School’s out, and summer is here! People often ask us in the admission office, “What kinds of summer activities would you recommend for someone who’s planning to apply to Olin?” Here are 5 recommendations for how to spend time this summer preparing to put your best foot forward in the college application process.
1. Do Nothing
When I say “do nothing,” I certainly don’t mean that you should spend the whole summer sitting around binge-watching Netflix. But I do think it is important to have some summer days, or even just some summer hours, when you have nothing to do. Try not to overschedule yourself; make time to let yourself fall into leisurely, unstructured activities like reading, chatting with a friend, having a cookout with your family, or engaging in a hobby you enjoy. It’s more than OK to take breaks to rest and recharge, and summer is a great time to do that.
Additionally, it’s important to have time when you can slow down and make space to discover interests that you may have outside of your traditional education. Use your summer time to reflect on and answer the questions: Who am I and how am I when I have time to myself? How do I like to spend my time? Being able to answer such questions may help you hone in on the things that matter most to you, which may in turn help you better understand what types of colleges, academic programs, and communities you should seek out for yourself.
2. Do Something
After you spend some time doing nothing, you should use the energy you’ve stored up to do something meaningful and productive for your community. I define “community” very loosely: your community can be your immediate or extended family, your neighborhood, your school, a local organization or team that you belong to, or any other group that feels like a community to you. Take notice of what your community really needs that you could provide, and then do something about it. Does your aunt need someone to babysit your little cousins while she goes to work? Does your coach need someone to help organize and run extra practices? Does your dad need help making dinner every night? Is a local organization you admire looking for summer volunteers or seasonal workers? Will getting a part-time job enable you to better support yourself or contribute to your family’s well-being?
“Do Something” is actually one of the five core values of the Olin College Honor Code. In its essence, it means that each student at Olin agrees to continually strive to better themselves and their community, and to take responsibility for their behavior in relation to the community. By “Doing Something,” Olin students embrace the attitude of “if not me, then who?” When they notice a problem or a need in the community around them, they take action to make changes or improve things. This kind and helpful attitude is something we look for in our students and it is something we (along with many other colleges) value. Let me be clear: we don’t expect high school students to have engaged in extended service trips abroad or to have founded their own non-profit organizations, but we do expect that the students who come to Olin are ready and willing to engage meaningfully with the world around them, in big ways and small. Summer is a great time to practice sharing your time and energy to make the world better, even if the work itself isn’t glamorous.
3. Practice Being Present
If you’re about to enter your senior year of high school or start the college search process, it’s easy to get caught up thinking about (or even worrying about) the future. Between doing college research, visiting different schools, preparing for standardized tests, and writing application essays, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like the college process is just a race to the finish or something to “get through.” But if you take it one day at a time and focus on the thing that really matters, which is finding a place that is the right fit for you and your goals, then the college process can actually be pretty fun and not stressful. This summer, take some time to practice being present in each moment and reflecting on your experiences as you go. Take some deep breaths, get in the right mindset about how you will approach your college search, and use the time you have wisely to make the most of your opportunities to do college research, whether that’s by visiting websites or campuses.
If you’re looking for advice about how to get into a healthy mindset regarding your college search, I encourage you to read the following blog by Emily Roper-Doten, our Dean of Admission and Financial Aid: How You Frame This Matters
Our Director of Admission, Susan Brisson, has also written a great blog about how to use your time and energy wisely if you’re planning summer college visits. Check it out here: Making the Most of Your Summer College Visit
This one is easy: hang out with your friends and family, play with your dog or cat, go to a movie or a concert, take a day trip somewhere, exercise…just enjoy being a teenager in the summertime. Not everything you do has to be about preparing for college!
5. Express Gratitude
As you prepare to start the college process, take some time to reflect on who has helped you become the person you are today, and who might be supporting you as you apply to colleges. Who is the person, or people, in your life who have encouraged you to try new things, believed in your capabilities, helped you when you struggled, picked you up when you got knocked down, or given you opportunities to learn and grow? Your supporters might include a parent or guardian, grandparent, sibling, friend, counselor, teacher, mentor, or others. Once you know who your person is (or who your people are), make sure you thank them and take time to appreciate them in whatever way makes sense to you. As we all get busier throughout the school year, it can be easy to lose sight of just how much time and support you may have received from others. Thank them now, and try to remember to keep thanking them for their help throughout the college process!