College Admissions Interview

Maximizing Pre-College Teen Summers

Jill Tipograph interviewed Danielle Toglia, George Washington University’s Regional Admissions Director, to get the inside scoop and tips on how teens can maximize their summers to help them best prepare for college. Danielle’s insights include:


Allow your teens to make decisions. Learn to be more flexible; start to lay the foundation for your teen to earn more trust by easing up on the parental strings. Let go more. Teens with the greatest social restrictions and least experience making decisions in high school have a tougher time transitioning to college.

Pre-College Teens

Set goals. Consider your needs before the summer: a paycheck, skill building, pursuing a passion, etc., and discuss with your parents. Don’t try to trump others with your experiences. Colleges do not evaluate students this way. One summer program is not more important than the other. What is important to a teen is what matters.

Work on better time management skills. In high school, days are packed with structured class time, extra-curricular activities/jobs, and prescribed homework time. College has a good deal of down time, between classes meeting less frequently and at different times. Learn how to structure your own time when you have more hours on your hands.

Learn to share. In college, all your living spaces are shared. Spend time away from home (e.g. a summer program, relative’s home) sharing common spaces; learn to communicate and resolve issues by putting aside personality and habit differences.

Experience diversity in a different setting. College is a big diverse community. Use the summer to diversify yourself – academically, geographically, socially and through travel if possible. Learn how to react in different situations.

Take Risks. Use the summer to take some risks and pose challenges. Most issues in college stem from residence hall life and social skills; learn how to approach situations in different ways. Making mistakes is OK; you will learn best from disappointments and bounce back.

Think outside the box. Make your summer experience one that builds your personal and social skills. Colleges assume you have these skills upon arrival. Volunteer, job shadow, intern, interview career professionals. If you love languages, immerse yourself in inner cities while volunteering. Think whether you can do this activity closer to home, or is traveling somewhere else to do this a valuable part of the experience? Extracurricular experiences help you find your way and a potential college major.

Take note at summer’s end. Write a personal essay about one piece of your experience, one moment where you felt something mattered. Reflect on the opportunity; did you become a better person, did you positively impact another individual? Put together your resume; apply the information from your experience, see how your extracurricular activities identify your skills; i.e., being a yearbook editor indicates you can manage others and time well.