Making the Most of Your Summer

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Are you longing for summer as much as we are? While you’re dreaming of warmer days, you should also start looking ahead for summer opportunities either close to home or on a college campus. While summer programs are completely optional, they are a great way to dive deeply into one of your interests, and colleges like to see how you’ve engaged with something you love outside of class.

If you do plan to participate in an on-campus program, you should start researching them now. Many have February application deadlines and limited space. However, programs offered by a college or on a college campus are only one option. Jobs, volunteering and camps are also great ways to make the most of the summer months.

Searching for a Summer Program
If you decide to pursue a summer program, look for one that connects with your aptitudes and interests. Here are links to opportunities that include courses, programs, research and service. Save these links and keep checking back; there will be more added in the weeks and months to come.

Minnesota Summer Enrichment Programs
Selective & Top Ranked Summer Programs
Online Courses & Programs for High School Students

You can search for other programs at

(College Expert students, this list is saved in Custom College Plan – CPP. Look for the Summer Program-Activities-Ideas folder).

Formal programs are just one path for learning, growing and gaining new experiences over the summer months. Here are some additional ideas for planning a fun and meaningful summer:

Take Time Out: No matter what else you do this summer, allow yourself some time for fun and to recharge. First and foremost, summer can be a great time to do some thinking and planning for the school year ahead. Think about your hopes and dreams for the future. What activities or academic subjects excite you? What talents do you want to make the most of in the coming months? What colleges really interest you?

Improve your skills in areas of interest to you: You can do this through sports clubs and summer competitions, community theater, speech and debate camps, writing classes, robotics, coding classes, music programs and more. Check with your high school or a local university for research opportunities. Take a free class for fun through Coursera or Edx in your areas of interest.

Get A Job:  Summer can be a great time to make a little spending money and get experience in the working world.  Choosing a summer job carefully can give you more than just money.

Visit Colleges:  Summer can be a good time to visit college campuses. The admissions offices are open Monday-Friday and you can take tours and attend information sessions. You may learn enough from a summer visit to know if you still want to keep a particular college on your list or whether you’d like to return when students are there. If you can’t visit in person, take a virtual tour and attend information sessions on-line.

Volunteer:  Are you passionate about improving the environment, helping children, or building affordable housing for low-income families? Summer vacation gives you the time to volunteer for an organization or a cause that’s important to you. Find ways to make your community better. Ask your family, guidance office, or clergyperson for recommendations of local community service organizations. You might be surprised at how many different ways you can help people in your community (and even around the world). Check out Hands On Twin Cities  or Volunteer Match

Read:  Don’t let your brain get lazy just because school’s out. Visit the library or bookstore and find books that interest you. Some high schools and colleges have reading lists. Also check with your English teacher or school librarian. You don’t have to read Shakespeare (unless you want to!) to get the benefits of an enriched vocabulary and broadened imagination. Just read what interests you. Colleges ask and are interested in what you read for fun.

Get Creative:  Don’t limit yourself. Think about something you’ve always wanted to do.  Write a book?  Build a robot?  Start your own business? Learn rock climbing? Now is the time to plan. Talk to your parents and others about what you’d like to do over the summer.  Start lining up possible clients for your own summer lawn mowing business or apply to that creative writing workshop.

Start a UTA (Unique Teen Activity):  Colleges are looking for students who take their hobbies and interests to the next level. Students should always focus on what they love to do, not what they think colleges are looking for. There are over 26,000 high schools in the US, so there are 26,000 yearbook editors, 26,000 soccer captains and 26,000 homecoming queens. Starting your own UTA will help you stand out.

How do you distinguish yourself from all the other teenagers applying to college? Keep shining in your school activities, classes and testing, and expand on what interests you by starting a Unique Teen Activity! 

Here are some examples of UTA’s from previous College Expert students:

Bird watching


Running a cupcake business

Creating a virtual reality app for kids having an MRI

Starting and leading clubs:

Candy of the Month Club

Fishing Club

Club of Charitable Acts

 Mountain Bike Club

Climate Change Advocacy Club

High School Audubon Club

Feminism Book Club

Inventing a cell phone pocket protector for wakeboarding

Blogging – movies, celiac, politics,

Hosting summer tennis and theater camps for neighborhood kids

Doing Alzheimer’s research with U of MN professor

Creating art – competing at the state fair and having an art exhibit

Being involved in politics – organizing a political action club at school

Founding and editing a literary arts magazine at school

Hosting an after school STEM program for Somali 4th graders

Training therapy dogs

Participating in virtual tutoring programs

Creating website

Making a movie and entering it in a film festival

With a plan in place and some activities lined up that you’re excited about, you’ll have even more to look forward to!

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