Making the Most of Your High School Summers
Attend a program, volunteer, “visit” college campuses, or work or intern—use your downtime to pursue something unique
Ah, the sweet days of summer, wrapping us in warm and brilliant rays. Before we know it, it’ll be here tomorrow. How can you—as a high school student—be productive during this time? There are certain things to consider when mapping out how you would like to spend your time. To plan your summer, think about what you enjoy, what you could improve, and what your goals are for the future.
Don’t let downtime become wasted time. Admissions counselors are not often impressed by a surplus of extracurriculars, but rather they are interested in applicants with well-developed personalities and commitments to activities. We want to see students who contribute to their communities. And we welcome any evidence that you’re working toward something—whatever that something is. We’re less interested in students who have checked off all the boxes on an extracurricular activities list. In other words, focus on pursuing your unique vision(s), whatever that means to you.
Explore Summer Programs
There are many places where you can volunteer, including schools, homeless shelters, retirement homes, and museums. It’s often possible to choose volunteer work that relates to your interests. If you enjoy animals, check out your local animal shelter! If you enjoy the outdoors, get in contact with the nearest National Park Service! Or, if you love reading, contact your local library. Supporting others is one of the best things about volunteering. In addition, itʼll help you develop a sense of who you are and where you’re going.
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has reshaped college visits nationwide. They may look a lot different this year with limited in-person tours adhering to social distancing and other safety requirements. However, due to the pandemic, there’s been a huge increase in the virtual and guided campus tours that are available right at your fingertips. You’re able to “visit” college campuses that you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to see in person. Do research on college campuses and what they offer. Is your primary concern proximity to home? Or do you want better weather? Perhaps there are schools that align closely with your academic interests, or maybe you’re looking for a school that offers significant financial aid.
Regardless of what is important to you in a college experience, asking a lot of questions is the most efficient thing you can do! Talk to counselors, current students, financial aid staff members—talk to them all and often. They will help you determine both what you want out of your college experience and if their school fits the bill.
Work or Intern
Of course, in the real world, we can’t always spend all of our time doing the things we love. There are annoying, mundane matters to consider, like money. Therefore, you are going to have to balance these things. Schools understand that college is a financial investment. So, they’re very impressed by teenagers who work. If you are lucky enough to find a paying job, you can turn it into a plus when you apply to college. Does a summer job at a restaurant or a supermarket count as an extracurricular activity? Absolutely!
On the other hand, since internships are more closely related to a specific field, they count as career-related experience and can help you find (or eliminate) your passions. In addition, internships are a great way for you to start networking with professionals in your desired field. Unfortunately, they are often unpaid. Although options for paid internships do exist.
No matter which you choose to pursue, you can put it on your college applications. If it is financially possible, I recommend something part time. That way you can pursue some of your other interests as well!
Most Importantly: Breathe
Remember, summer vacation is ultimately your reward for the homework, late-night study sessions, and early mornings you endured during the school year. You don’t want to return to classes in the fall feeling burnt out and exhausted. So make sure you don’t become too busy or overwhelmed. Take time for yourself! Whether that’s reading, cooking, taking photographs, hiking, traveling (even locally) … the list is endless. Summer is the perfect time to explore a new hobby or try out a workout routine. We all need time to ourselves, and summer vacation is perfect for little breaks to help us relax and recharge. It will make it easier for you to be productive in the future and keep a clear mind to forge a path ahead.