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Summer Planning for High Schoolers: Making the Most of Your Break

August 19, 2023 :: Admissionado

Students Swimming

Ah, the lazy, hazy days of summer. Nothing better than slipping on your flip-flops, rubbing on some SPF 15, and soaking up the sun while dipping your toes in the pool, right? Wrong—especially if we’re talking about the summer between your junior and senior years of high school. This summer needs to be productive, a time to pursue your academic and extracurricular interests. It’s the last part of your high school career that really counts, so don’t waste it being idle. This summer is going to become part of your college application, whether you like it or not.

We’re not trying to be buzzkills here. Summer fun is important, but the rising senior summer is a time for growth. So, how can you have a meaningful summer that leads to personal development? The answer is simple: don’t force it. Do something that interests you and challenges you, and make sure it aligns with your ultimate goals.

Why Is This Summer So Important?

Crafting an Amazing Application Essay

In a perfect world, your summer experience will become fodder for an incredible application essay. But remember, “It’s the journey that matters, not the destination.” Plan your journey around having a meaningful experience that aligns with your interests, rather than focusing solely on writing a great essay. Forced, superficial activities will only lead to a disingenuous essay.

Impressing in Interviews

During the application process, you’ll likely be asked, “So, what did you do last summer?” You need a good answer! Admissions committees are looking for applicants who pursue meaningful experiences and will continue to do so in college, enriching their university communities.

How to Make the Most of Your Summer

Find Your Passion and Dive In

Do something that genuinely interests you. If you love writing, maybe an intensive writing workshop is for you. If you’re passionate about social justice, volunteer at a community organization. The key is to choose activities that align with your interests and goals.

Tap Into Your Strengths

Think about your talents and how you can use them to benefit your community. If you’re a great writer, tutor younger students. If you’re an athlete, volunteer at a local sports camp. Using your strengths in a meaningful way will not only help others but also show colleges your commitment and capability.

Learn Something New

Whether it’s coding, a new language, or the basics of business, learning something new is always impressive. Summer is a great time to take courses or attend workshops that expand your knowledge and skills.

Engage with Your Community

Challenge yourself by engaging with a community you’ve never experienced before. This doesn’t necessarily mean traveling far; it can be as simple as volunteering in a different neighborhood or with a new group. The experience will broaden your perspective and show colleges your willingness to step out of your comfort zone.

Travel with Purpose

If you have the opportunity to travel, choose a destination that will challenge you. Immerse yourself in a new culture, or engage in volunteer work abroad. Document your experiences in a blog—it will be invaluable when writing application essays.

Maintain a Balanced Schedule

While it’s important to stay productive, don’t forget to relax. Overworking yourself can lead to burnout, so make sure to include downtime in your summer schedule. A balanced approach will keep you energized and ready for the fall application season.

Advice for Parents

Encourage some sort of schedule over the summer.

If left to their own devices (literally), kids might spend all day on social media. Time management is crucial for success in school and later in life, so it is important to build a foundation early. Sit down with your child and work out a “summer schedule.” It doesn’t have to be rigid, just something that encourages them to take responsibility for the things they need to do (summer reading, chores, etc.) and makes time for family, friends and fun.

2) Encourage reading and other independent intellectual pursuits.

In addition to tackling the summer reading list, help your kids find some books that are of interest to them. This will help them learn to enjoy reading, build their vocabularies and keep their minds sharp for the school year. They could even further engage with these books by starting a friendly book club with their friends, or pursue an intellectual interest by taking a free online course. These are both fun ways to prepare for the college classroom.

3) Encourage writing.

High schools students should also be encouraged to write over the summer. Writing about the places visited on vacation or other experiences they have over the summer will inspire creativity, and serve as a record that might be useful when it comes time to write college application essays. Kids can either keep a journal or find a website that would allow them to safely blog and share their experiences with friends and family.

4) Help them find ways to explore their interests.

Whether it be through a camp, an internship, a volunteer experience or a summer course, summer is a great time for kids to explore their interests and gain hands on experience. Perhaps your child has always wanted to learn a new language or how to code. Or maybe they’re an athlete or an artist, and they want to take this opportunity to hone their craft. Whatever it is that they’re interested in, they should take their knowledge of it to the next level and carry it forward with the intention of doing something special with it.

5) Volunteer with them.

Volunteering with your kids is a great way to teach them responsibility and the importance of giving back to the community. It can also be a great hands-on bonding experience and a way to meet new friends. Do some research with your child and find a cause that you are both passionate about and find some way to get involved. It could be something simple, like helping to stock shelves at a food bank one day, or something that requires a greater commitment.

6) Engage them in current events.

With the presidential election coming up in the fall and many important issues to be aware of in our world, it will be especially important for high school students to keep up with current events over the summer. Encourage them to read articles online from good, reliable sources and watch news programs with you. Reading and listening to the news is also a great way for kids to expand their knowledge and perspective, as well as learn how to think critically. Taking the time to engage them in discussions about current events will also help them learn how to form and speak an opinion on important issues.

7) Help them find ways to be active.

You may find yourself thinking, what does being active have to do with doing well in school? Well, it is important that kids exercise regularly (at least 60 minutes per day!) for a number of reasons. For one, if kids find physical activities that they enjoy they will be more active on a regular basis and more likely to continue these activities into adulthood. Moreover, exercise helps maintain mental health by releasing endorphins to boost confidence and promoting sleep. It may also improve school performance by enhancing cognitive skills. So, ask your child if they want to enroll in some sort of athletic camp or find things to do as a family, like riding bikes or hiking, that will keep everyone in great shape over the summer.

8) Talk to them about college.

The college admissions process is becoming more and more competitive, so many suggest that kids start thinking about college as early as ninth grade. Talk with your child about the different opportunities available to them to help them prepare for college. Of course, this conversation will look different depending on what grade your child is in, but it could include a discussion of their goals and interests, courses they should take during high school to prepare, and ways to demonstrate commitment and maturity through getting involved.

9) Encourage them to challenge themselves.

Regardless of how a kid decides to spend his or her summer, they should find some way, even if it’s small, to challenge themselves. This could be accomplished by engaging with something unfamiliar, like a community they’ve never experienced before, or learning something new. Encourage your child to take themselves out of their comfort zone. By choosing to stretch their potential somehow, students will demonstrate that they are committed to personal growth, which is crucial for college applications.

10) Allow time for relaxation.

Finally, as important as it is to make an effort to stay sharp for the upcoming school year, it is equally important to relax. Teen stress is an important issue that can lead to anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating and physical symptoms, such as headaches and fatigue. Feeling pressure from school or work and being overloaded with activities can cause youth stress, so it’s important that kids of all ages have schedule breaks and participate in enjoyable, relaxing activities. Teach your child ways to manage stress, such as exercising, getting a proper amount of sleep and talking about their problems with people they trust.

While it is important for kids to find ways to challenge themselves over the summer, it is equally important to make sure that they have ample time to rest and be kids. Here’s to a fun, productive and rejuvenating summer vacation!


Summertime is a valuable opportunity for high school students, especially those entering their senior year. By choosing activities that align with your interests and goals, you can have a meaningful and productive summer that enhances your college application. Whether it’s volunteering, learning new skills, or engaging with your community, make sure your summer experience reflects who you are and what you’re passionate about. And remember, while productivity is important, don’t forget to enjoy yourself and take some time to relax. Here’s to a fun, fulfilling, and unforgettable summer!