The Summer Advantage: Strategies for High Schoolers to Cultivate Personal Growth During the Summer 

The Summer Advantage: Strategies for High Schoolers to Cultivate Personal Growth During the Summer 

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For high school students, summer breaks aren’t just a time to relax and recharge—they’re opportunities for self-growth. Colleges will look at this time and try to see how applicants are challenging, growing themselves and exploring their core values. Here are some opportunities to enhance personal growth to make your college application stand out:  

  1. Gaining Real-World Experience Through Work

Employers and colleges value the maturity, responsibility and skills gained from working. Whether it’s a retail job, a barista at a local coffee shop, or an office assistant, work teaches valuable life lessons not found in classrooms. Work also demonstrates a student’s ability to manage time, collaborate, and commit to responsibilities outside their academic life. 

  1. Participating in a Summer Internship

Internships are a way for students to gain direct exposure to their field of interest. They offer a glimpse into professional environments and provide hands-on, interest specific experience that can set a student’s college application apart. Securing an internship, especially in a competitive field, communicates a student’s initiative, drive, and genuine interest in a prospective career path. 

  1. Attending a Prestigious Summer Program

Universities and colleges, along with private organizations, often host summer programs offering advanced study in various disciplines. These prestigious programs are sought after for the academic challenge and enrichment they provide. Participation signals a student’s academic motivation and readiness to engage at a college level and even, sometimes, gain college credits. It’s also important to note that you need to select your summer program wisely and prioritize notable options to ensure it’s a worthwhile investment.  

  1. Leadership at a Summer Camp

The summer camp you attended as a child will often offer job positions and leadership opportunities for teenagers. These positions are great for personal growth and nurture skills such as leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving. These experiences are invaluable in shaping well-rounded individuals. 

  1. Contributing to the Family Business

Working in a family store or business demonstrates responsibility and commitment.  It emphasizes a student’s ability to balance family obligations with personal goals. Students should not shy away from familial responsibilities, and it may be even a good thing to write about in your college application essay.  

  1. Creating Independent Projects 

Taking the initiative to create independent projects demonstrates creativity, innovation, and leadership. Whether it’s starting and creating an art portfolio, writing works of fiction, organizing a community event, or creating a blog or YouTube channel, these experiences showcase one’s ability to think outside the box and take risks. 

  1. Reading and Attending Events at the Local Library

Students should consistently engage in reading to broaden their worldview. If students haven’t had the chance to explore books, they are passionate about during the school year, the summer break provides the perfect opportunity to do so. Check out our list of suggested reading books here! Additionally, students can participate in events at their local library like workshops, book clubs, or read to children. Engaging in reading and attending these events is aimed at enhancing your personal growth.  

  1. Dedicated Test Preparation

Although we advise against spending the entire summer solely on test preparation, we do suggest utilizing this time to get ahead. Whether it’s for the SAT, PSAT, ACT, Regents or subject-specific AP exams, early preparation can significantly improve scores and thereby enhance a college application. Further, excelling in these tests can open doors to scholarships and honors programs. NYC STEM Club offers many testing options 

Turn Summers into Strategic Opportunities 

Colleges look for authenticity; they want to see students who are engaged in meaningful activities that resonate with their passions, interests, career goals and/or ambitions. It’s about quality, not just quantity. A well-chosen summer experience can speak volumes about a student’s character, interests, and potential. 







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