Summer Planning Advice: Take A Big Step Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

Student Running Toward City

Regardless of how a student decides to spend his/her summer, they should find some way to challenge themselves.

This modus operandi will not only open up possibilities for a valuable, fulfilling and fun summer holiday, but it will also give significant muscle to a college application. By choosing to stretch their potential somehow, students will demonstrate that they are committed to personal growth and destined for greatness. Students should take… a risk. The biggest risk they can take within their means. Doesn’t matter where or how because the act alone will speak volumes. So, let’s explore a few ways students can challenge themselves over the summer:

Engage With A Community You’ve Never Experienced Before

The key here is to take yourself out of your comfort zone. And students don’t necessarily need to leave the country, or even their town, to do this. Most likely, a great deal of perspective can be gained from engaging with a community that’s right next door. For example:

Students interested in law and social justice could volunteer at a community law center and learn about current issues that a variety of populations face through hands on experience. Those interested in health care could volunteer at the local hospital. Students can even combine their interests. For example, a skilled violin player could volunteer to play small concerts at a local children’s hospital, or a ballet dancer could organize community dance classes for disadvantaged children. The important thing here is that the student is interacting with people or in a place from whom or which they can learn a great deal.

If You Have The Opportunity, Travel!

Okay, so we don’t mean go the beach with your family (Although everyone should do that, too!) Similar to the ideas mentioned above, traveling to a place that you’ve never been before, one that is very different from your hometown, is a great way to challenge yourself. A place with an unfamiliar culture to immerse yourself in, or perhaps a place where the living conditions are difficult. Of course, we’re not suggesting that students travel somewhere that is dangerous or unsafe, just to a place that will take them out of their comfort zones, force them to think on their feet, or consider things in ways other than their norm.

There are many great resources for students interested in traveling overseas during summer break, such as Go Overseas and Go Abroad. Here, students can explore programs, connect with fellow travelers, and read reviews of various abroad programs. There are opportunities to volunteer, teach/mentor, and gain work experience. Wherever you end up, it’s also a great idea to start a blog while you’re there to document your thoughts and experiences. (Hint: This will come in handy when it comes time to write your application essays!)

Learn Something New

How to code. A new language. The foundations of business. Whether students choose to volunteer, intern, work, travel or enroll in a summer course, they should learn something new. Whatever you’re interested in, take your knowledge of it to the next level.

For example, a student interested in a career in medicine could pursue First Aid and CPR certifications at their local American Red Cross chapter. Or a student interested in computer science could find a summer coding academy, such as iD Programming Academy at NYU. All students can benefit from exploring a new culture, so why not learn a new language in an immersive study abroad program? Colleges and universities want to see that applicants are curious, diligent and going after their goals and interests, so by demonstrating your eagerness to learn something, you prove that you are all of the above.

Many colleges even offer pre-college summer programs, which provide both a learning experience and an introduction to college life. In Harvard’s Pre College Program, a two, four or six week program, students live on campus, take non-credit courses and participate in co-curricular activities with distinguished Harvard faculty. With courses on subjects like computer science, law, writing, and science, there is something for every interest.

Blueprint, another highly regarded summer program, offers courses at universities across the country, from Georgetown to Emory, and from UCLA to the University of Michigan. Blueprint has four “Core” programs – Business, Communication, Psychology and Forensic Science, which are offered at all program schools, as well as seven other Career Courses that are campus specific, such as Careers in Medicine at Emory and Careers in Law at Georgetown. More summer program ideas can be found at Usummer, a free summer program directory.

Finding a summer challenge is easier (and more beneficial) than most students probably realize. By seeking activities, near or far, that allow students to engage with something unfamiliar and learn something new, they will have a meaningful and fun summer, one that they probably will never forget.

Check out our other summer break blog posts here or download the Quickstart Guide To Summer Planning.

Need some help with a college application? That’s what we’re here for!

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