Ten years of experience in Guidance & College Placement working with students and colleges who are trying to learn more about the student behind the application gives Melody Shiver, Director of Guidance and College Placement at Cambridge, some strong insight into helping students craft a summer that will set them up to make the most of their down time, learn more about themselves and continue growing into the person God wants them to be.

“Students ask me all the time how to beef up my resume or what extracurricular activities should I be involved in?” notes Mrs. Shiver. “The summer is really more about learning about yourself and understanding how to build depth behind your passion. Our students are so busy during the school year, that the summer is the perfect time to do this.”

Shiver points out that besides GPAs and test scores, the only way a college can learn more about the applicant is by their essay and extracurricular involvement. These are the activities that bring the student to life in the eyes of colleges. Usually the summer is a great opportunity to build this part of a student’s personality, likes, dislikes and display direction. Colleges want to learn about the students’ real passions, interests and character. During the admissions process, colleges like to know that a student has experimented with their future self through a summer job or a volunteer role. They want to see some depth and breadth to an area of interest, be it business/finance, health care/medical, entrepreneurism, music, the arts and more. If colleges feel that a student has spent time nurturing a passion / interest, then they can be further assured that student will successfully graduate and do so on time. This affects a school’s graduation rate, which is an important statistic to the school and factors into the school’s overall ranking.

Besides family time, down time and travel which may occur over the summer, many students will work summer jobs, volunteer and have time to consider their path for high school leading to their college plans. The summer provides a wonderful chance to consider what is the right volunteer place and position for a student. For students who have a summer job, it’s a time to consider how well they are managing their time, taking direction and learning the right customer service skills. All of these attributes can be conveyed when they are looking ahead to college. For students who will spend time volunteering, the summer provides a chance to consider building on the previous year’s volunteer program. Shiver says it’s important that students realize that spending time over the summer volunteering or working is more about depth and passion for that particular experience, rather than bouncing from one quick role to another. For example, if Vacation Bible School is something your student looks forward to every summer, consider moving into a volunteer role that may be directly related to your future interest. If you were a group assistant, move into a group leader role, lead the Arts program, head up worship music. If your student is considering veterinary work in their future, encourage a volunteer role or a job over the summer working with the Humane Society or for a local veterinarian office to get some hands-on experience. Either your student will learn they love it and want to pursue more in the future or they may learn that it’s not for them, which can be critical information in recognizing strengths and making adjustments for future plans.

Shiver points out that it’s never really too early to start looking at your summer, whether you’re a rising junior or an incoming freshman. She encourages students to remember that it’s all about stewardship.

“Think about how God has gifted you. How has he blessed you with different gifts? What are you doing to honor this? How are you using the summer to learn more about what God has put inside your heart for you to pursue?” says Shiver. She ends our discussion with this thought … “You’re building a high school resume and showing colleges what you’ve done with what you’ve been given. Enjoy the Summer, it’s a gift and an opportunity.”


Question for Melody Shiver

Q: How did you spend your summers in high school?

A: I went to high school in Orlando. I was always involved during the school year and my summers were always spent prepping in student council, volleyball, softball and church camps. I was planning and organizing all throughout my summers in high school. This experience set me up for my future path in college and my career in guidance and college placement. Essentially, I’m using the skills of planning and organizing as well my college business management and marketing degree to help plan and organize students’ future college careers and market their profiles individually to different college programs. The multi-tasking I learned in my high school summers is something I use every day. At any given time during the key college application season, multiple students are meeting with me at the same time and I am working to direct each of them with their individual college application plans while managing other work and responding to dozens of unplanned questions and office visitors daily. My summer experience was key in developing the skills I use in my job every day.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NIV)