Gone are the days when summer symbolized freedom and serenity for students. Summer has now become a time for academic enrichment, extracurricular activities, college essays, and jobs. Although this change might seem foreign to some, it’s now readily seen throughout society. During the offseason, most athletes don’t just sit and relax at home; they are fervently hitting the gym and preparing their bodies for the upcoming season. Good teachers and professors take some time to rest during the summer but also prepare their curricula for the upcoming school year. Students need to take advantage of their offseason by putting in work that will boost their overall profile and provide an edge on their college applications, and this article will shine a light on what students of different grade levels can do to help their cause.

Students who are currently in 11th grade have a myriad of activities they can do during the upcoming summer to improve their college applications. The most impressive of these would be a summer research or internship position related to the student’s future college major, and since these are highly competitive and hard to find, the search needs to begin right away if it’s not already started. The best and easiest way to find a research or internship position would be through a family member’s connection, so it is ideal to talk about student goals and possible opportunities as a family. Another great activity for rising seniors is a selective summer program at a college. These programs can show a student’s interest in a particular subject and even lead to greater accomplishments, such as journal papers or startup businesses. If an academic summer program doesn’t work out, students should consider getting a summer job and think about what they plan to do with their earnings. Putting the money toward a school club they’re involved in or an organization they volunteer at can help show their maturity and values to colleges. On top of extracurricular activities, soon-to-be seniors should look to make their final academic push during the summer by taking classes at a community college to raise their GPA or studying to increase their SAT or ACT scores. They should also start their college application essays and look to finish most of them by the end of summer.

Current sophomores should plan to do as much as they can to raise their academic profile during the summer. Since College of the Canyons allows students to start taking classes after their sophomore year, students should consider taking one or two classes to boost their GPA. Since classes fill up quickly, students need to plan ahead so they can get the classes they want and also need to remember to sign up for UC-approved classes to receive an extra GPA point for their grade. Another way to take advantage of the summer is to take a class to raise their SAT or ACT scores. By maximizing their scores now, students can have the freedom to participate in more meaningful extracurricular activities during the summer after 11th grade. Sophomores can also apply for summer programs at colleges, but most spots are reserved for older students so they should have a backup plan.

For younger students, what they do over the upcoming summer can make a lasting impact on their overall student and personal profile. Participating in a summer program, such as Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, can help students find their passion and formulate some goals. For students who plan to stay home, enrolling in an academic enrichment course can prepare them for the following year and future standardized tests. For example, incoming freshmen can get a taste of what AP classes are like by taking an AP biology preview course. Rising sophomores may find an AP chemistry preview course very helpful since many won’t have seen any chemistry concepts since early in junior high. A PSAT program can help students bolster their English reading comprehension and grammar skills before taking a future SAT course. English and math preview programs for younger students can also ensure that they get a head start on their academics for the following year and are prepared for what’s ahead. These courses can also fill in any holes in a student’s education before they cause future problems.

Regardless of what grade students are in, I highly recommend having them take yearly diagnostic tests to see where they are academically. Parents and students are often surprised by scores on standardized tests since many assume that getting straight A’s in school translates to great scores. However, that is rarely the case, and many students are oblivious to significant gaps in their knowledge and education until they are older. Therefore, just as athletes train during their offseason, students should use their summers to strengthen their profile by investing in their academics and extracurricular activities.