Summer activities to boost college applications

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Article and photo by Liz Stucke, owner of LS Admissions Prep


Recently, I have been listening to podcasts from the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders series.  It is inspiring to hear how people think up new ideas and implement plans to create new products and services.  These successful leaders start with an idea, try it out, fail sometimes, but always try again.  A common theme with these leaders is their drive to accomplish their goals and make life better for people.

As I discuss summer activities that will help boost college applications, I want to ensure that students start with the right mind set.  When I help students approach college applications and select classes and activities to further their college goals, I challenge them to “lean in.”  “Lean in” is the term Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, founder of Joyus and a former Google executive uses to discuss how entrepreneurs start a business.  They “lean in” and take firm action towards a goal.  The image is clear.  It is not a whimper of reactive action, but a force forward to make something new happen.  This summer, I challenge high school students to “lean in” and do something with their summer that will impact not only their college application, but might just help some people along the way.  Here are just a few ideas of how to purposefully spend a summer:

Boost Academics

GPA and course rigor are still the most important factors determining entrance into selective colleges. Address any subject areas needing improvement.  Has your son struggled in math this year?  If so, it could help the rest of his education to get some help. Your child might also want to use the summer to get ahead or prepare for more advanced classes in the coming school year. For example, if your child is considering taking the AP course in Physics, but is a little unsure of his math skills, talk to the Physics teacher to see how he can best prepare.


“As I discuss summer activities that will help boost college applications, I want to ensure that students start with the right mindset.”


Community Service/Internships

High school students often are required to complete some kind of community service. Rather than stringing together a series of unrelated service projects, have your son or daughter plan a service project that correlates to their interests and talents.  If your child is interested in being a doctor her service project or internship should include some time in a hospital or in a doctor’s office.  Do not wait for an internship to be listed. Have your daughter call around to local organizations to see how she might contribute in a medical setting, for example. Here are a few more examples of interest related organizations.  Rather than asking if there are internships, suggest a project you might help with:

  • Environmental: The TN Clean Water Network (where I am a board member)- help with the Clean Water Challenge or Dragon Boat Day Clean Water Education.  The TN Environmental Council – plant trees throughout TN and advocate for environmental policy.
  • Architecture: The Habitat for Humanity, Knox Heritage or an architecture firm.
  • Medicine: Children’s Hospital high school interns (application due March 15) or your local doctor’s office.
  • Arts: Use your artistic talents to design marketing material for a small company or be an assistant art instructor at a summer camp. Volunteer at the Knoxville Museum of Art.
  • Business: Sign up for UT’s Entrepreneurship Camp, an intensive one-week camp that teaches teens how to plan, start and run a business.
  • Writing: write op-eds in the Knoxville News Sentinel or write articles for a non-profit’s newsletters.

Learn Something New

While our children might not want to see the inside of a classroom during the summer, they have many options for learning something of true interest.  A little research will lead to classes of all kinds:

  • Classrooms: UT, Oak Ridge National Lab, Pellissippi or independent camps.
  • Online education: Ted Talks or iTunes University, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) such as Coursera or edX.
  • Read.

College Essays: Summer is an ideal time to get college essays completed especially with November 1st as the first deadline for college applications.
While summer is certainly a time to rejuvenate for the following academic year, students can also use it wisely to “lean in” to their interests and ideas for purposefully directing their lives towards college and beyond.


Liz Stucke is president of LS Admissions Prep ( where she counsels high school students and their parents through the College Selection and Application process.  Email questions or to set up a free consultation or call/text 865-951-0639.

One comment on “Summer activities to boost college applications

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