As the school year begins to wrap up and high schoolers are preparing for final projects, final exams, and graduation activities, it’s time to start planning for the summer! Some of you will already have chosen camps to attend or made travel plans. Fantastic! But for those of you have not had a chance to think about this summer yet, don’t freak out! You still have ample time to map out summer activities that can be both fun AND helpful for your college journey. Whether you’re a high school student or a parent of one, here are some suggestions on what everyone can be doing now to make the most out of the upcoming summer months.
For high school first years (rising sophomores): Congratulations! You’ve almost survived your first year in high school! Woo hoo! Now go have fun and enjoy your summer - you deserve it! And, if you feel ambitious, perhaps consider devoting some time this summer volunteering at a favorite non-profit organization or charity. Ideas include spending a few hours a week volunteering at a local food pantry, animal shelter, neighborhood “clean-up” project, etc. Not only will you feel great helping others, you will also have an awesome activity to add to your resume. Plus, you never know who will meet when volunteering (such as a future internship or job connection)!
For sophomores (rising juniors): You are in an excellent position - in addition to fun activities this summer, you have a chance to devote some of those July and August days to a variety of activities that will give you a leg-up on that very important junior year! While you don’t have to do all of the following suggestions, it’s a good idea to at least do one of the following things:
For juniors (rising seniors): This summer is super-important for you! Use this time wisely, since it can effect the quality of your life this coming fall. Why? Because the more work on your college applications that you are able to complete over this summer, the easier your life will be when your senior starts and you’re stressed out over your courses and extracurricular activities. And before I hear any groans, a little planning goes a long way. Even if you set aside only 1 hour/week during this summer to work on college application-related activities, you will be surprised how much you can accomplish. For example, aim to complete your college application list by the end of June (meaning that you will have a pretty solid list of schools that you want to apply to, balanced with a few “reach” schools and mostly “target” and “likely” schools). The Common Application has already released its personal essay prompts for the 2019-2020 application season, so you can use July to brainstorm, draft, and polish that all-important college essay. Then, the Common Application goes live on August 1st, so you can spend August completing the online form and get a jump start on those supplemental essays. If you do these things for just one hour a week over the summer, you will be in excellent shape when September rolls around, and your college stress will be greatly reduced (since you will have already done so much work on your applications!).
For seniors (getting ready to enter college): First of all, you deserve to celebrate. After you’ve completed all of your final exams and projects, savor senior activities and your graduation activities! You’ve worked so hard and you deserve to recognize all of your accomplishments! However, once the parties have ended, you should start preparing for your transition to college. I highly recommend getting a copy of Harlan Cohen’s book The Naked Roommate, since it is chock full of fantastic advice on how to navigate this exhilarating but also stressful transition. He also has great advice on his website, and his TED Talk will make you laugh while teaching you how to successfully navigate your transition from high school student to college first year. Next, when shopping for your college dorm supplies, do not fall trap to the advertising hysteria! You will be bombarded with all sorts of stores wanting you to spend your and your parents’ money there, but resist! Instead, contact your college and university and find out exactly what will be provided in your dorm room (so you don’t have to buy it). Also, once you receive your roommate information, coordinate with your roomie on who will bring what - I’m thinking of the things that you can share (ex. cube refrigerators, microwaves, tea kettles, coffee pots, etc.). After you’re done shopping, make sure that you know how to basic “life skills” things - can you do your own laundry without a disaster occurring? Can you open your own checking and savings accounts? Do you know how to cook something basic for yourself? What medications do you take, when do you take them, and do you know how to obtain refills? While some of these things may seem obvious, every first-year college student needs to know how to do these things. The summer before you begin college is a great time to make sure you know some basics when it comes to “adulting.”
Summers offer wonderful opportunities for growth, exploration, and preparation, so be sure to plan ahead and have both a fun and educational time this July and August!
Maruta Z. Vitols is an independent college consultant in the metro-Boston area. When not helping students achieve their dreams, she enjoys hanging out with her dog, exploring new places with her husband, and doing yoga.