Summer Goals and the College Admissions Game

Find Your Passion… I know you’ve said very similar things to your kids. But, of course, they won’t believe it coming from you. So, print this out and leave it on their pillows. The third-party approach sometimes works like a charm.

The most important element—and the most frequently heard buzz word—in today’s college admissions game is passion. Demonstrable passion. Anyone can CLAIM passion about his or her interests, but picture admissions committee as one giant District Attorney. It is like they are running around with a clipboard demanding that you “PROVE IT!”

The way you prove passion on applications is being able in good conscience to report hours and hours of time on task. Most applications, including the CommonApp, REQUIRE you to list the number of weeks per year and hours per week you are engaged in your most meaningful activities. Summertime is your biggest block of discretionary time, and how you choose to spend it speaks volumes about who you are. Don’t squander the opportunity. You have my permission to sleep in till noon for ONE WEEK after your last final or standardized test. Then it’s up and at something, junior!

I’m a great believer in goal setting in general. After all, if you don’t know where you’re heading, how will you know when you get there?

If you want to make a change in your life, if you want to develop a new habit, if you want to pursue and be able to demonstrate your passion for something, it really is simple: carve out a chunk of time every single day and DO IT!

Right now, open a document and type a list of things you want to do before school starts next fall—places you want to go, people you want to visit, books you want to read and movies you want to see, goals you want to accomplish. Hurry! Summer is almost here!

Perhaps no time is as good as summertime for developing and pursuing passions. From summer flings to championship level athletics, from learning how to code that killer game you’ve been dreaming up to finally painting like the Impressionists the way you’ve long imagined, you have the time to explore your interests and develop a passion. Let your freak flag fly. The idea is to take a step in the direction of who you really are by throwing down with SOMETHING. Maybe you’ll discover what you don’t love this summer, and that’s okay too. You tried. You took a risk. They like that, and it’s good for you to be ALL IN.

Many parents and ambitious teens want to know, yeah, but what’s the BEST thing to do during the summer vacation to impress admissions committees. The answer is…I hope you’re listening…THERE IS NO BEST THING.

It’s a classic example of it’s-not-WHAT-you-do-but-HOW-you-do-it that matters. Find something. Anything. And pursue it with passion. Like you actually LOVE it, because you do. Video games don’t count, unless you’re coding, not playing.

Create a log.

  1. Activity Type:
  2. Position/Leadership description and organization name, if applicable
  3. Describe this activity, including what you accomplished and any recognition you received, etc.
  4. Participation Grade Level (9th, 10, 11th, 12th)
  5. Timing of Participation (During School Year, During School Break, All Year)
  6. Hours Spent per Week
  7. Weeks Spent per Year
  8. I plan to participate in a similar activity in College (Yes or No)


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