This summer is going to feel different. Again. Although there’s still quite some uncertainty as to how it’s going to play out, as a student, your approach to Summer 2021 can still be discussed thoughtfully.
Ideally, the first thing you should do is rest, recover, and rebalance after a potentially intense end to yet another unorthodox school year. Given how hard many students work these days, it's imperative to take some time off to relax - in whichever form most applies to you (that hopefully also incorporates some radical digital downtime). Eventually, it will be time to be productive again, and regardless of whether you're enrolled in a(n) (online) summer course, interning (virtually) for a start-up, or making an impact in the community, there's a high chance that there'll be much more downtime than in the previous months. I believe you can make great personal strides within that downtime. It may involve working on your college applications and essays as a rising senior, or simply taking a deep dive into a topic that's always generated curiosity, but it's important to keep the brain active and learning despite the temporary lack of a school routine and structure.
There are two suggestions that can help you make the most of summer, beyond what goes down on your eventual LinkedIn page: independent/timely goal-setting and maintaining a weekly calendar.
By self-setting timelines, we keep our own selves accountable and goal-oriented. For example, if you want to learn all about Cryptocurrency, set time to complete MIT’s Open Course on Cryptocurrency; if you’re interested in the fashion industry, spend time interviewing staff at a small boutique; or if you’re into magic or coding, commit to learning new tricks and skills. Meanwhile, having a calendar where you organize your week ahead with little reminders can be crucial: dinner with friends, read 50 pages, call grandma - independently setting tasks will help keep everything in perspective, while also ensuring you have things to look forward to.
I also encourage all young people to play the protagonist role in their own story. While keeping in mind health and safety, decide to do something on your own that you wouldn't usually do: as the world deliberately starts to open ahead of the summer, consider eating lunch in a public place alone, going to a library to start reading a book, or visiting a museum on your own. Allow yourself to experience these little moments that may feel awkward at first, but will ultimately prove worthwhile.
For those of you participating in internships or work experiences, you have to make the most of whatever setting you’re placed into. One goal could be to have ten “profound” takeaways from your time there - from a place of genuine knowledge, not just things that you “professionally found”. In all seriousness, talk to people, ask them the questions that have answers you can't find on Google, and take an interest in their individual journey to get a sense of how they got to a point where you were their intern. Essentially, collect as much real data as you can from personal experience—that's what hands-on learning is all about.