Our Youth

Let Them Speak: Summer Checklist: College


Volunteers from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, including members of that town’s St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, help run a summer camp for the children of Greenwood, Mississippi, at St. Francis of Assisi Church. Pictured, Lisa Knipp and her daughter, Abby, oversee an arts-and-crafts station where campers made jewelry. (Photo: Catholic News Service/Maureen Smith, Mississippi Catholic)

By Kene Nzelu


Well, we’re already one month into summer. Wow, time flies by so quickly! I hope all of you have been enjoying your summer so far.

Now is the perfect time to start thinking about college as you balance it out with all the fun you’re having.

Many of you are probably thinking, “How do I use my summer to prepare for college?” Well, don’t worry because I have some advice for you.

Find Your Passion

If you’re already about one or two years into high school, now is a good time to figure out your true passion.

Think about the number one thing that makes you happy and that you might even want to pursue in life. Once you find out what your passion is, this will help you determine what type of college you should choose.

There are many types of colleges that have very good departments in different things like engineering, math, science, history, literature, and so on. Figuring out your passion can also help you determine whether or not you want to pursue graduate school after college to get advanced training in a specific academic discipline. If you’re having trouble figuring out your passion, you can use this summer to really research and explore different careers and what they’re about. Think of which ones you like and are interested in learning more about.

Ask yourself, “If you could do anything this summer, what would it be?”

Recommended and Required

Figure out what exams are recommended and required by your dream school. Some schools recommend taking two to three SAT Subject tests and the SAT or ACT.

Decide what tests you’re going to take and use this summer to prepare for any exams that are being offered this season. Then, you could take these exams later on in the summer.

Both the SAT and ACT have an optional essay, so find out whether or not your dream school requires you to take the essay. Since summer gives us more time to relax, it’s a really good idea to research what things you actually have to start doing to get into a good college.

Gain Real-Life Experience

A summer internship or job can give you experience and can also help you save up money for college.

According to The Princeton Review, “Colleges are impressed when students have jobs, whether they are working for family income or just for fun.”

An internship can also help you learn more about your passion and can open you up to more opportunities than you could imagine. In addition to researching about jobs and internships, you can also cold call or email people in the business area you are interested in, introduce yourself, and ask if you can intern with them this summer.

Make sure your internship lasts at least four weeks in order for you to leave a lasting impact on the company.

Experience College Life          

You can get a feel for the college atmosphere by taking a summer college course. This is a good way to challenge yourself in your area of interest.

Many times, though, the application deadlines are early (some stretch into the end of May) so if you want to apply for a summer college course or program, this would be a good idea for next summer. Try and apply for a college course or program that offers credit because colleges consider this to be more challenging. However, according to IvyWise, “one downside to these programs is that they are typically quite expensive, so if budget is a concern, a student might want to pursue a different option”. There are also free college courses online that serve as an alternative.

The Princeton Review says that websites like edX.org and coursera.org offer free college courses taped or streamed from universities. You can even view lectures from professors at schools like Stanford and Harvard.

You can also visit a college campus. I went on a campus tour at Harvard this past winter break. It was really fun and it was nice to visit an Ivy League school and see the famous landmarks there as well as hearing information first hand from a Harvard student about college life. Visiting a college can really help you decide whether or not you want to go to it.

The Fun Part

After all, it is summer vacation. No one really wants to just work all summer! You probably also want to take out time to relax and enjoy your summer, spend more time with your family and friends and travel.

During your free time, you can do a project with your friends that involves helping others, or enter competitions that focus on your passion, or even start a business. Colleges want to see that you’re keeping active during your summer.

You can even spend your summer pursuing a hobby that you’re considering pursuing for the rest of high school.

Online SAT experts from PrepScholar stated that “colleges and employers like to see applicants who have outside interests and can commit themselves to a particular activity. Be innovative and use your imagination. Do something that you really enjoy. It’s your summer. Make the most of it!

In the midst of all that’s going on, make sure you rest. Even though you’ll probably be doing a lot this summer, you need to make sure that you get some free time and rest so that way you enjoy your summer and you don’t go back to school tired and worn out. I’m going into 11th grade this upcoming school year, so I’ll be sure to take time out to relax and get enough rest so that way I can be ready for junior year and all of its work.

I hope you found these tips helpful and hope you all have a good remainder of the summer!

Nzelu is a rising junior at Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge.