While grades and standardized test scores are still the top factor for college admission, colleges take a close look at extracurricular activities as well. What students do over the summer is of particular interest.
According to Mark Kantrowitz, senior video president and publisher at Edvisors Network, in an article published by CNBC, colleges think of summertime in the same way that a prospective employer thinks about a hiatus between jobs. “Colleges want to understand, what have you been doing with yourself? What happened during that gap?” he explains. The answer to those questions can be indicative of what a student will spend time doing on campus.
The summer experiences that are most likely to stand out to college admissions officers are those more specialized than a recreational summer camp. Students hoping to show off their dedication to athletics might consider a sports camp, while someone who has their sights set on admission to an engineering school will want to spend time over the summer at an engineering program that will set them apart from other applicants.
Something that makes Steven Infanti, associate vice president for admissions at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, take a closer look at a student’s application is a STEM camp experience. “When I look at an applicant who has a 2.5 [GPA], which would be kind of a borderline admit for us, but I see on the application, I participate in this camp … that shows a lot of initiative and someone who has passion,” he says.
Attending a camp can also help solidify what a student wants to do for a living in the future, helping them to be more focused in college.
As one past TryEngineering Summer Institute student said, “Multiple times throughout the camp, I had these moments where I could envision my future with such clarity that I now know my future major and profession will be in engineering.”
Showcasing Summer Experience
During the college admissions process, students may choose to showcase their summer experience in a variety of ways, from simply listing it as an extra-curricular activity on a college application to working especially meaningful experiences into the essay portion.
“If you had a transformative experience at the summer program or a big impact on others, that tells them more about who you are as an individual, especially if you can write about how it set you in a particular direction,” Kantrowitz said. “If something is of interest to you, you’re more likely to write a passionate essay.”
Students might also consider reaching out to summer camp counselors or directors for letters of recommendation. “Relatively few students submit letters from outside [school] or that are job-related,” says Eric Greenberg, founder and director of education consulting firm Greenberg Educational Group. “That can be enormously valuable.”