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
Not sure where to start? Look for a summer program that connects with your aptitudes and interests. Here are links to information that will give you a sense of what’s available. You’ll find information on various courses, programs, research opportunities and service activities.

Minnesota Summer Enrichment Programs
Selective & Top Ranked Summer Programs
Online Courses & Programs for High School Students
College MatchPoint Summer Programs for High School Student
Summer Research Programs   
Summer Travel & Service Programs  

(College Expert students, you can also find these documents and links in your Custom College Plan folder, Summer Programs-Activities-Ideas.) 

Keep in mind there are hundreds of programs, and the above list is just a sample. 

Formal programs are just one path to 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 while also thinking and planning for your future. What are your hopes and dreams? 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?

Participate in activities that build on your interests: Some examples are sports clubs and summer competitions, community theater, speech and debate camps, writing classes, robotics, coding classes, and music programs. 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. 

Consider an internship: Seek out opportunities early to secure something for the summer. Ask family friends, relatives, teachers, advisors, etc., about internship opportunities they’re aware of. Also, think about your interests. Do you love history? Check with local museums, the historical society, or a library. Medicine and service? Hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes are a great place to start. Art? Check with museums, local artists, etc.   

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 colleges. 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 online.

Volunteer: Are you passionate about improving the environment, helping children, or building affordable housing for low-income families? Summer break 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 to recommend 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. 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
Beekeeping
Running a cupcake business
Creating a virtual reality app for kids having an MRI
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, baking
Hosting summer tennis and theater camps for neighborhood kids
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 extempers.org website
Making a movie and entering it in a film festival
Making an app for teens to improve their mental health 

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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