Everybody knows that the colleges care about more than GPAs and standardized testing. They look at curriculum strength, essays, teacher recs and, in particular, extracurriculars. It is no secret that the admissions committees are very concerned about what you do with your spare time - be it volunteering with lepers in India or interning as a trapeze artist with Cirque du Soleil.
And it is equally important that you do not begin a brand new extracurricular activity during your junior year. The committees will not be impressed with your story unless you have demonstrated a lifelong passion for your extracurricular of choice.
This makes it a challenge to choose a summer activity for the summer between junior and senior year of high school. Our younger son GC has brought up several possibilities, but we just cannot find one that will help his college chances. Theoretically, it is best to be chosen for a prestigious, competitive program related to your passion, a program that ideally you can catagorize as an award or scholarship on your application. Unfortunately, there are only seven of these programs, and four are for New Jersey residents only. And, if you're anything like our son, you missed the deadlines, and your hang-gliding skills are so rusty that you probably wouldn't have qualified anyway.
That means you will have to choose between the following:
- A CHALLENGING SUMMER COURSE AT AN IVY. Schools like Brown, Columbia and Cornell offer fascinating classes for pre-college students - courses in Great Books, Genomes or Globalization. Unfortunately, these programs cost $5000-$8000, and although the colleges like keeping their dorms filled, they are not particularly impressed when they see these classes on your resume. They assume you're a rich kid who settled for Genome Studies because you couldn't get into a more prestigious program.
- A LIFE-CHANGING TRIP TO A WAR-RIDDEN, DEVELOPING COUNTRY. These excursions, which often involve performing bunion surgery in Mongolia or training villagers in Guam to grow sustainable kale hydroponically, take high school students out of their comfort zones. The participants live with local families in mud huts and come back with a new appreciation for the after-parties they attend at home. But sadly, the colleges don't like to hear about these adventures. They want you to wait until you're IN college to go on expeditions to the rainforest, because then the profits will go to their own institutions.
- AN OUTWARD BOUND EXPERIENCE BACKPACKING BLINDFOLDED IN WEST VIRGINIA. Again, the colleges once respected students who spent their summers eating bark. But now they look at these programs as magnets for troubled teens.
- AN INTERNSHIP ON YOUR UNCLE BRAD'S NEW PILOT FOR FOX. Don't even think about it. Stinks of privilege, especially if the show is picked up.
That leaves just one desirable summer activity:
- A JOB AT JAMBA JUICE. This, my friends, is what the colleges want to see. All the better if you don't actually get to blend the juice and you spend eight full hours a day peeling carrots and mopping up. But landing one of these coveted assignments is not as easy as it sounds. I'm sorry to report that all of the the 2011 Jamba Juice positions have already gone to recent cum laude neuroscience grads from UCLA.
That's where the Neurotic Parent Institute comes in: For a mere $6500, less than it will cost to go to Ghana or Cornell, we will personally arrange an UNPAID INTERNSHIP at a Jamba Juice for your high school student. Allthough there is no compensation, we will make sure that your son or daughter encounters severe traffic, rude customers and rancid protein powder - a plethora of excellent essay material....and all in all, the kind of experience that jumps off the page. Apply soon - opportunities are limited. You don't want your kid to end up spending his or her summer studying International Relations at Columbia!