On the Eve of Labor Day Weekend…

Thinking like an Engineer
August 29, 2012
Creating a College List
September 6, 2012

On the Eve of Labor Day Weekend…

For many, this final weekend of summer is reserved for family barbeques and back-to-school shopping.  Today, I hope to add one more activity to your weekend plans.  In the spirit of Labor Day’s original intent–celebration and reflection on behalf of the American worker–I ask each of you to use this time to reflect on your summer.  Think about how the past two months have informed your identity, intellect, interests, ideas, and inspiration, the 5Is.

Self-reflection is integral to the work of creating authentic college applications.  To unpack this connection, I asked Rachel Cohen C’12, an intern in the Admissions Office, to interview current Penn students about how they spent their high school summers.  Then, she asked how reflection on these experiences helped them craft successful college applications. Their answers may surprise you.

Here is a raw list of the responses:
I taught tennis to elementary aged kids
I worked in movie theatre
I worked at a bagel shop
I volunteered in the monkey building at the local zoo
I went on a mission trip to Ecuador
I refereed soccer games for elementary school students
I traveled to Cape Town with my family
I worked as a cashier at supermarket
I worked as a cashier at Wendys
I traveled with family to China
I worked in research lab with rats
I sat at home and watched LOST
I went to theme parks with my friends and rode a lot of roller coasters

When these same students were interviewed about their college essays, Rachel found that many of them wrote about their summer experiences.  By creating time for self-reflection, these students were able to express how their summer experiences articulated who they are and what they want to do.

Rachel adds:  “My peers come to Penn from a huge variety of backgrounds. Some come to Penn with worldly experiences, while others have dedicated their time to work their own communities. Some students have worked for three summers in fast food restaurants, while others have scooped monkey poop.  Some students watched multiple seasons of popular TV shows, while others made bagel sandwiches. Despite the variety in these experiences, all of these students crafted compelling narratives of self-reflection. The student who worked in fast food restaurants and volunteered every summer wrote about the lessons in humility and hard work that he derived from those work experiences.  Another student, who described his summers as riding roller coasters with his friends, commented on how that activity was a genuine reflection of his character and aspirations.  All of these students were admitted to and matriculated at Penn. And today, many of these experiences continue to craft who they are and what they want to do (and don’t want to!).”

Take time–at the pool, on your front steps, at a barbeque–to put your summer experiences into conversation with your identity.  My last piece of advice as we approach summer’s end: enjoy this last summer weekend.

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