The Best Summer Plans for High School Students

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Out of school for the summer? This might seem like a time for kicking back and unwinding after the school year, but it’s actually a great opportunity to start building that resume to help you impress the college of your choice. Your plans can be more than simply getting a summer job; there are a number of activities that can help you stay active and gain valuable experience over the summer months.


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Employment is one of the most practical ways to build your resume and impress colleges. Even if working during the school year is not an option, there are often seasonal establishments such as residential summer camps that look for help specifically during the summer months. Any job is good, but working in a leadership position or an academic area would be ideal. The more a job challenges you, the more it builds the skills that colleges and future employers are interested in seeing in applicants.


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Do good. Community service is another great way to gain some valuable work and leadership experience. Nonprofits such as soup kitchens and animal shelters are always looking for volunteers, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find a volunteer organization near you that could use an extra pair of hands for a few hours a week during the summer.


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While this may not be a viable option for everyone, summer travel can be an exciting way to enrich your mind while enhancing your resume. Visiting and exploring foreign places will broaden your horizons, allowing you to expand your awareness of other peoples and cultures. It’s also a great chance to develop language skills.

Take Classes


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Summer school doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, and colleges may look kindly upon applicants who take the initiative to further their education over the summer. There are a variety of options available for high school students to take summer courses, both at their own schools and at local colleges. If your high school offers summer classes, this could be a great way to advance your math or language skills, two areas that often fall short on college applications. Local community colleges also offer credit-bearing summer courses for high school juniors and seniors on a variety of introductory-level topics. This will not only look great on your transcript, but it also provides an opportunity to get a jump start on general education requirements for college and allows you to explore possible career options.

Summer Enrichment Programs

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Along with summer classes, enrichment programs can be another valuable and educational summer experience. Investigate the types of summer enrichment programs offered by local youth groups or area colleges and universities. Many of these organizations have residential or day camps for high school students focused on specific topics such as music, creative writing, science, engineering and a variety of other areas of interest. These programs are a good way to explore and gain experience in fields you may want to study in college.

Visit Colleges

Utah State University
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It almost goes without saying that campus visits should be part of any college applicant’s summer plans. Of course, while these visits are a priority when considering which colleges to apply to, it is important to remember that they should be just one part of your summer equation. A few campus tours don’t constitute a summer’s worth of experience; they should be included in your plans, along with other resume-building activities and experiences, in order to set you apart from your fellow applicants.

Beef Up Your SAT or ACT Skills

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Don't waste a summer preparing for a four-hour exam—everything else on this list has more value for your personal growth and college preparation. That said, standardized tests are an important part of the admissions equation at most of the country's highly selective colleges. If you've taken the SAT or ACT and your scores aren't what you think you'll need to get into your top choice colleges, then the summer is a great time to work through an exam preparation book or take a test prep class.

10 Ways to Waste Your Summer

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So, we know how high school students should be spending their summers in order to impress those college admissions officers. Of course, summer can't be all work and no play, and it's important to find a balance between having fun and being productive. Colleges don't expect to see you pulling 60-hour work weeks and 3,000 hours of community service in one summer. But just in case you missed the boat, here are ten great ways you can completely waste your summer vacation:

  1. Breaking the world record for most consecutive hours playing Call of Duty. Instead, if you were to develop and market your own game or app, you could certainly impress the admissions officers.
  2. Memorizing the lyrics to every song on Billboard's Top 40 (this will not convince any college to "call you, maybe.") That said, writing your own musical score or developing your musical skills would be a good use of the summer.
  3. Hosting the 74th annual Hunger Games in your backyard. You could, however, organize a book club or literacy program in your community.
  4. Marathoning all seasons of Toddlers and Tiaras. So instead of encouraging the exploitation of young children, work to improve their situation through community service and volunteer work.
  5. Trying to hit 10,000 followers on Twitter. That is unless you're using social media for a noble cause or entrepreneurial endeavor. Colleges will be impressed by applicants who can effectively use social media for productive purposes.
  6. Averaging 14 hours of sleep per night. Try to find something that motivates you. That much time in bed means you haven't found anything meaningful to do to get you out of bed. It can also be a sign of depression, so a visit to a counselor could be a good idea.
  7. Tanning. Just don't do it. Your future health will thank you, and there really are a lot of better things you can do with your time outdoors, like lifeguarding or teaching kids to swim.
  8. Watching cat videos on YouTube. Well, not exactly. Please do watch cat videos. Who doesn't love cat videos? But don't waste half of your summer doing so. If you create some of your own clever and high-quality viral videos, they can become part of the supplemental materials for your college application.
  9. Testing every theory the Mythbusters have ever busted. But don't hesitate to attend a good summer science camp or assist in scientific research with a local teacher or college professor.
  10. Becoming the next Vincent Van Gogh of Draw Something. That said, colleges do want to admit talented artists. If you're planning to apply to art schools, you should certainly work on developing your portfolio. And even if art is just a side interest, you can often submit a portfolio as a supplement to your college application.

Again, the message here isn't that you need to be doing something productive every day of every summer. Summer is a time to rest, play, travel, and recover from a difficult academic year. At the same time, make sure you do something productive in the summer, something that will develop your skills, explore your interests, or serve your community.

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Cody, Eileen. "The Best Summer Plans for High School Students." ThoughtCo, Sep. 3, 2021, Cody, Eileen. (2021, September 3). The Best Summer Plans for High School Students. Retrieved from Cody, Eileen. "The Best Summer Plans for High School Students." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 22, 2023).