7 Ways to Make the Most of Your Summer

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7 Ways to Make the Most of Your Summer

Before we get to the list, let’s answer a basic question: what is the point of participating in extracurricular activities over the summer? In other words, why should you do anything beyond sleeping in and playing video games (which, admittedly, are both pretty awesome)?

For one, summer is a great time to discover new interests. You’re not as bogged down with grades and school work, so you can try new activities without as much pressure. In addition, staying involved will help you avoid the “summer slide,” a phenomenon in which students regress academically over the summer because they aren’t exercising their minds.

A bonus benefit of a well-spent summer: colleges will be impressed. After all, most schools would prefer to admit students who are going to go out and do something cool, rather than hang out in their dorm room all day.

The good news? There are tons of ways to take advantage of your summer break. Here are seven of them (cause who doesn’t love a good list?):

1) Read a Book

Better yet: read lots of books. For one, it will make you a better student. Reading will boost vocabulary, reading comprehension, and will likely help your SAT or ACT scores in the long run. Ideally, it will also make you more curious about the world around you. Some evidence even suggests it will help expand your empathy. Plus, once you find out what genres or authors you like, it can be tons of fun.

Here is a good list for finding great fiction. Goodreads.com can also help you identify books--both fiction and nonfiction--that you might like.

2) Take Community College Classes

I love this option for high school students! For one, enrolling in local community college courses is typically pretty inexpensive. Per-unit fees are often less than $100 for local residents. Plus, community college is a great way to introduce yourself to subjects that are unavailable in your high school. Anthology, marketing, philosophy, sociology--most high schools do not offer these types of courses, so community college represents an amazing opportunity to discover a new academic interest (and maybe even a possible college major or minor). And once you pass the class, you will likely be able to transfer that credit later on, which can save you time and money.

3) Get a Part-time job

Here’s a question I get a lot: do colleges care about part-time jobs?

The short answer: yes! And it doesn’t really matter where you work. Experience working in retail or food service (read: somewhere like McDonalds or Target*) can look just as impressive as fancy summer program or internship. After all, a part-time job will help you develop people skills and money skills. The UC application even has a small section that asks specifically about paid employment.

*Kinda fun fact: I worked as a cashier at Target in high school

4) Volunteer

In 2016, the Making Caring Common Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education released a report entitled “Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions.” Basically, the report is a list of recommendations for improving the college admissions process. Over a hundred schools--including many of the most selective schools in the country--endorsed the list.

Why am I telling you this? Well, one of the report’s central recommendations was an increased emphasis on “meaningful, sustained, community service.” In other words, colleges want to admit students who have a cause they care about and are engaged in, weather that cause is working with animals or kids or the homeless. More importantly, volunteering will both positively impact the world and make you happier.

If you haven’t volunteered before and are unsure where to start, I would recommend checking out volunteermatch.org. The site lets you sort volunteering opportunities by area, age, and cause area.

5) Research Majors/Careers

Maybe you’ve known the job you’ve wanted since you were a little kid. If so, congrats! Most of us, however, need a little more time to figure it out.

Although you don’t need to know your exact career path as a high school student, it is a good idea to start assessing your options. For example, you can talk to adult family members about their jobs. You can also do some online research, or watch the Future Stars pre-professional webinars. You can even reach out to someone with a job that interests you and ask if you can shadow him/her for a day.

Finally, ask your Future Stars counselor about taking the YouScience Profile and scheduling a meeting with our career counselor. Doing so will give you an idea of careers that might be a good fit for your natural skills and interests.

6) Enroll in a Summer Program

In order to find a summer program that matches your interests, check out Future Stars’ “Summer Program Lists” in the Intel section of our website.

Students at the UC COSMOS summer program 

7) Get Creative!

Create a teen fashion blog. Start a small business selling handmade greeting cards on Etsy. Develop an app that helps improve time management skills. Organize a local ultimate frisbee tournament. Write a fantasy novel.

These are just a few example of summer projects my students have undertaken over the past few years. A rewarding summer doesn’t necessarily involve lots of organized activities--you can always come up with your own idea for making the most of your extra time. 

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