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  • Writer's pictureHarpal Kochar

What did you do last summer?

I see this essay question often with the harder-to-get-in type of schools. Be careful here, as they expect a solid response. Make summers count! They are a great opportunity to take classes at your local community college, volunteer at a personally meaningful nonprofit, or attend a summer program at your target school. Or do something less common like spending 3 months as a full-time volunteer with a state congressperson’s re-election campaign.


What are some good uses of your time during the hot days of summer? Well, it really depends on who you are. It is not necessary that your summer be jam packed (and I heartily suggest that it not be), but you do need to pursue meaningful things. Here are a few hints:

  • Do something substantial – playing video games or watching movies or hanging out with friends for days on end might be fun, but won’t help you get into a good college. Choose something that will change your life or someone else’s.

  • Follow your heart – God hardwired you in a certain way and your summer should reflect that. Whether you write a book, spend eight hours a day practicing your violin, or build a house for Habitat for Humanity, what matters is that it matters to you.

  • Don’t seek to build the resume – instead seek to build your character. Do something challenging. In fact, I recommend finding or creating something difficult enough that you just might fail. If it is easy, you won’t learn much.

Here are some things I’ve seen outstanding students do with their summer:

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