By Paul Culp, MA (Oxon.), CFT, GCDF, CCSP

The Coaching Educator is fond of the word “strategic.” We often stress the importance of having a concerted long-term plan for pursuing college admissions and scholarships, and our own role in helping each of our student/clients devise and execute such a program. Schedules, timetables, and deadlines are crucial, and every year of high school is an important component of the process, including summers. A few weeks ago we considered What to Do in the Summer Before Senior Year. Now let’s discuss the best way to spend the summer before junior year. Junior year is when the drive toward college admissions and financial aid really becomes intense, and it’s important to go into it in an orderly fashion and with a strong foundation.

Community Service

As we explained in The Why, When, and How Much of Community Service, The Coaching Educator believes students with at least 500 hours of community service have an advantage in college admissions and scholarships. Not only is summer a good time to rack up the hours, when you’re not involved with school responsibilities, it’s also an excellent opportunity to be a repeater, to work multiple summers with the same organization. A long-term relationship and an attachment to one field of endeavor tend to be more advantageous than migrating from one activity to another, but the freedom of summer can also afford you the opportunity to broaden yourself by trying new things.  

Special Programs Hosted by Colleges and Other Organizations

By all means do something that interests you and that has intrinsic value, but also be advised that admissions officers and scholarship grantors look with particular favor on programs that are competitive or associated with high-echelon colleges or both. Examples include Michigan’s math and science scholars program, Stanford’s math camp, Notre Dame’s leadership seminars, Girls Who Code’s summer immersion program, the Monell Center science apprenticeship program, and UCLA’s mock trial summer institute.  

Preparing for Life’s Testing Times

Junior year is the Big Push in this area, with the PSAT and the ACT or SAT looming, so you can help yourself considerably by laying a foundation during the summer. Take practice tests, enroll in prep classes, and learn the differences between one test and another.

The World of Work and the Work of the World

At this stage in your life, almost any job that isn’t immoral or illegal will provide valuable experience. If you can find work in a career area that pertains to your long-term plans, so much the better. You might also be able to shadow someone in a field that interests you as a future career. There’s no telling what you might learn…


Another option is starting and running your own business. You don’t have to get rich to derive valuable experience from it, and as a resume entry it has a way of saying you’ve got initiative.

Reading for Pleasure—with a Purpose

The intellect becomes dull with disuse, and a summer of mental sloth can leave you feeling sluggish when school resumes. That’s reason enough to do some challenging but enjoyable reading during the summer before junior year, but of course it’s also a good idea to think ahead to college just a bit. We reported in Remedial Nation: The Ghastly State of College Preparedness that most high school students who read for pleasure do so at middle school or elementary school level. We recommend that you spend the summer before junior year reading about something you find genuinely interesting and that’s on a level suitable for college-educated readers. To put it simply, read something you like, but make sure it’s not kid stuff.

Camps, Combines, and Workshops

As we said in What to Do in the Summer Before Senior Year, “For students with interests and aspirations in athletics and the arts, these are opportunities to evaluate skill levels (their own and those of the competition), improve upon their talents, gather information about opportunities, do some networking, and get noticed by the people whose attention they need to attract.”

But All Work and No Play…

We certainly want to see our student/clients enjoy some rest and recreation during the summer before junior year. Having a change of pace and outlook and unwinding for a bit are highly important. The main thing is to keep yourself mentally toned and do some things to advance your college hopes, without starting the new school year jaded and burned out.

The college admissions process seems to get more and more complicated and burdensome, with far too many tasks and deadlines and moving parts. The Coaching Educator can provide direction, support, and peace of mind with our proven methods of helping students stay on target, on task, and on time as they seek admission to the college of their choice and pursue the means of paying for it. To learn more about our philosophy and capabilities, be sure to watch our free webinars, listen to our podcasts, sign up for our four-week College App Boot Camp, consider our Ultimate Programs and our special services for athletes and performing-arts students, and book a consultation to hear what we can do for you and how we do it. Keep reading this blog, and look for us on social media (see links below) as we keep our clients and admirers advised of new developments in our effort to help students get into and succeed at the right school.

Paul Culp is certified as a global career development facilitator and writes about college admissions, college costs, financial aid, and college life in general for The Coaching Educator team. A former journalist and corporate ghostwriter who now operates Shenandoah Proofreading, Editing & Composition Services (SPECS), he has also been a humanities teacher at all levels from university down to sixth grade. Paul has degrees from Oxford University, Jacksonville State University, and Samford University, and also is certified as a fitness trainer.

Photo: Auburn University

Recommended Reading (for the Summer Before Junior Year!) About College Admissions 

Carroll, Rebecca M., and Paul Culp. “The Importance of Reading” on The College Light Bulb, audio podcast, The Coaching Educator, accessed 8 March 2019, http://tce.local/podcasts/

Culp, Paul. “An Arm and a Leg and Your First-born Child: Why College Costs So Much, The Coaching Educator, 6 September 2018, http://tce.local/2018/09/06/an-arm-and-a-leg-and-your-first-born-child-why-college-costs-so-much/

Culp, Paul. “Beyond Tuition, Fees, and Books: The Other Costs of College,” The Coaching Educator, 7 June 2018, http://tce.local/2018/06/07/beyond-tuition-fees-and-books-the-other-costs-of-college/

Culp, Paul. “Getting to Grips With Test Anxiety,” The Coaching Educator, 28 November 2018, http://tce.local/2018/11/28/getting-to-grips-with-test-anxiety/

Culp, Paul. “How to Get the Most Out of a College Visit,” The Coaching Educator, 8 February 2019, http://tce.local/2019/02/08/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-a-college-visit/

Culp, Paul. “If You Didn’t ACT But Just SAT There: The Difference Between the Two Tests,” The Coaching Educator, 27 September 2018, http://tce.local/2018/09/27/if-you-didnt-act-but-just-sat-there-the-difference-between-the-two-tests/

Culp, Paul. “Remedial Nation: The Ghastly State of College Preparedness,” The Coaching Educator, 19 January 2019, http://tce.local/2019/01/19/remedial-nation-the-ghastly-state-of-college-preparedness/

Culp, Paul. “Ten Common Mistakes You Must Avoid in Applying for College,” The Coaching Educator, 31 August 2018, http://tce.local/2018/08/31/ten-common-mistakes-you-must-avoid-in-applying-for-college/

Culp, Paul. “What to Do in the Summer Before Junior Year,” The Coaching Educator, 15 May 2019, http://tce.local/2019/05/15/what-to-do-in-the-summer-before-senior-year/

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