While we all like to get swept up in the excitement and carefree nature of summer, it’s also important to recognize summer as a valuable time for high school students to pursue their interests outside of the structure of school. Be they freshmen, sophomores, juniors or seniors, finding worthwhile pursuits during summer vacation will develop them as individuals as well as signify to colleges that they are motivated people with a sense of responsibility.
Summer gives students the gift of time. With that comes the temptation to play video games until their thumbs blister, to catch up on every new show that’s been added to Netflix, or to bask in the summer sun like there’s no tomorrow. Of course, there’s no harm in a little indulgence. Students need to relax and reboot. However, summer should also be a lesson in moderation.
Students should practice time management skills, planning what activities they wish to participate in over the summer and setting aside time to relax as well. They’ll appreciate their downtime all the more after penciling it in around the goals they wish to accomplish.
Pursue a passion
How students spend their summer time should reflect their personal interests. Colleges like to see that students have drive and passion. Students should think about what gets them excited and see if there’s a summer activity that will allow them to keep exploring it. Whether students are volunteering for a cause they believe in, interning at a business or doing an independent academic project, they’re getting the opportunity to learn more about what they love and demonstrating a continuing commitment to their personal development.
Try something new
Take the time to indulge a curiosity or learn something new. Students may uncover a new passion this way or through the experience, stretch their understanding of themselves and the world around them. They could do anything from learning Portuguese at the local community college to volunteering at a homeless shelter.
Get a job
Getting a taste of the working world is a great way to show colleges that students have a work ethic and can work well with other people. Even entry-level jobs like cashiering at a grocery store or flipping burgers at a fast food joint illustrate that students understand the value of earning their own money and managing their time. It reflects well on a student’s character if they can hold a job. Along the way, students will gain some real-world experience and, of course, some extra cash in their pockets.
Quality over quantity
The goal is not to pump up a college application activity sheet with as many activities as possible. Students should find a handful of activities that align with their interests and commit to them. Basically, colleges want to see that students are pursuing activities because they want to, not because it’s something that will “look good on a college application.”
Nor does this mean that students need to attend expensive summer programs or exotic camps to show that they’re doing something “quality” with their time. If a student is passionate about what they’re doing and gaining valuable experience from it, that’s enough.
Below are some interest profiles for students, complete with summer activity suggestions!
The Video Game Enthusiast – find a course at a local college to learn about game design, programming, or graphic design; find an internship with a tech company. (Make sure to do more than just fetch coffee.)
The Nature Nut – be a counselor at an outdoor summer camp, volunteer at the local parks and recreation department, or start a hiking club with friends.
The Soccer Star – join a traveling summer league or coach a team of younger players and help them develop their soccer skills.
The Science Genius – do research, design and run an experiment, and try to get your results published; volunteer with a nonprofit organization to run STEM programming for kids; start a rocket club in your community and hold competitions to see who can design the rocket with the highest launch.
The Animal Lover – volunteer at the local humane association, job-shadow at a veterinary clinic or start a dog-walking business in your neighborhood.
The Literature Fan – start a book club with your friends over the summer, assign books, and discuss them in a local park; partner with a senior center and learn different perspectives on the same book.
The Odd-Jobber – take your lawn-mowing and weeding skills and start a small business, employ some friends, and earn some cash for college; or reach out to a local nonprofit that helps people do odd-jobs around the home.