Guest Blog: The All-Important Summer Before 12th Grade

The summer before 12th grade is a high school student’s “last” opportunity to do something to impress college admission officers before those college applications are due.

Why is this important? The student’s own high school resume can speak volumes louder than his/her college application. And when the summer before applying to college is a total wash-out in terms of college application points …

For example, it’s hard to convince a college admission officer that you’re passionate about being a social worker when you’ve spent the entire previous summer in Paris studying French or working at Starbucks – without doing any social work.

I understand you want to spend a summer in Paris or earning money for your car payments. And, yes, there is a way to demonstrate you are committed to your passion and still not give up your summer plans. As I talk about often at my education and careers website, what is required is some brainstorming and planning to create opportunities for yourself.

Here are examples to get you thinking about what you might do, even this summer if you’re about to enter 12th grade:

If you are spending the summer studying French in Paris

Your summer school course is eight weeks and you plan to stay in Paris another two weeks before coming home right before the school year starts. Instead, you realize Paris will always be there, and you change your plane ticket to come home immediately after summer school ends.

And you come home to an intensive two-week volunteer social work project that you have created by email and cell phone from Paris. This change in plans clearly demonstrates a passion for doing social work.

If you are spending the summer working at Starbucks

This is an easier situation because you will have some blocks of time during each week this summer to commit to social work activities. You will still have to create these opportunities for yourself in order to accommodate your work schedule. Be prepared when contacting potential volunteer places to emphasize that this is an unpaid opportunity for which you are looking.
Doing a good job

When you have obtained such an opportunity, make sure to do a good job because you will want to ask for a letter of recommendation BEFORE your social work volunteering is over. Once you have returned to school, it is easy for someone to forget about the good work you did. You want to have a person write a letter of recommendation when your good work is right in front of him/her.

If you plan accordingly, you can have your cake and eat it too in the summer before 12th grade.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller writes on college applications, internships, jobs and careers for teens and young people. Her website <> offers valuable free information, including how to fill out a W-4, and a work sheet for developing a college application resume.


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