Students are often surprised to learn that universities expect them to stay engaged over the holidays.
So please allow me to clarify: students need a holiday, they deserve one - especially when tackling a curriculum as rigorous as the IBDP! It is essential to take time during the summer to relax and be with family; however, do not spend the whole summer recharging. When planned properly, and in advance, there is time for everything!
Your engagement tells your story
How you decide to spend your free time shows a lot about your personal goals, priorities and what inspires you. Do you choose to learn for fun? Do you play an instrument or create art? Do you volunteer in your local community? Do you write or read for pleasure (in what language)? Do you travel to other countries?
University applications mainly focus on academic credentials; however, what a student does outside academia is also taken into consideration. All universities want to know what students do when they are not "being students." As US colleges and universities aim to build balanced communities, and UK universities search for academic excellence and passion within specific subjects, both look at what the applicants do outside the classroom and curriculum.
Help others, not just yourself
Some of the most impressive summer experiences are those in which students were able to identify a need, develop ideas and work towards a solution. Previous initiatives by Aiglonian are wide-ranging: from organising academic tutoring sessions for neighbourhood children or teaching underprivileged students basic life-saving swimming skills. Aiglon students have also started a local dog-walking business during school breaks and launched an online second-hand clothing shop.
The most important thing is that the experience stretches your mind or increases knowledge; this is possible with pre-existing programmes, internships, real work experiences and unique, personal initiatives. University programmes allow students to experience what it is like to live and study on a real campus and can help a student decide which course and university best matches them. Internships or other work experiences are also relevant when applying to programmes within business and hospitality. Some universities, such as EHL (Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne), even require "real world" experiences to enrol.
Students who aim to develop their own initiatives should focus on ideas that will better the world around and, most importantly, do something meaningful to them.
Testimonies from students:
Graduate studying natural sciences at Middlebury College in the US:
"I was fortunate in securing an internship as a research assistant at the Microbiology Lab at the University of Florence, Italy. I would highly recommend something like this or similar because it allowed me to see inside a real university science lab."
US and UK applicant, interested in psychology and international relations:
"Prior to my last year at Aiglon, I visited the universities on my list at that time. I found it extremely helpful as I was able to narrow down my choices and experience what it was like on each campus. I began working on applications and drafting essays soon after, while my visits were still fresh in my memory."
Aeronautical Engineering applicant to multiple countries:
"Last summer, I did a glider pilot course (cost approx. 1000 CHF) to learn to fly one specific type of glider on my own. The course is a part of the SPL, recognised internationally by the ICAO, and starts with 50 hours of theory ending with an exam and followed by a practical course of glider flying. I highly recommend this course to anybody with a passion for flying, as flying gliders is a great way to begin the aviation adventure. The course did require dedication and sacrifices, such as early wake-ups for good flying weather and lots of studying for the theoretical part."
Aiglon graduate, currently studying visual arts in the UK:
"During my summer in high school, I did a short course at Central Saint Martins, one of the universities I later applied to. It helped me understand how to put together a portfolio, and I took courses in the subject I wanted to pursue at university."
US applicant, interested in psychology and business:
"Last summer, I decided to switch my hobbies into service and taught students at a Thai school located near a water source how to swim, focusing on life-saving techniques. Seeing how happy and eager the children were to learn encouraged me to do more, and with the support of Aiglon classmates I was able to raise enough money throughout the year to have a real pool built for that school the following summer!"
US applicant, interested in literature and film:
"I participated in a three-week intensive digital filmmaking programme at Columbia University. At the end of the course, I had written, directed, and produced my own short film. In the three weeks, I was able to explore New York City, searching for locations for my scenes. I also met incredible people and professors, who shared their knowledge and love for filmmaking with me. I would absolutely recommend this to a friend, summer is a fantastic time to strengthen your skills, and a summer course is the perfect environment to do so."
Self-serving, not for CVs:
- Working ahead on IB coursework
- Improving written and spoken English language skills
- Preparing for standardised tests and admission testing
- Drafting and editing college essays or personal statements
- IB course and exam preparation tutoring
So many options! How to proceed?
Aiglon students are encouraged to think ahead, use the internet and ask friends to suggest ideas, find exciting options, and then discuss with their counsellor. Some programmes are selective with applications requiring an academic transcript and recommendation letters, while others only require a participation fee (some partial scholarships may be available).
To ensure options, students should apply to more than one programme. The College and Career Counselling department is available to answer questions and assist with applications. Remember, precisely what you do is not so important, do something you will be proud to tell universities about or, even better, create something of your own that demands recognition.
About Edith Miletto
Mrs Miletto is Assistant Director in Aiglon's College & Careers Department. Edi grew up in North Carolina, USA before moving to Switzerland in 2003. She is a member of the International Association for College Admission Counselling (ACAC) as well as CIS and SGIS. Edi regularly visits university campuses around the world in order to help Aiglon students.