You’ve heard it over and over again… “Spend your summer wisely… Don’t just laze around, be productive!” Of course, it is important to rest and recharge over the summer, but it is equally important to find some way to challenge yourself. Admissions committees want to see that high schools students are taking these few months off to engage with their communities, learn new things, and pursue their passions. This is probably easier than you think. Here are five ways to turn a standard summer activity into something even more worthwhile:
1) Start a book club to further engage with summer reading
Most people would agree that reading, and reading a lot, is a great way to spend your free time in the summer. But why not further engage with these books by starting a friendly book club? This is not only an educational way to spend time with your friends over the summer, but also a fun way to keep your minds sharp for the fall and prepare for the college classroom.
Knowing that you are going to be talking about whatever it is that you’re reading will encourage you to think more critically about the material and sharing your thoughts with friends will help you gain confidence in speaking your opinion in front of a group. Chances are you and your friends will all bring unique insights to the table. Participating in a book club will also help to keep you on a schedule and may even help you to read even more than you thought possible. It could even be a fun way to blow through your summer reading list together!
Tips for getting started:
- Reach out to some of your friends to see who might be interested.
- Get together to make a reading list and set a schedule, taking into account summer jobs, vacations, etc. You could even have each group member be responsible for snacks/refreshments on different meetings days.
- Start reading! There’s no need to be super formal about this, but jotting down some notes to take to the next club meeting isn’t a bad idea.
2) Get a summer job that relates to your career goals
Getting a summer job demonstrates a great deal of responsibility. Whether you choose to spend your summer babysitting or working at the local grocery store, this is a great way to show adcoms that you are financially responsible and able to make a commitment. But why not take this a step further and find a job that could help you learn about a career path or industry that you’re interested in?
Maybe you’re interested in the hospitality industry, so you get a job working at a local hotel. Or maybe you want to become a veterinarian, so you get a part-time job working at the SPCA or the zoo. For junior and senior high schools students, there are many internship opportunities in virtually every field to take advantage of. And you don’t even need to be at a big, fancy firm to impress the admissions committee. Even though your responsibilities in these situations may seem small in comparison to what you would like to one day accomplish, they will go a long way in showing how dedicated you are to your passions and goals.
Tips for getting started:
- First things first, decide on an area of interest. Be sure to pick something that you are genuinely interested in, not just something that you think colleges and universities will find impressive.
- Start looking for opportunities. There are many great resources on the internet to help you find jobs. You could also consider asking your parents, teachers and other adults in your life if they can help.
- Fill out applications, set up interviews, and be sure to prepare in advance. Always research the companies you are applying to BEFORE applying and go to an interview prepared to explain why you are interested in the job.
3) Turn a hobby, skill or chore into an entrepreneurial venture
Equally, and in some cases even more, impressive to finding a summer job is creating opportunity for yourself. Not only will this show the admissions committee that you can take initiative, but you also have the added bonus of getting to be your own boss and set your own schedule. Starting your own business may sound pretty intimidating, but it could actually be something really simple and totally within your means.
Say you’re a really great artist and you’d love to spend all summer working on your watercolor technique. Why not start your own artist’s page on Etsy or advertise throughout town? You could design greeting cards, paint portraits, or whatever you think you would be most skilled at doing. Maybe you have always been really good at math and you love working with kids. You could start your own tutoring business and maybe even advertise at local elementary schools. Or perhaps you’re obligated to walk your dog every day in the summer because your parents will be at work. See if other families in your neighborhood have similar needs and offer to walk their dogs in exchange for a small fee. Simple ideas like these can not only put a little extra spending money in your pockets, but also impress the heck out of a university admissions committee.
Tips on how to get started:
- After coming up with a business idea, do some research. Look online or ask around your neighborhood. Is there an interest? Is there a need? If so, then it’s time to move forward.
- Write up a business plan. What tools do you need? How much will they cost? How will you factors those costs to determine a price for your services?
- Advertise! Use social media, tell family and friends, post flyers in relevant locations, or anything else you can do to get the word out.
4) Plan a campus tour road trip for you and your family
Nothing says summer quite like “road trip!” But in addition to driving cross country (or cross state) to take in some sightseeing, we suggest stopping at some college campuses that you’re interested in along the way. Trust us, your parents will be thrilled at this suggestion. Plus, it certainly can’t hurt to mention somewhere in your application that you took the time to visit the school. The adcoms want to see that you’re truly interested in their program and made an effort to learn more about it.
Even though college campuses are quite different, usually much quieter, in the summertime compared to during fall and spring semesters, you can still get a general sense of a school’s vibe. Also, there are usually still students, faculty and administrators around to meet with, and even summer courses to sit in on. Depending on where you live and what your travel budget is for the summer, you can either visit some campuses close to home or fly to an area that has several schools that you are particularly interested in.
Tips on how to get started:
- Do some research. If you haven’t already made a list of schools that you want to apply to, start looking into which programs might best fit your needs.
- Talk to your parents about a timeline and budget. Chances are you won’t be able to make these trips on your own. So talk to your parents and see where you could realistically travel to given your family’s schedule and homebase.
- Contact the school. Once you have an idea of when and where you can go, contact to school to see if there is an ideal time to visit. There’s no sense showing up between summer sessions when there’s nothing going on.
5) Start a summer blog to hone your writing skills
Regardless of what it is you plan to do this summer, whether it be visiting college campuses or starting a book club with your best friends, write about it. You could keep a private journal, write some short stories inspired by your summer adventures, or start a travel blog. And you could even record your memories with photographs and make your blog posts a multimedia experience to share with your friends and family.
In addition to honing your writing skills in preparation for the upcoming school year, recording your summer experiences in writing will give you a head start on your college application essays. If you pursue something that you’re passionate about over the summer, most likely it will be an experience that you will want to write about in some capacity. So, you might as well start jotting down some thoughts about these experiences as they happen, that way you won’t be starting from scratch when it comes time to write your personal statement.
Tips for getting started:
- Buy a journal (or find a notebook lying around your house) or make an account on a free blog site. (i.e. WordPress, Tumblr, etc.)
- Set aside a designated time during each day or week (it could just be 15 minutes!).
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. There are many ways to get creative and wisely spend your summer months. The key is to challenge yourself and engage in your community in ways that are enjoyable and inspire personal growth.