What to Do This Summer: 5 Ways to Boost Your Resumé


What to Do This Summer: 5 Ways to Boost Your Resumé

When you’re thinking about what to do this summer, keep in mind that not all activities are created equal. Especially in the last two years of high school - admissions officers will want to see more unique, independent, and impressive activities. Consequently, I can’t tell you exactly what to do or the activity wouldn’t be unique! But I can give you an idea of where to start.

If you're wondering what to do this summer, here are categories of activities that will help you understand the caliber of what competitive candidates are doing nowadays.

1. Highly Selective Summer Programs:

We’ve talked before about the potential disadvantages of high school summer programs and how hard it is to stand out with them. However, there are a number of more competitive summer programs that are on admissions officers’ radars.

The application process for top programs tends to be involved and the vetting process more thorough, which is why getting admitted is an accomplishment on its own. Examples of such programs include the following:

These programs have gained the respect of admissions officers because, like the rest of the items on the list, they require the students to develop their own unique projects and take ownership of their learning. If you're thinking about what to do this summer, participating in competitive summer programs could help boost your resumé.

2. Personal Mini Projects:

We are all complex human beings with diverse interests. For younger students, starting with several small, low-stakes projects can help you explore and deepen your different interests. By the end of the summer though, you should pick 1-2 to pursue more substantially into an Independent Project (next on the list). For older students, mini projects can complement other established projects.

What exactly is a personal mini project? For example, I knew of a student who had a pretty significant following on social media due to her artwork, but she was looking for ways to engage more meaningfully with the online community. Her mini project was learning about marketing techniques, and how to interact with her followers to incite conversations about issues she cared about. I knew a student who wrote a screenplay to pursue his interest in film. Use mini projects as a way to explore, find your passion, and show initiative.

3. Independent Projects:

This will depend on your particular interests, motivation, and time management skills, but if you stick to a big project, this type of activity is one of the most impressive to admissions officers.

Maybe you’ve been inspired by the latest conversations regarding sexual assault. Do research on the topic, reach out to community members, and put together a series of talks for educational outreach in your school or neighborhood.

Or maybe you’ve been volunteering at the pet shelter during the school year. When you have more free time in the summer, and you can apply your computer science skills to create website and run a social media fundraising campaign for the organization.

Or maybe you write poetry in your spare time. In the summer, use the time to keep writing! Work to publish a poetry series to share with the world.

Take advantage of your summer to dive into one of your interests and actually do something. Have something concrete to show for your efforts. Be observant, identify a need, and work on a solution.

4. Internships or Jobs:

There is no substitute to experiential knowledge from internships, but these opportunities rarely fall on your lap. So, start looking! Ask your immediate network if they know of opportunities: your parents’ friends, your teachers, your school counselor, or even bulletin boards at your local community college. If you’re already volunteering somewhere for a few hours during the school year, have a talk with your supervisors to see if and how you could increase your responsibilities with them.

Get a paid job! Admissions officers appreciate the responsibility that having a job entails. Or hire yourself! Maybe you design your own jewelry or make your own art prints. Create an Etsy shop to sell your works online. If you’re questioning what to do this summer, gaining work experience is almost always seen as valuable to admissions officers.

5. Blogging:

Regardless of your interests, a blog can be helpful in creating an online presence, polishing your writing skills, and exploring your passion. The beauty of a blog is that it can be applied to any interest. Say you’re interested in chemistry. Set up Google Alerts to your email about the latest chemistry news and write blog posts about them. Design your own experiments and share how-to’s with your readers. Or maybe you start your own version of Humans of New York and collect stories from strangers to share on your blog. Wondering how to become a blogger? Start by creating content on a topic that you truly love.


Lots of things should be happening in the summer! Plan opportunities that will allow for personal growth and self-reflection so that you can figure out what you love and dive deeper. Make sure to track your activities and accomplishments as they happen!



Growing up splitting my time between Mexico and the United States, I’ve had first-hand experience and personal stake in the unique circumstances that a multi-cultural upbringing brings into the college admissions process and higher education in general. My sustained interest in the matter led me to volunteer as mentor to primarily underrepresented students throughout my high school and university experience.
While at Rice University, I pursued my interests in the sciences and fine arts, both academically and outside the classroom. In addition to serving as the director of a student-founded and student-run art gallery, I undergone training to become an Emergency Medical Technician my freshman year. After graduation, I decided to go international in my efforts to help students get into their dream school and moved to China full-time.

In my free time, I love walking around the city to my inner soundtrack of You Make My Dreams by Hall & Oates, looking for hidden street art, and pretending those dogs at the pet store by my apartment will one day roam free on my made-up ranch in the south of France.

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