Summer activities are a crucial part of the college evaluation process. Colleges want to see what high school students do with their long breaks and free time. Outside of the more-confined, structured school year, the activities you choose to pursue over the summer demonstrate what you value. In this Insight guide, our counselor will walk you through how to plan for your summer.
What Should High School Students Do Over the Summer?
The options and opportunities are limitless, and your summer plans may not be the same as your friends. In fact, it’s better if your plans are different – you are more likely to stand out! Whether taking a class online or working on a research project, you should focus on the skills that you need or want to build on. The five questions below will help to guide you through the process of narrowing down your potential summer activities so that you can create the best summer plan for yourself.
1. Do I need an academic boost?
The past two years have been challenging for many high school students. The summer can be a great opportunity to re-take a class that you didn’t pass. Unlike during the school year, you can focus on just one or two subjects over the summer. Not only do you have more time to study, but you will also have more energy to evaluate what study habits work for you (and what doesn’t). Before you take this route, be sure to talk to your guidance counselor to see if your school allows you to retake classes for a grade. Even if the answer is no, you could take a class without credit to demonstrate to colleges that you did whatever you could to understand the material and improve your knowledge in that subject.
Beyond a GPA bump, summer classes can also help you to explore a subject that you are interested in but know little about. Other local high schools or community colleges can be convenient places to start. However, many four-year universities now offer summer programs for high school students to experience life as a student on their campuses too. These classes are taught by real college professors, and you will sometimes get to live in actual dorms! Some of these programs are very competitive though, and may require an application, complete with letters of recommendation and essays to write. Thus, when in doubt, start researching and planning early!
2. Will SAT or ACT scores help me to stand out?
While many colleges are still test-optional, you should explore if your SAT or ACT scores can add positive value to your college applications. Over the summer break, you have time to assess whether you should take the ACT or the SAT, create a study plan with your counselor, sign up for one-on-one tutoring, or join a test preparation class to help you manage your time. Once decisions are made, you can sign up for an upcoming test and a backup test from there, only to be taken when you are fully ready. Studying for them over the summer keeps your brain active and gets you ready for school in the fall. It may also allow you to stay one step ahead of your peers. And remember, even if some colleges will not be reviewing your SAT or ACT scores, thousands of other schools will!
3. What interests me?
Beyond the classroom, what do you do for fun? Give this real thought and then do something that’s meaningful to YOU. If research programs or internships sound interesting to you, figure out the requirements and start your applications early! The application process can be very similar to a mini college admissions process involving a personal statement, supplemental essays, activity lists, letters of recommendation, and interviews. You can also start your own project or your own business. You can volunteer at an organization whose goals match your own. You could even learn a new skill in your own backyard. Sky’s the limit!
Whatever your plans are, be sure to schedule some family time, as well as time to hang out with your friends. As you get older and prepare to head off to college, you will find that these opportunities begin to pass by quickly.
Need summer acitivity ideas: Top 6 Summer Activities for High School Students
4. What will it cost me?
One crucial consideration when you make your summer plans is the price. Some summer programs are free or low-cost, while others may not be. Some programs last for eight weeks, while others are two-week adventures. Their start and end dates also may not align with your high school’s. Your schedule and goals combine with cost to make committing to a summer program an important decision. If you are planning to save up for college, it may be a great idea to secure a job over the summer. Getting a job will be a valuable experience as you put together a resume and practice for interviews. Your work history can demonstrate your accountability and initiative. If you work for a company with multiple locations, you might even be able to continue that job elsewhere when you head off to college. Seriously, it happens!
Having said that, unpaid opportunities can be incredibly rewarding as well. If you are an aspiring medical student and you have the chance to shadow your doctor or work in a hospital setting as a volunteer, that valuable experience can go a long way.
5. How much time can I devote?
At Insight Education, our students typically engage in a mix of activities over the summer. Some may devote part of their summer to studying for the ACT or the SAT, and another part to volunteering and work. Others may join an intensive summer research program and spend time with friends and family on vacation. The key is BALANCE. Don’t pack your summer with six or seven different activities to impress college admissions officers. Prioritize what is important to you. Colleges value students who know how to juggle their schedules and focus on the things that matter most to them. It’s a sign of maturity.
Ultimately, you want to build a summer experience that is both fun and meaningful. With so many options out there, it can be confusing. We are here to help! If you need guidance to figure out what will result in the most productive summer for you, schedule a 1-hour personalized planning session with an Insight counselor today.
We can’t wait to meet you!
Zach and Team Insight
This article is written by Insight Senior Counselor Zach Pava.
Zach has guided hundreds of students throughout the college admissions process. His extensive writing background includes essay contributions online and in print, a sports blog, screenplays, and film reviews. Contact Insight Education today to schedule an initial consultation with Zach. Read his full bio here.