sealPurdue News


Expert: College-bound students should use
summer wisely

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- While summer is a "no-brainer" for many students, one Purdue expert says the break is a good time to groom your mind for college.

"Summer is the best time to find ways to set yourself apart from other college applicants," says Doug Christiansen, Purdue's director of admissions. "The opportunities are endless. Students can pick up new skills, improve existing talents, explore possible career paths or work on deficiencies.

"Admissions counselors sometimes have to choose between one student or another for selective programs. The student who spent his or her vacation time taking a challenging class or exploring new job options has a better chance of getting the 'congratulations' letter than the one whose brain was turned off for three months."

Some ways students can use the summer wisely:

  • Take a class that is not a part of the high-school curriculum. "Find out if you like marine biology, broadcasting or anthropology," Christiansen says. "Exploring now will make picking a major in college a lot easier. Finding out that you don't like a field is just as valuable as finding out that you do."

Purdue offers a summer a program for gifted and talented students as well as an academic program for minority students. Christiansen says many colleges and universities offer similar programs. In addition, many universities will allow local high-school students with high ability to take a college class or two during summer school.

"Students do need to remember that the college credit they earn will be a part of their permanent academic record," he says. "Those summer grades can be a help or a hindrance when you apply to schools. Make sure you're prepared to do the work if you sign up for credit."

  • Attend summer camps or workshops to investigate career paths or try out college life. "There are outdoor music programs, theater stock companies, summer leadership schools, space camps plus a host of others all across the country," he says. "Take the opportunity to have fun while you're learning. All of these programs are designed to make your summer enjoyable and teach you a thing or two.

"You'll be living on a college campus during many of these programs, and there isn't a better way to get a feel for the school than by being there. It won't be the same environment as being a student on that campus, but it does give you a sneak preview."

For students who cannot see themselves as a camper again, another option is to spend the summer working at a summer camp.

"If it's the arts and crafts, swimming pools and nature hikes of traditional summer camps that strike your fancy, why not be a camp counselor?" Christiansen says. "You can be in the environment you enjoy and gain valuable leadership and work experiences at the same time."

  • Fix any academic deficiencies. "If you have had trouble in trig, are clueless in chemistry, slept through Shakespeare or failed French, using your summer to fix these problems shows admissions counselors that you care about your academic record," Christiansen says.

He also suggests that students who are not happy with their standardized test scores prepare during the summer to retake the exam in the fall.

"Ask for help," Christiansen says. "You know where your problem spots are, so find someone to help you get ready for another exam. At Purdue, test results are the last thing we look at for admission, but the better your score the more likely you are to qualify for merit-based scholarships."

  • Visit college campuses. "Every campus viewbook will show pictures of pretty buildings and students smiling," Christiansen says. "Actually being on campus is the only way to know if it 'feels' right to you.

"When your family is making plans for summer trips, see if you can make a campus visit along the way. While you're on campus, take a tour, talk with an admissions counselor, visit with academic advisers in the areas that interest you. All of these things will help you decide which school is best for you."

There are many resources for finding summer activities. Teachers, counselors, librarians and the Internet all are places to start looking for new adventures.

"Do something during the summer to keep your brain active," Christiansen says. "Read the newspaper, discuss current issues, do a crossword puzzle, anything that forces you to think. Make sure you are prepared to succeed when you get back in the classroom this fall."

Source: Doug Christiansen, (765) 494-7014; e-mail,
Writer: Jenny Pratt, (765) 496-3671; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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