Preparing for College

Which Summer Program for Strong Rising Senior?

Question: My daughter already attended THINK, CTD at Northwestern U. and a volunteer service abroad program for eight weeks. What is good summer program for a rising senior with all "A's" and stellar SAT's aiming for the tier one schools?

Given that your daughter has already done a variety of summer programs, my advice is for her to hop off the program track this summer and do something different.

A couple decades back, college admission officials were delighted to see applicants who had opted for summer enrichment classes on college campuses or had journeyed to distant lands to do good deeds. But, today, these activities turn up on applications so often that many admission folks have gotten a tad jaded when they spot them.

Of course, admission officers also recognize that these opportunities can provide academic or personal growth and challenge to students who may not be getting a sufficient dose of it during the school year, and they do like it when students pursue passions beyond the boundaries of the high school classroom. But if you have to ask "What program should my daughter do?" then the answer is probably "None." If she herself isn't shoving brochures in your face and hasn't already identified some program--or type of program--that she's desperate to try, then I recommend that she take a more atypical tack this summer. This could be a paid job or volunteer post close to home. She could even create her own job by organizing a little camp, offering lessons in an area where she has skills, launching a cottage industry, writing a novel, etc.

Top tier colleges receive gazillions of applications from students who, like your daughter, are gifted students ... so many, in fact, that it can be a daunting task to distinguish among them and make the necessary tough decisions. So finding a unique undertaking on an application under the "Summer Activities" rubric can make those tough decisions a smidgeon easier. And rarely does a litany of "programs," however excellent they may be, make an application jump out of the pile.

Moreover, your daughter might find that the resourcefulness required to come up with her own summer agenda will help her in many ways in the years ahead, and not just at college-admissions time.