Instead of trying to do an activity to impress college admissions officers, students should participate in activities that will help them grow and explore their interests. With the help of their family, students can lead a productive summer that’s geared toward their interests.

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Summer Activities for High School Students

1. Courses

Taking college-level courses is a great way for teens to productively spend the summer. Considering the low cost, community college is a particularly suitable venue.  Families save money on future college costs if the student receives transfer credit for the community college course.

Parents can help their student choose a course that will likely be fulfill a general education requirement that they will need to obtain a bachelor’s degree.  Aim for a broader subject so that it likely transfers over to the student’s future college.  For example, it’s probably easier to obtain transfer credit for a course on World History than a course on Magic in Medieval Times.

Another option is on-campus pre-college program for high school students.  The experience often includes staying in the dorms, and students receive college credit for the courses.  Of course, this option costs more than staying home and attending a local community college.  Therefore, parents should consider the price tag before sending their student to a pre-college program.

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2. Jobs

Summer jobs allow students to gain work experience that they can put on their resume.  Students learn a lot by working.  They learn to be reliable by showing up on time for work, and they have the opportunity to develop financial literacy as they read their pay stubs and practice creating savings goals.

As a bonus, college admissions officers generally appreciate when students hold a job. Additionally, working in the summer is a great way for students to help pay for college.

Common summer jobs that high school students hold include being a lifeguard, cashier, customer service representative, or camp counselor.

3. Internships

Internships are usually related to a student’s career or academic interest.  In addition, the main goal is for students to learn rather than only provide a service to earn money.  For example, a student interested in marketing might help a company run their social media marketing campaign.  In doing so, the student would learn a great deal about marketing through hands-on experience.

Rather than have the student reach out to individual organizations, parents can help their student identify internship programs.  For example, youth can obtain an internship or “educationally-enriched work exposure” through WorkReady.  Participants complete six-week, paid experiences.  A student interested in politics might, for instance, intern in the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service.

4. Volunteering

Plenty of nonprofits and other organizations could use volunteer help.  Students interested in volunteering should aim to help in a field related to their interests.  For example, students who think they might be pre-med or might want to attend nursing school may want to volunteer at a hospital.  On the other hand, students interested in perhaps becoming a veterinary might want to volunteer at an animal shelter.

5. Projects

Companies or organizations might not offer opportunities that fit a student’s interests. In that case, students can work on their own project. A student interested in fashion could plan an outfit or two to design and make over the summer. The student could also execute a social media campaign to show their work. As another example, a student interested in history might do research on local historical sites and then shoot a vlog series at those sites.

Creativity is especially important for this route. Parents may need to guide students in organizing a plan and creating a schedule to complete a successful project by the end of the summer.

6. Summer Programs and Camps

Summer programs and camps provide structured, hands-on experience in a student’s area of interest. Students can participate in a program or camp that covers a wide range of interests, including basketball and math. The Biological Research program, for example, runs for three weeks, and students live on campus.

Certainly, families will want to consider the expenses. Tuition for the Biological Research program is $2,200 and room and board is about $1,800. That’s $4,000, excluding transportation to and from the campus—which could be a sizable amount, especially if families live far from the campus.

7. College Admissions Preparation

The activities above won’t take up the entire summer. Parents may want to help their student with planning their summer to include college admissions preparation. Early exposure to the SAT or ACT will build familiarity with the test and make it less daunting when it’s time to actually take the test. Students could start practicing some sections from one or both of the tests. Also, talking about college early (even before high school) could prepare the student’s mindset for when it’s time to do the actual work of college applications.

Or course, high school juniors should be on special schedule for college applications preparation, considering all that needs to be done (the college list, essays, and more).

Final Thoughts

Any of the above activity (or a combination) could lead to an enriching, enjoyable summer for high school students. Importantly, students likely won’t benefit from pressure to complete an activity for the sake of college applications. Instead, parents may want to encourage their student to use the summer to explore their interests.

(Photo: UC Davis College of Engineering)