging yourself shows growth. It's okay if you try something hard and fail.
  • Impact: How will the activity impact you and the community? A great summer experience is both engaging and impactful, one that can translate your interest into a lasting legacy with an issue or a group.
  • Financial Fit: Program costs vary widely. While some offer aid, most require full tuition. Review options across price points. Free and low-cost activities like volunteering, internships, and jobs can be great choices.

We know that many teenagers and their parents wonder how college admissions officers evaluate summer activities. First and foremost, they do not want to see you pad your resume with activities that “look good.”

Push beyond your comfort zone and get deeply involved in activities to showcase dedication. Local service can make as much impact as expensive programs abroad, so focus on character and community over prestige.

Remember that your activities are just one part of your application, so choose ones that authentically showcase who you are as a contributor to campus life at the college you hope to attend.

Start Brainstorming Now!

Don't let winter break pass you by without thinking ahead to next summer. Use this time to reflect on what really engages and motivates you. Jot down new activities or experiences you'd love to try next summer. Dream big! You don't need to finalize plans now, just explore possibilities and get your creative juices flowing.

Join the College MatchPoint team and Dr. Jed Applerouth for a free webinar, Getting a Head Start on Summer Planning, on Sunday, January 14th at 5 pm ET/4 pm CT.

Schedule a call with a Program Director.

Questions? Need some advice? We're here to help.

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