Struckmeyer’s Summer College To-Do List

To make the most of your summer break, here is some advice for each rising grade level from our resident college counselor, Matt Struckmeyer.


Rising 9th graders: To really make the most of the Laguna experience, a student needs to be a dynamic classroom presence, someone who regularly participates and interacts with the teacher and classmates.  So my best advice would be this: ask your 8th grade teachers for a candid evaluation.  What kind of classroom participant was I?  With this knowledge, a 9th grader can really hit the ground running!  


Rising 10th graders: Summer is the perfect time to begin (or continue) investing in a meaningful activity that you’d like to pursue for subsequent summers.  This could be a job, ideally one where there’s room for promotion and new skills (such as camp counselor, or volunteer with an organization).  In my view, it’s never too early to take a crack at one of the Common App essay prompts, because the sooner one begins, the lower the stakes and the lower the pressure.  Set aside exactly one hour to write something.  Don’t worry about revising or overthinking.  Consider sharing it with Mr. Struckmeyer to start a dialog with the college counselor!  


Rising 11th graders: Very similar advice to the summer after 9th.  Hopefully you will find the chance to move to the next level in something you began earlier.  Aside from jobs, volunteer roles, and internships, the summer before 11th is a good time to consider a college-based class.  While definitely not required to enter a top university, summer study at a college (including actual college courses) is a great way to build confidence and expand one’s intellectual horizons.  I recommend material that is utterly different from what is offered at the high school level (like sociology, neuroscience or archaeology).  Once again, summer is a great time to add to your portfolio of possible college essays.  Try again with an entirely new prompt, and write without fear–or for that matter, adult input.  Ask yourself: does this essay express something essential and unique about me?  


Rising 12th graders:  Much of the former advice still applies here, but there is greater urgency to this summer than the others.  If you haven’t begun a college essay before this point, the summer after 11th is definitely the time to write at least two entirely distinct drafts. This is also the last chance to impress colleges with a leadership role in an area where you’ve been building skill and experience.   


Summer is, above all, a chance to recharge your batteries and to feel refreshed for rigors of the next school year.  Whatever you do should have that purpose in mind. If it makes you a more competent, confident, and interesting person, then it’s probably worth your while!  If you don’t enjoy the activity or find it meaningful, it’s unlikely to have much impact on college admissions.