If you're an ambitious high-school student with sights set on a selective college, you can forget spending summers lazing at the beach or...

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If you’re an ambitious high-school student with sights set on a selective college, you can forget spending summers lazing at the beach or playing “Halo” nonstop.

To signal to colleges you’re serious and productive, college counselors say you’d be wise to make the most of time off by getting a job or internship, particularly one that allows you to exercise some leadership, or by volunteering or taking part in a challenging pre-college, or service- or travel-learning program.

College campus-based academic, arts, business and athletics programs usually vary in length from a week to several months. Often called “pre-college programs,” they offer a taste of college life and studies and sometimes even college credit. Unfortunately, many, particularly those at prestigious Eastern boarding schools or universities, are pricey, as are many travel-learning programs that combine touring and volunteering; scholarships, however, may be available.

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Since programs are often competitive, interested students should apply early.

Finding summer pre-college programs

Here are some resources to get you started

Seattle government’s teen Web site (who knew?) lists summer, as well as year-round, opportunities, from arts to civic engagement, jobs and volunteering. www.seattle.gov/teen/Summer Opportunities Showcase, hosted by the Bush School, an evening open to the public every winter, lets you meet representatives of many different summer-camp, travel, job and volunteer programs; info also available later in a catalog online at: www.bush.edu/sos.

Peterson’s Guide to Summer Activities: A huge array of programs across the country, searchable by activities and location, though not many local ones: www.petersons.com/summerop/code/ssector.asp.

Local high-school Web sites: Info varies widely by school, but Lakeside School’s site, for example, is excellent, and Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences’ includes many service opportunities (www.lakesideschool.org/body/programs/ (click on summer); www.seattleacademy.org (click on community service, then summer service opportunities). (On most school sites you click on “Career Center” or “College.”)

A few examples of programs available

Mountain Works: six days of camping, trail building and other environmental projects; offers service credit; www.mtsgreenway.org

Teens in Public Service: paid internships in public-service jobs, plus leadership training and other perks. www.teensinpublicservice.orgCampus-based residential programs: These include Washington State University’s weeklong “Cougar Quest” (www.cougarquest.wsu.edu/) and Western Washington University’s weeklong College Quest (www.acadweb.wwu.edu/eesp/youth/yphome.shtml).

Some local community colleges offer teen summer academic programs beyond SAT and college-application prep courses. Bellevue Community College last summer offered computers, sports and Chinese and Japanese (http://conted.bcc.ctc.edu/summer/); and Edmonds Community College hosted a free arts and animation camp funded by the National Science Foundation www.edcc.edu/summerlearning/ and www.spriteproject.org/).

Local art programs include Cornish College Art and Design Teen Program (www.cornish.edu/summer/art-design-teen-program.htm) and Gage Academy’s Summer Certificate Program (www.gageacademy.org/youth/?page=teen_intensive).

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