By Charlene Liebau|May 6, 2011|7:30 a.m.
College Admissions Editor
Term papers, finals, and class celebrations signal the end of the school year. Then what? In earlier articles I’ve touched on possible summer activities: travel, volunteer and paid jobs, and summer school. In this article I want to go beyond listing things to do— to suggesting things to think about between now and when school begins again.
For freshman: Begin to think about your final high school transcript—map out the courses required each year in high school and the options for electives. What interests have you discovered during your first year in high school? How many years do you intend to study a foreign language? How many different sciences do you want to take and at what level? In addition to history courses, what social science subjects hold special interest? As you map out the next three years of high school you will want to meet graduation requirements and demonstrate breadth and depth in the electives you choose. Summer is a good time to read books on a wide range of subjects—which ones appeal? Reading the biographies of leaders in different disciplines might help in decision making when time comes to choose between a course in advanced chemistry or economics, a third language or psychology. In short, selecting your academic program should be made from a thoughtful, overall perspective and plan—not year to year.
Summer is a good time to take inventory of your extracurricular interests.
At this stage, exploration is the objective. And, keep exploring until you feel ready to focus on two or three activities. To focus on an activity means you are ready to take an active role, to make a contribution, accept responsibility and perhaps a position of leadership. Keep that definition in mind as you explore and evaluate your interests and begin to narrow the list.
For sophomores: Summer provides a good time to think about areas of academic interest, strength, and weakness. Have you taken the time to evaluate your progress, to know your interests, strengths, and weaknesses? What can you do to advance your studies in areas of particular interest? Would summer visits to local historical, art, science and technology museums be helpful? What can, and should, you do to bolster areas of weakness? Reading can help improve comprehension levels, listening to foreign language radio or television stations can strengthen fluency, as will reviewing the math text book shed light on difficult concepts. Whatever the subject area there are creative and interesting ways to spend a few hours each week to turn a weak academic area into a strong one.
Summer is a good time to evaluate your involvement in activities. In what ways have you been spending your out of class time? Do these activities represent your interests? As a result of participation, what lessons have you learned? In what ways do you want to be more involved in the next two years? Perhaps you have lost interest in an activity or found a new one to pursue—how can you effectively address these changes?
For juniors: The junior year can be many things. It is a time of comfort knowing the requirements, routine, and rigors of high school. It is a time of budding confidence as you define your interests and abilities and vigorously pursue them in both academic and extracurricular activities. It is also a time of anticipation as the college planning process begins. Summer is a good time to develop time management skills so that juggling school work, activities, and submitting college applications will not cause havoc with having a productive, healthy, and happy senior year. Give thought on how you intend to spend your senior year—on academics, activities, family, friends, and quiet contemplation. The senior year in high school requires making decisions about your future. Summer is a good time to prepare by thinking ahead to what is important to you, what you want to accomplish.
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Charlene Liebau is the former director of admissions for CalTech and Occidental College. She is also a finalist judge of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.