McCollum, Amanda-2Ms. McCollum is a College Counselor at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley.  She started at the school on the Admissions Team, and after a few years made a transition to the College Counseling office to be on the other side of the admissions process.  She enjoys working with our Bobcats and helping them determine which colleges and universities are the best fit for their interests and goals.

Throughout the shelter in place orders we’ve had many Zoom meetings with families of sophomore and junior Bobcats and one question is coming up more than any other: What should we do this summer?  

Whether we are in the midst of a global pandemic or not, the advice from college admissions representatives remains constant.  Students should spend their time outside of school engaging in activities that they are genuinely interested in.  Contrary to popular belief, colleges don’t actually care what students do over the summer (or outside of classes during the school year for that matter).  They care about why the student chose that activity, and what they learned from it.  I can tell you first-hand from working on the admissions side that it is usually obvious to the reader if the sole motivation for participating in the activity was to strengthen the college application.  How, you ask?  There will be a clear lack of passion when the student reflects on this activity in their application. 


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COVID-19 has resulted in most summer programs being canceled.  This doesn’t mean engagement is canceled.  Students will need to exercise a creativity when thinking about how they want to spend their time this summer.  Here are some ideas to get the wheels turning:

  • What is something (big or small) that has always fascinated you and you want to learn more about?  Read everything you can about that thing.
  • Take initiative with your now cancelled summer activity and conquer some of the learning on your own.  Were you planning to do a Physics COSMOS program at one of the UC campuses?  We have amazing Physics teachers at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley, ask them about their favorite books.
  • Have you been volunteering as a tutor after school?  Can you continue to do that virtually?
  • Do you love art but never seem to have time to fit it into your busy schedule?  Take some online art classes.

Students should also not limit themselves to academic endeavors either:

  • Is there an amazing family recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation?  Master it, and learn more family history while you’re at it.
  • Has your European summer vacation been postponed?  Many museums have virtual exhibits.  
  • Do you have a huge stack of fiction books in your TBR pile that you never have time for?  Start a book club and read them all.
  • Is there a way you can (safely) help your community deal with the impact of COVID-19?

Take this summer for the opportunity that it is.  The activities that you felt you “should” be doing are no longer available.  Have some fun with this and think outside the box.

For more on college admissions in the time of COVID-19 please see the April College Counseling newsletter.


BASIS Independent Silicon Valley is a grades 5-12 private middle and high school based in San Jose, California, providing students an internationally benchmarked liberal arts and sciences curriculum. Join our interest list by clicking here to receive admissions updates for fall 2021.