With college admissions becoming increasingly competitive, summer is an excellent time for your college-bound teen to get involved in résumé-bolstering activities that he or she may not have time for during the school year. According to Eileen Huntington, Co-Founder of Huntington Learning Center, "while academic performance is very important, most colleges and universities seek students who have interests, are motivated and care about their communities." Eileen Huntington offers parents the following ideas for educational extracurricular activities that will help strengthen their students' college applications:
Be an intern. Paid and unpaid internships are becoming more common for high school students and are an excellent way for your teen to gain hands-on experience within a field or industry of interest. Encourage your teen to contact local companies' office managers or human resources offices to see if they hire interns. At start-up companies, enthusiastic interns may be especially welcome-with tight budgets, such companies may jump at the chance to hire an inexpensive or unpaid intern to help out during the summertime.
Take college classes. Perhaps your teen has an interest that is not covered in his or her high school class work, such as horticulture, real estate or fashion. A local community college may be the perfect place for your student to explore these interests affordably-and earn transferable college credits in the process. If your teen is seeking a more intensive college experience, some institutions also offer high school summer programs on campus. Stanford University, for example, has a High School Summer College program for high school juniors and seniors (http://summer.stanford.edu/highschool/summercollege.asp), and Cornell University (www.sce.cornell.edu/sc/), Columbia University (www.ce.columbia.edu/hs/), Brown University (www.brown.edu/scs/pre-college/) and others offer similar programs.
Hone valuable skills. At college, students will find that skills such as communication, public speaking and writing are crucial to their success. What better way to improve these skills than practice them outside the classroom over summer vacation? Toastmaster's International (www.toastmasters.org), a public speaking and leadership organization with over 12,000 clubs worldwide, has Gavel Clubs across the country-and high school students under the age of 18 are eligible to join. For a fun forum in which to improve his or her writing, your teen should check your local library for teen creative (or nonfiction) writing groups. And if your teen can't find a club or organization in your community, why not take the initiative to start one with a group of friends?
Volunteer. Volunteering offers a number of benefits for high school students, not the least of which is the opportunity to make a difference in the community and world. In addition, volunteering is an ideal setting for your teen to explore career interests and develop relationships with influential adults or other mentors. If your budget allows it, service learning trips are another great way for your teen to volunteer abroad. Global Leadership Adventures (www.experiencegla.com), for example, takes high school students to many global destinations to volunteer, as does BridgeVolunteers (www.bridgevolunteers.org) and a number of other organizations.
While activities are great résumé-builders for college-bound students, Eileen Huntington adds that it is more important for high school students to engage in activities that they're passionate about. "Students should think of their extracurricular activities as one of the best ways to show college admissions officers what they're interested in and what's important to them," says Eileen Huntington. "Those who choose meaningful activities will definitely gain a lot, personally and professionally."