There is no better time to think about summer plans than in the midst of yet another Wisconsin cold snap. Though summer is months away (and feels worlds away), planning ahead will be super beneficial, especially for students who are thinking about college.
Do not get me wrong: students should enjoy a healthy amount of R&R during the precious summer months. But summer is also a unique time of year where students are free from scholastic responsibilities and, therefore, are able to dive fully into other meaningful ventures. These experiences not only beef up students’ résumés for college admission, but also prepare students for the rigors and challenges of college and beyond.
So bundle up, grab some tea, and alleviate your cabin fever by researching these 5 different ways that students can spend their summers productively.
1: Get a Job and/or Internship
Admissions officers love to see students who can hold down a job or internship. Jobs and internships show that students are responsible, punctual, and work ready. Work experience also allows students to check out different types of jobs and work environments, which is invaluable for career planning.
Remember that college students are also out of school during the summer, so the best gigs get snatched up months in advance. Start asking and poking around now for work opportunities. Does your student already have a place in mind he or she would love to work or intern? Check out the company website for employment and internship opportunities. Do your student’s friends already have jobs? Your student can ask them if their managers are in need of summer staff. Is your student already shoveling driveways? Check to see if your neighbors are interested in lawn care, too.
Pro tip: have your students keep a record of their roles and responsibilities on the job so they can easily write about them during the college application process.
Are your students looking for a meaningful way to spend their time? They can give back by volunteering. There is no need to sign up for expensive service trips or experiences, either; there are plenty of opportunities to help out in the local community. For those in the Madison area, check out the website VolunteerYourTime.org for a bunch of options. Better yet, find a local charity, non-profit, or cause your student already cares about and visit their headquarters to find out more.
And volunteering isn’t just a nice thing to do; there are a ton of real-world skills to be learned and interesting life experiences to be had. It is also a great opportunity to watch professionals in their habitat and check out different career opportunities. Because student labor comes free, students might even be able to pitch and lead initiatives of their own design—a rare experience in school and essentially unheard of in the entry-level jobs they’d be qualified for without a diploma. When people volunteer, everybody wins!
3: Initiate Your Own Thing
Is your student a self-starter? A go-getter? A DIY-er? Summer is the perfect time to finally begin that project your student has been putting off all school year. If your student can document these projects, colleges will be interested in hearing about your ambitious student’s ability to be creative and independent.
If your student has ever wanted to start their own school club or extracurricular organization, encourage your student to start that club before the school year begins. Putting in the legwork necessary to start something new will be much more manageable while he or she does not have to worry about studying for tests. So persuade your student to put together a mission statement, recruit some members, and assign leadership roles before the school year even starts.
4: Participate in an Academic Program
There are a ton of educational enrichment programs available throughout the country and they come in all shapes and sizes. Not all will directly impact a student’s admission chances, but participating in such programs can enhance knowledge, build skills, and allow students to dive into an academic subject they love or explore a course that is not available in school.
College-sponsored programs, in particular, are a good opportunity for your student to test out the college environment and start deciding what kind of college experience he or she may want to pursue. Spending a week (or even a few days) on campus will expose a lot about a school and its surrounding community.
Additionally, a student may be able to take advantage of the summer to free up time during the academic year. Many programs, including online classes, can be taken for high school credit. Some students use this opportunity to catch up in math or jump a level in a foreign language. If your student needs the credit, just be sure to coordinate with your school before you sign up.
However, the most selective, popular, and competitive programs fill up fast. So start searching today! (Also, be on the lookout for academic summer programs from Galin coming soon!)
5: Prepare for College Directly
What better way to get ready for college than getting ready for college?
Current sophomores (who, in the summer, will be rising juniors) would be wise to do exploratory tours of college campuses to see what kind of college environment suits them. These trips are not only a good opportunity to take tours and talk to admissions staff; they also provide test runs to see what it would be like to travel to and from college during breaks and holidays. You will learn quickly how to make efficient travel arrangements. For rising juniors, this summer is also a good time to start doing some ACT or SAT test prep.
Juniors (who will be rising seniors) have plenty to do in preparation for college. On top of that list should be working on college application essays during the summer. And don’t just take my word for it—ask any current senior who waited until the start of the school year to begin writing essays. If rising seniors can get that huge task of their plates in summer, first semester of senior year will run much more smoothly (and enjoyably).
So take advantage of these cold, dark days to think about what sunny opportunities might await in summer. Still feeling unsure how to start planning for summer? Galin Education would love to help! If you want to find out more about how specifically your sophomore or junior can start preparing for college, come to our Galin Chat on the subject this week!