How you spend your summer vacation isn't just fodder for first-day-back-in-school essays. It could provide a boost on college or job applications—especially if you went to camp.
Colleges have been getting more selective in recent years. In 2012, the average four-year college accepted 63.9 percent of applicants, down from 69.6 percent in 2003, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Many are even more selective. This year, Yale University accepted just 6.26 percent of applicants, down from 6.27 percent a year ago and 11 percent in 2005, according to educational consulting company IvyWise. Cornell University accepted 14 percent, versus 31 percent in 2005.
Grades and standardized test scores are still the top factor for admission, but educational counselors say colleges are starting to take a harder look at extracurricular activities, particularly those over summer vacation. "Parents assume their kids need to be even more competitive on grades," said Eric Greenberg, founder and director of education consulting firm Greenberg Educational Group. "What has happened, ironically, is the opposite."
To colleges, summertime is like the hiatus between jobs a prospective employer would ask about, said Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president and publisher at Edvisors Network. "Colleges want to understand, what have you been doing with yourself?" he said. "What happened during that gap?" The answer can be telling of what a student will do on campus.