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College 101

How to Spend Your Summer Vacation
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

Months before you toss your mortarboard in the air and dash away from the pomp and circumstance to participate in some post-graduation party romps that would make Johnny Knoxville and Dita Von Teese blush, consider this: Any idea what college admission officers want to see their applicants doing during the languid, summery days and nights that follow?

a) Perfecting their tans

b) Chillin’

c) Continuing Ezio’s memories in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

d) Somethin’ worthwhile

e) None of the above

The answer is E, none of the above (duh). Summer vacation, while it needs to provide you with a break from full-time schoolwork, is not a free pass to do nothing for weeks on end. While it may seem like a total buzz kill to even think about enriching your mind as well as your  mood, it’s pretty much a lock that you’ll be fortifying your summer, your resume, and your image in admission officers’ minds if you consider participating in a few of the options below:

"We’re not entirely sure who’s walking who here."


·      Get a part-time job. Sure, working at Wendy’s or Payless is a perfectly legitimate employment experience, but if you’ve got an idea of what you may want to study in college, try to wriggle your way into a job in that area. Animals? Become a dog walker. Architecture? Toil in the soil for a landscaper. Teacher? Be a tutor. You never know—the pooches you may be promenading and the kids you’re coaching may belong to an alumnus of your first choice college or the admission officer’s old flame from a relationship that was never sufficiently doused.

·      Do some volunteer work. There are tons of places that rely on the time and attention of volunteers. Consider helping out at a homeless shelters or soup kitchens, participating in a river cleanup with an environmental group, or driving blind people on their errands. See what’s out there waiting for someone like you: 

·      Take a trip, write a blog. Mom and Dad are celebrating graduation—not yours but your little sister’s…from fifth grade into middle school. They’re taking the whole family on a trip…to Disneyland! Yes! (Or maybe not…) While a trek through Tomorrowland and Frontierland may not typically be the cultural immersion experience that tips the admissions scales in your favor, here’s a great opportunity to keep a journal, write a blog, create a video diary (or all of the above) of what it’s like to be a teenager being held hostage on the “It’s a Small World” ride for the fourth time. Some unique observations, a liberal cupful of good writing, and a dash of sarcasm, and you’ve created the perfect recipe for a fun—not to mention possibly advantageous—summer project.

·      Read, read, and then read something hard. Sure, finishing up book #3 in the Divergent series is good, solid reading, consider taking your reading list to the next level. There’s a reason that Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War are books that never go out of print. Get these under your belt and you’ll be ready for anything a college lit professor tosses at you (If you really want to show off, try James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. This experimental novel took Joyce 17 years to write, and with its stream of conscience writing style and general lack of any sort of recognizable plot or character construct, just ignore what we just said here and try Normal Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead instead. At least there’s some heart-wrenching combat action and good old-fashioned naughtiness.)

"Try to see more than the couch this summer."


·      Enroll some preparation or enrichment courses. Nope, this doesn’t mean starting college early (or rehashing what you just got a diploma for). You may have taken all the AP classes your high school offered but hate to break it to you, Grasshopper, but that’s not all there is. Many local community colleges offer these pre-college summer courses and some even offer lecture series. Now you can finally get a grasp on calculus before you enter that freshman weed-out class Or, rather than spending another night watching summer reruns of The Walking Dead, get up close and personal with Jeff Bezos or Sir Richard Branson. Some of these courses (online, mostly) and lectures are even free.

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