Finding Meaningful Summer Activities by CIT Consultant Paige Feldman

While we just finished winter, spring is in the air, but our minds turn toward summer. Over the next few months, CIT consultants will be discussing summer plans with our clients to demystify and provide some encouragement to students & families looking to make summer count. 

In terms of college planning, summer is a golden opportunity for students to contribute to the story of who they are, what they value, and how they are engaging their passions, interests & dedication in meaningful ways.

From the months before 9th grade begins until the start of 12th grade, the way students spend each summer is a big part of the story they will tell through their application. With this in mind, we propose thinking about what values a student wants to bring forward with the choices they make in how they spend those precious summer days. 

Here are four values your summer engagement can communicate:

  1. Initiative

College admissions officers are always looking for ways for students to be authentic leaders, develop an awareness of the needs of others outside of themselves or their immediate community, and make an impact.

What is a need you see, and how could you take action to address it? 

Think about your interests, passions, and the issues you care about. How could you apply your effort and organize others to make an impact? Could you offer to be the social media manager for a small community organization that lacks an online presence? Is there a need for a community, library, or after-school program that could share your love of robotics, entrepreneurship, or healthy cooking with younger kids? Leveraging your time, talent, and resources toward meaningful action is a powerful way to spend this summer. Create something that you can build on, recruit other supporters, and carry on year over year, and suddenly you’ve amplified your impact.

  1. Humility & Dedication by investing in the community

Demonstrating that you are willing to roll your sleeves up & work hard is a powerful message to communicate through your application. 

How do you use your time and effort in the service of others? 

Whether you are cleaning up a river, moving furniture to set up housing for refugee families, or busing tables at a restaurant, your dedication and work ethic are valuable assets in the eyes of an admissions officer. Holding down a job across multiple years or returning to serve a community or organization each summer or throughout the school year is especially powerful.

  1. Intellectual Curiosity

Admissions officers love to know that students engage their curiosity and passions deeply beyond the curriculum available at school. 

What do you want to know more about? 

What questions or topics connect to your specific interest in a major or career field?

A student might hone intellectual curiosity in a variety of ways. You could pursue a meaningful internship in a field that sparks your interest, write for a blog or local publication to deepen your skills as a writer, or share a passion with younger students through a local club or summer program. You could consider taking a free online course on a topic of interest that isn’t offered at your high school or launching a self-directed project and identifying a way to share it with your community. Any time you share something you love or are curious about with others, this demonstrates your curiosity and shows that you are giving and engaged with a community beyond yourself.

  1. Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Admissions officers and many liberal art colleges emphasize the importance of making the world a better place.  They encourage students to expand their knowledge in social justice, prejudice, bias, discrimination, oppression, etc. 

Colleges believe that we must equip all students with tools and mindsets to enhance equity and tear down systemic oppression to achieve educational equity.  

Think about getting involved with your community, school, or an organization you feel passionate about. Begin to read the newspapers regularly, take up causes you believe in, or read books in the area of interest. Support gender equality, animal rights, feeding the under-resourced, eradicating pollution, developing environmental solutions to improve your household, or participate in social justice school-wide. 


Admissions officers are increasingly skeptical of high-cost summer opportunities only available to some applicants. More value is placed on engagement that cultivates a young person’s skills, strengths, relationships, and values. Holding down a job, launching a community initiative, reading novels, or pursuing a deep curiosity is an appealing part of a student’s story.