It might seem too soon, but this is the perfect time to start preparing for summer break 2021. For students positioning for colleges with selective admissions, it’s never too early to plan for summer camps, value-add activities, volunteer engagements, and resume boosters. Especially in the age of COVID-19. In fact, I recently had someone reach out to discuss this very topic so I figured I’d write a blog post on it.

How should I pick the right activities?

Summer activities and camps can be powerful tools in the selective admissions game. Why? Because colleges look at a student’s talents and abilities when filling spots for the coming freshman class. Attending the right summer camp or activity can make a huge difference in distinguishing your child’s perceived talent in a specific area. It’s simply one more thing on the resume that makes your student stand out in the pack.

Let me provide an example. Let’s say your teenager’s name is Gary. Gary wants to be a doctor. Instead of working at the local grocery store for the summer (no shame there, Gary, that was my pathway…), Gary could engage with a local university faculty member conducting research in a relevant scientific field. Gary learns about the scientific process, boosts his understanding of a relevant academic topic for his senior year AP class, and discovers if neuroscience is an authentic career passion. This is a better use of Gary’s time, and could save his family thousands of dollars in earned merit scholarships. A win for Gary!

What is demonstrated interest?

Another good starting point is to start with a student’s current prospective school list. This is because many colleges consider “demonstrated interest” in their admissions criteria. Demonstrated interest is a university’s gauge of a student’s interest in their institution. Consequently, students who attend activities at schools of interest have the ability to boost their chances of matriculation. Attending an event on campus has the additional benefit of allowing the student to gauge fit. If the student has a rotten experience at XYZ University, for example, perhaps is not the dream school they anticipated it would be! This, again, is a major win when the student chooses a school he or she is more likely to stick with. Transferring schools can be quite expensive.

What it’s important – especially this year – to plan ahead

Alas, this year is different than most. Many activities have been cancelled or modified due to COVID-19, so additional preparation and research is required. A quick survey of a few of the illustrious summer programs show modifications such as:
Simons Summer Research Program – “remote format”
Yale Young Global Scholars – “non-essential employees are working remotely, so YYGS cannot take phone calls nor accept mail unless necessary exceptions pre-arranged by email. We appreciate your patience and flexibility during this time.”
Boston University Summer Programs – “All five of Boston University’s Summer Term High School Programs will be offered exclusively through remote instruction in summer 2021.”
ASU Cronktie School – “For health and safety reasons related to the pandemic, these programs are going virtual for the summer of 2021.”
Carnegie Mellon University Summer Academy for Math and Science – “Due to the ongoing considerations related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Pre-College program will be offered only through remote instruction in the summer of 2021.”

This certainly doesn’t mean activities and camps won’t be available; it just means a lot of virtual delivery. Don’t give up and keep checking websites for updates. In fact, many colleges have incentive to restart revenue-generating programs, and the environment is changing rapidly.

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