Summer Activities that Provide the Highest Value for High School Students - ideas from the Student Research Foundation

Summer Activities that Provide the Highest Value for High School Students

With the last day of school coming up soon for high school students, there are still some out there who are wondering, “What can I do this summer that will improve my chances of getting into college?”

It isn’t too late to pick a summer activity that will fill that bill. Here are some options.

Get a Job

Getting a job provides one obvious benefit – a student can earn money that can help pay for tuition, textbooks, meal plans and other college expenses. A job offers other benefits too. Working one demonstrates to college admissions teams that a student is fiscally and personally responsible. In addition, some jobs offer experiences that can form the basis of strong, reality-based college application essays. And if a job helps a student learn skills that can potentially translate to a major field of study in college, even better. Future engineering students can work in construction, for example, and students who might major in health care disciplines can work in medical offices and hospitals. So the bottom line is, don’t write off the time-tested activity of working. It can provide valuable experiences that don’t cost money, and which can even earn it.

Work an Internship

Even though internships don’t always pay, they can offer the same benefits that we outlined just above for jobs. Plus, they can offer additional benefits for certain majors. In exchange for working for no pay, students can explore fields that interest them, like consulting, accounting, lab work, veterinary science, and more.

Attend an On-Campus Program

College counselors and admissions officers have told us that the most valuable on-campus summer programs are those that offer specific college-level courses that allow students to explore possible majors and careers, not just “the experience of living on an Ivy League campus.” Plus, most summer on-campus programs are expensive. And do not expect that attending a summer program at a college will increase the chances of getting accepted there for college studies. The consensus among college counselors is that that approach is ineffective.

Front-Load Course Success by Taking AP and Other Courses ahead of Time

If a student is planning to take AP Physics next September, for example, it can be a very good idea to take that same course ahead of time over the summer, when it doesn’t “count.” Students report that pre-taking a course can make things easier later on when they take the course “for real,” and can lead to higher grades.

Do Political Work

This is a good choice for students who are thinking about majoring in political science or going into politics. And with a number of presidential candidates setting up campaign offices right now, this summer offers more volunteering opportunities than ever.

Take a Prep Course for the PSAT, SAT or ACT Exams

Many students are already signed up for test prep classes and tutoring over the summer months, and with good reason. Summer offers an opportunity to prepare for standardized tests at a time that doesn’t conflict with course work during the school year. The problem is, with all the other summer activities to choose from, test prep can get shuttled to the side. Our advice? Keep it on your list of possible summer activities and make it a priority.

What about Sports Camps?

We don’t need to offer any perspectives on sports camps. If a student is already heavily involved in a sport, he or she probably already knows where to go and what to do. But here’s one piece of advice. Even if a student is a serious athlete who will be hoping for an athletic scholarship, also consider taking part in the other summer activities we write about in today’s post. Doing so will help a student become well-rounded, and that is a trait that college admissions offices are looking for.

Take Vacations and Have Fun

It can be important, and emotionally supportive, to take family vacations during high school years. When college comes and students become more involved with higher-stakes summer activities, family vacations can become more and more difficult to schedule. Another idea is to combine family travel with trips to college campuses – if those visits can be done with an attitude of exploration, not pressure.

Other fun summer activities for high school students include spending time with friends, sitting by a pool or riding bicycles. Using summer as a time to de-stress and have fun can help students approach the college admissions process in a more energetic and positive way.

To Learn More about How Students Plan

We invite all students to explore their career options by participating in our career and college studies. Students who complete the free career test for high school students will receive information on college and career opportunities which match their interests.

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