When I discuss summer planning with my students, naturally a topic that comes up is taking a summer course at a Community College.  Many of us have, or will, take a community college course at some point in our life.  As a high school student, taking a summer course can boost your GPA or help you to fulfill a high school graduation requirement.  Similarly, many college students will do the same for the exact same reasons or to just simply get ahead in their coursework.

However, community colleges offer more than just college-level coursework.  In fact, many community colleges are one of the best places for a student to begin to develop their extracurricular profile.

For example, let’s say that you are an 8th or 9th grade future engineering student.  This field is one of the most highly impacted college majors and many of the competitive summer engineering programs are becoming exceptionally difficult to attend.  At the same time, you want to start to differentiate yourself from your future competitors.  How can you do this if getting into a top summer program isn’t a feasible option?

Many community colleges offer summer educational preparation programs, which while less competitive in nature, still offer a substantial opportunity to build your profile for future summers.  For example, FoothillCollege in Los Altos offers a STEM Camp for students to explore topics such as Engineering, Biotechnology, or Forensics.  CanadaCollege in Redwood City offers a STEM Institute for students free of charge if they are accepted to the program.  Similarly, OhloneCollege in Fremont offers summer camps in Renewable Energy, Biology, Video Game Design, and Java Design.

Since you’re 8th and 9th grade summers are meant to be focused on exploration over directly building a very field specific foundation, community colleges offer a huge advantage over normal programs. They are generally inexpensive and less demanding in terms of time requirements.  These two factors will allow you to explore many sub-fields at a low out of pocket cost, while also allowing you to build a breadth of knowledge that will allow you to apply to tougher programs, such as UC Cosmos or Stanford SIMR.  Also, many of these programs help students create a final deliverable at the end of the summer.  If you enrolled in Java as a game design student, you could walk away with the first level of a new video game that you designed.  The possibilities, related to your field of interest, are truly endless.

For 10th and 11th graders, community colleges are still one of the best ways to raise one’s GPA and to get a jump on college coursework.  While other options, such as online high school, are available, community colleges offer a great and inexpensive way to help improve one of the most important aspects of your application.

For 12th graders, an even more unique scenario presents itself.  In this example, you’ve been admitted to your dream school and the college application season is long past. Even so, you can use your gap summer between high school and college to get ahead on your upcoming college coursework.  That summer, post 12th grade, is a great time to take care of general education requirements, but you will want to check with your college advising department about what courses will transfer, so you don’t end up taking something that won’t benefit you in the long run.  By doing this over your 12th grade and college freshman summer, you might even be able to graduate from college a year early!

Community colleges are one of the best ways to spend your summer in your beginning and twilight years of high school.  They are a wholly unique summer option in that they can help you build a formative profile, while helping you to get ahead in college later down the road.  As such, exploring your local community college and what it has to offer, is always a safe, inexpensive, and enriching way to spend one of your valuable summers!

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