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10 things high school students should do this summer

By Karen Giannino on May 12, 2013

Relax, renew, restore.  But don’t check out. Use your summer to learn about yourself—in a way that will help you think about what’s next and successfully navigate the college search process.

  1. Write your resume. Include what’s most important to you and the things you’ve done that make you proud. List jobs, activities, and awards, and explain something if it isn’t obvious from the name or title. Ask a couple of adults to serve as references for you (a neighbor who has hired you to do yard work, the family for whom you babysit, or a teacher, for instance) and list them here. You’ll use your resume when you apply for a job, of course, but if you bring this with you to your college interviews, it will help you remember what you want to talk about.
  2. Explore some careers. Start with the Internet, but then get out there. Set up a job shadow and spend a day watching someone do what you think you want to do with your life. You can learn a lot about a field, and about yourself, in a short amount of time. Think broadly about career paths—check out the variety of careers Colgate grads have, by their college major.
  3. Take a personality test. Understand yourself and the way you work and learn, and you will find it easier to get along with others and make your mark. The Myers Briggs test is most well known, and it’s easy to find many instruments on the Internet.
  4. Read. You have your summer reading list, and you’ve mapped out when you will tackle that. But read a few items on your own, too, and consider something different from what you typically read—maybe it’s a short story, or a play, or a poem. Better still, venture into a culture or continent that’s less familiar to you. You’re vacationing, but you’re still thinking.
  5. Make dinner for your family. In addition to becoming your parents’ favorite child, you will exercise your multitasking skills and be thoughtful about a household budget. While you’re at it, if you don’t already do your own laundry, this summer is the perfect time to learn how.
  6. Volunteer. It’s probably the most frequently expressed realization of young people: “I gained so much more than I gave.” Community service is good for all involved. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something.
  7. Use science. You’ve mastered the scientific method in class, now put it to use in your life. Experiment with the way you water the garden. Determine which foods best prepare you for a workout. Teach Spanish in three different ways to the kids you babysit. Plot it, graph it, analyze it, use it.
  8. Get a job. Enough said.
  9. Visit some colleges. If you have finished your junior year of high school, this summer is the perfect time to take a road trip or two. Your first few visits can be to explore types of colleges, and you can do this close to home. Test your assumptions about big and small schools, urban and rural. Once you’ve learned a little more about your own preferences, you can refine your list and make some plans. If any of your schools offer interviews, you’re going to want to take advantage of that. Check out our article on making the most of your campus visit.
  10. Write your college essay. No one will be happier than you if you can get this wrapped up over the summer. Your first assignment is discovering a topic. You can use a friend or family member to help you brainstorm. What was that moment when you started to see the world differently? What matters to you and how did that come to be? When you start writing, stay true to your voice. You’ll want to work on several drafts, and leave some time in between to get some distance. Employ everything you’ve learned about writing—this is where it all comes together. And don’t skimp on the last step: proofread!

Vacation. If you made it this far, you are no doubt a high-powered student and you want to make the most of your summer vacation. The word comes from the Latin vacātiō, meaning freedom from something—and your vacation is an important time to grow and challenge yourself while you are free from your familiar routine of school. Take advantage of this freedom and learn about yourself, dream about your future, and exercise your mind in new ways.  You’ll have a lot to be proud of by the end of summer!

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