School’s Out, What Now?

Rebecca Hammar

B.A. English, Stanford University

With college admissions becoming ever-more competitive, students with their sights set on a top university simply can’t afford a summer of stagnancy.

Given the plethora of summer opportunities available to high schoolers, the challenge that many families face is choosing which of them to take advantage of. Below, I’ll outline the many ways a student can spend their summer, as well as the benefits of each (particularly when it comes to college applications.)

Get Ahead Academically

An obvious choice for those striving towards a rigorous course load, taking classes at your high school, online, or at the college level is never a bad choice. Whether you’re seeking a class not offered at your school or hoping to knock out required courses (cough cough PE), summer school keeps you sharp intellectually and can serve as a springboard into the coming academic year.

Get A Job

With all of the summer programming available to high school students, the value of a job has become vastly underrated. Whether it’s life-guarding, childcare, or food-service, jobs undoubtedly instill a certain level of responsibility and accountability that will not be overlooked by your admission officer.

Intern/Research

The unpaid internship: while often less appealing to high schoolers than earning their own spending money or college savings, internships are invaluable when it comes to learning how a business functions as well as field (and potential major) of interest. Internships in the political sector are equally thrilling, allowing high schoolers to observe the inner workings of our government on a day-to-day basis. Last, but certainly not least, are research-oriented opportunities. Interning in a lab, for example, is an excellent chance for prospective STEM majors to learn from experts in the field and get a taste of what their college experience and potential career will entail.

Hone Your Craft/Hobby

You’ve got eight weeks to get better at something…take advantage of it! If you like to write, spend the summer journaling, writing blog pieces, or enrolling in a writing seminar. If you’re all about vlogging, set a goal for a certain number of videos you want to publish and stick to it! College admissions has become less about being well-rounded and more about demonstrating a clear passion — in a structured environment or otherwise. If you’ve got a “thing,” take this time to pursue it.

Volunteer

While traditional options such as taking on a shift at the local soup kitchen are always great, volunteering can (and should) serve as an opportunity to explore a student’s passions. For example, if you’re passionate about the environment, perhaps you could help out at a beach clean-up, or if you love computer science, you could help teach local kids how to code. There are infinite ways to find intersections between the things a student enjoys and community service opportunities.

Play a Sport

For the scholar-athlete, summer means uninterrupted time to focus on sport(s). Participating in club programs and/or attending sport-specific camps demonstrates a clear passion and dedication to personal improvement. Not to mention that both are great ways to get on the radars of coaches and recruiting coordinators.

Attend a Camp

A tangent of the above, camps aren’t limited to athletes. In fact, there are camps out there for just about any and every interest. Whether it’s science camp or culinary camp, these are great opportunities for students to fully “nerd-out” on the things that bring them joy while networking with like-minded students.

Prep for Tests

Whether you’re gearing up to take the ACT/SAT for the first time, reaching for a better score, or fine-tuning specific knowledge for SAT Subject Tests, summer offers a (mostly) distraction-free opportunity to dig into the nuances of standardized testing. A solid test score is the perfect compliment to a strong transcript and insightful application essays. This can most definitely be done in conjunction with the rest of the activities on our list.

Relax. Have fun.

Yes, you shouldn’t do nothing over summer, but remember that it’s called a break for a reason. Don’t forget to make time for yourself, your friends, and your mental wellness. #Selfcare is trending for a reason!

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