We think it’s wisest for students interested in applying to the US, for both their own personal growth and the development of their candidacy, to explore new enrichment opportunities or extracurricular passions during the summer. American universities value students who demonstrate initiative, curiosity, leadership, and risk taking, and these types of opportunities can consist of a specialized summer camp, an internship, a creative independent project – or a simple summer job that demonstrates you’re hardworking!
Often we find a short course or enrichment program on a college campus allows the candidate to BOTH explore a new interest and “test drive” a campus. For example, a 10th grader of ours from Italy spent three weeks at Boston University a few summers ago, taking a 10-day course in business, his first choice, then a second workshop in journalism, which he was lukewarm about. He learned that he loved journalism, and also found Boston culturally enriching – but since BU seemed so large, he ended up applying to liberal arts programs at smaller colleges around Boston.
Many summer programs we have sent international students to aren’t limited to the classroom: they combine a hands-on learning experience with social activities that are lots of fun – an ideal combo for the summer!
As for summer test prep, we don’t advise our students to hunker down in a classroom all summer! Moderation is the key. Over the years, we’ve found that many international students often overdo it in terms of trying to improve standardized test scores (SSAT, SAT, ACT, TOEFL/Duolingo). Remember: the US admissions evaluation process is holistic!
In addition to structured activities such as summer school, camp, and prep school, “downtime” should be the time during which a student can rest and relax with friends and family, and participate in recreational activities.
Here’s an important Boston Globe article about summer planning in which our CEO, Don McMillan, as well as Harvard’s Dean of Admission, point out the importance of balance in the summer.