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Getting the Most out of Summer Academic Programs

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Summer is definitely here. I know not because I’m hitting the beach but because I keep running into Summer School students in Harvard Square. Taking full advantage of the summer is a great way to show colleges you’re ready for the rigor of higher education. But a lot of students simply show up and never capitalize on the experience. I was the same way. I made some good choices for my summer programs, but I could’ve made more of each opportunity I got. So how do you do it?

Ace Your Classes

Bottom line – Get an A in your class. This is really the best way to demonstrate you can handle yourself academically in college. You’re usually only taking 1-2 classes, so this shouldn’t be too difficult. If you’re struggling in any way, get help ASAP. These programs are usually only a few weeks, so you need to act quickly if a correction is needed. Remember, these programs want you to succeed, so ask for help.

Connect with Professors

If the professor holds office hours, go to them. Participate in class. Do well. Develop a genuine relationship with your professor. This is a great way to get an insider on your side. The key is to stand out, so later down the road you can reach out. My favorite tip for this is to send your professor a hand written thank you note once the program is over. Keep that relationship going afterwards. Send the professor articles that might be of interest. This might be a key stepping stone to getting a position in their lab or working with them as your advisor in the future, so be sure to keep that relationship warm and friendly.

Get the Inside Scoop

Many programs include presentations by adcoms or other helpful admissions insider information. Go to every one! Be sure to introduce yourself to the admissions folks. Definitely take full advantage of whatever they offer you. This is also a great opportunity to send a hand written thank you note. No one does that, so you’ll definitely stand out. When asking questions, try not to get too personal or in the weeds. For example, don’t ask, “Should I take AP Bio or AP Physics my senior year?” Instead focus on bigger picture questions like “What is your biggest pet peeve with applications?” or “What is the biggest mistake applicants make?” Don’t ask questions you can easily find on their website like due dates or testing requirements.

Take Notes

You’re going to be applying to colleges in a few months (or longer if this is sophomore summer). This is a great time to start jotting down ideas about why you want to go to this particular school and what you can uniquely bring to the school. Take notes on specific locations on campus, campus groups, and lingo. If you have specific anecdotes about eating in the dining hall or jogging through the quad, write them down now. It will be so much harder to remember later on.

There are so many opportunities available to you with these summer programs. Be sure to take advantage of all of them. It’s only a few weeks in the end, so stay focused and set yourself up for a super successful application.

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