Productive Summer Plans for High Schoolers

Hopefully high school students realize that summer isn’t just a time to relax and enjoy the sun, but also a time to get a leg up with activities that can help later on with college admissions. Two kinds of pursuits are especially good: those that will broaden you that can be featured on your extracurricular resume, and those that will keep your academic skill set sharp.

Broadening experiences might include a summer job, which shows that you are responsible and disciplined. Although perhaps not as commonly seen these days, work experience is viewed very positively in an admissions context. Other great experiences include travel (especially thoughtful travel, where you learn about places where you’re spending time), volunteer work, and programs like outdoor adventure-type trips. Note that not all of these possibilities cost money, and one even pays you for your time!

Pursuits that keep your skill set sharp include reading, and not just comic books and vampire romance novels, but at least some serious reading. Some high-quality, well-written periodicals that can be easy to come by in libraries and elsewhere include:

  • The Atlantic
  • Discover
  • The Economist
  • High Country News
  • National Geographic
  • National Review
  • The New York Times
  • The New Yorker Magazine
  • Scientific American
  • Smithsonian Magazine
  • Sports Illustrated (some of their longer articles and essays)
  • Rolling Stone (some of their longer articles and essays)
  • The Wall Street Journal

There should be something for every taste and interest on the above list, but I recommend sampling around and pushing yourself to read and engage beyond your current interests, as you will do this in college with General Education requirements in most cases.

Some colleges offer mini summer courses for high school students, giving you a taste of a topic or discipline of interest, and of life on their campus. These can be pricey, but some of the topics I read about in the promotional materials that I receive sound fascinating. Just now I did a web search on “college summer programs for high school students” and a ton of these programs came up.

You might consider doing some gradual prep for ACT and SAT tests and retests by reviewing questions and test segments on the official websites of the two testing companies. You can also sign up on the SAT website to receive their question of the day:

The basic idea behind formulating productive summer plans while in high school is to do something that engages and expands you, and not to simply hang with your friends and kick back. Once college application season begins you will be ahead of the game for sure!


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