Planning Ahead in January for Class 11
If you are in class 11 and planning to study abroad in 2014, there is a lot you can do now, in early 2013, to enhance your application. A common question at this point is, “What should I do over the summer before entering 12th? Take an internship? Start a new extra-curricular activity? Publish a book?”
Students should look for ways to stand out, but the few clients I’ve worked with who have written books, did not get admitted to Ivy league colleges – because their grades and SAT scores weren’t good enough. So, while extra activities can work in your favour they are unlikely to push you over the edge. You still need to be realistic about where you should apply and spend your summer playing to your existing strengths. And, if you have to, hit the books to make sure you start 12th grade on a strong footing.
The best way to stand out through your activities is not necessarily to pursue something new. Rather, show that you have found productive and enriching ways to extend an existing interest. This demonstrates a ‘go-getter’ attitude and shows that you know how to convert your potential into real initiative and take advantage of all that is available to you. Whether it is an internship, academic summer program or an intensive extracurricular camp, plan your summer in a way that paints a picture of you as someone who has consistently pursued a set of related interests.
Many 11th graders contemplate enrolling in summer programs abroad during the months of June and July. You should evaluate these programs carefully and only consider those that are going to inspire you, where you are going to grow and learn what you want. You may get a perfect opportunity at a small, relatively unknown college or you may find something at an Ivy League university. But, I urge all students not to study at the Ivy League programs simply because they think it will help get them accepted there or because they think that it will impress other colleges. These programs are a source of revenue for universities, not necessarily grooming platforms for their future students. Most summer programs do not have competitive acceptance — as long as you can pay, you are admitted. The revenue generation aspect does not make them bad programs; it just makes them less prestigious than programs with competitive admissions.
On the activity front, if you are a competitive tennis player, it may make sense for you to enroll in an advanced tennis camp such as those at Stanford, Rutgers or at private training centers. You need to decide the best program for you – one where you will find a coach that challenges you and peers that bring out the best in you. And, that may not be at Stanford. Instead, it may be a small training center run by a coach who believes in your talent or specializes in your weakest stroke. That is where you will maximize your potential. That is what will help you stand out by demonstrating your risk appetite and confidence.
When it comes to internships, the same logic applies – pursue an internship at a company or organization that extends an existing interest. One student entered several technology challenges with his self-conceptualized and created inventions. So, when he took up an internship at a firm that specialized in entreprenurial technology investing, it made perfect sense. And most importantly, he got a lot out of it, wrote passionately about it and learned immensely from it. Passion and initiative will help you stand out. At that same time, taking an internship simply because a relative arranged it for you will be transparent, making the whole experience practically worthless.
Deciding on your summer plans will take a lot of introspection. Think about what you like, where your talents lie and what to do to make other people take notice.