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14 ways to make the most of your high school summer

Posted on Jun 24, 2016

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The school year is soon coming to an end, and the excitement of the summer and the freedom it heralds draws near. However, you know that there is only a finite amount of time you get to relax. Right now, you are tenaciously planning on how to use this time to maximize the right set of experiences you can showcase in your college application. There is, essentially, a constant tug between spending time with family and friends, mentally preparing for the rigor of the next school year, and delving into activities and adventures that could possibly tip acceptance to your dream college in your favor.

ReachIvy highly recommends that you first take a few weeks to relax, read under shaded trees, babysit your nieces and nephews, go dancing, play and/or argue over cricket and football with your closest friends, or binge watch The Big Bang Theory and sleep till noon. Then, get cracking on a summer adventure that is most suited to who you are and what you love.

Here is a list of options:

1) Volunteer. Whether it is climate change, women’s rights, urban sanitation, amnesty for refugees or global health problems like tuberculosis or heart disease, pick a cause that you are genuinely passionate about, and find a way to get more deeply involved with an organization in whose mission you believe. Instead of picking multiple options, we recommend that you work on specific projects to gain a richer understanding of the operational context of one or two causes.
2) Help a college professor with his or her research. What problem do you want to solve? From creating an atmosphere to survive on mars, defining a lasting fashion trend, or finding a cure to cancer, you can fuel your passion and significantly develop your research skills by assisting a college professor who has dedicated his or her life to finding answers. Volunteer to do grunt work like data entry, number crunching, or primary research like getting people to fill out surveys, and try to assume further responsibility as you build your skills and relationship.
3) Get a summer internship. Do you have a specific future career in mind, or any specific subjects that you would like to study further? Getting an internship at a related company or organization will not only help you explore, but will also help you cement your interest in this sector. For instance, if you love human biology, getting an internship with a hospital shows colleges that you are serious about this subject, and driven to learn more about it in terms of its real world applications, beyond a classroom setting. Try to structure the internship with your employer before you start to ensure that you maximize your learning experience. This is one of the most impactful ways that you can spend your summer.
4) Get deeper into extra curricular activities/interests you pursue through the academic year. If you play the piano, use the summer to take the Trinity College or Royal School of Music exams. If you play a sport, train with coaches and practice hard. If you are passionate about foreign film, take online courses on film appreciation or volunteer with organizing local film festivals. Whatever your activities and interests, find a way to delve into them further over the summer.
5) Travel. Have you dreamed about seeing the pyramids in Egypt, or staring at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? If you have the means to do so, use the summer to get on your way. If you are resource constrained, travel as much as possible within your state or country. Travel off the beaten path, explore different landscapes, and try to immerse yourself in local culture and experiences wherever you go. If possible, explore options to volunteer for your cause in a different city or country. Document your adventures. Keep a journal, take lots of photographs and/or blog about your experiences.
6) Get involved on a college campus. There are many ways you can get involved on your dream college campus . You can make a visit, or take a course or summer programs for high school students. Immersing yourself on a college campus does not ensure that you will get admitted, but it will give you valuable insights into campus offerings that can better inform the way in which you build your profile in your college application. Thoroughly research your options to ensure that you are enrolling in the right course or program.
7) Join a summer abroad program. The best way to adventure outside your comfort zone is to immerse yourself in a new city in a new country in a summer abroad program for at least six weeks. You can couple your experience with a volunteering opportunity, or with academic research or an internship. There are many summer abroad programs specifically designed for high school students based on your interests and talents, so thoroughly research your options to find a program that best fits your profile.
8) Learn a new skill. Are you interested in learning Ruby On Rails or Mandarin, but haven’t had time during the school year? Use the summer to learn a new skill, which you can continue to develop not only through the school year, but also in college.
9) Take part in competitions in subjects that you love. Do you think in binary? Are you a budding photographer? Do you play air guitar in your sleep (because you can’t stop playing a real guitar when you are awake)? Start competing. There are many global, national and local competitions where you can challenge yourself, become a subject expert, and learn tremendously from your peers. Winning doesn’t hurt your application, either!
10) Study for the SATs or ACTs. The summer is the perfect time for you to start preparing or even take your SATs or ACTs . By getting it out of the way, you will be able to better focus on the demands of the next rigorous academic year, as well as on building a strong college application. Additionally, you have more time and are under less pressure if you need to retake the test.
11) Get better at writing. To be able to submit stellar college essays, you are going to have to be at the peak of your writing capabilities. Spend time over the summer keeping a journal, in which you can reflect on your experiences, and practice structuring your thoughts and emotions.
12) Read. The best way to get better at writing is to read. ReachIvy has compiled summer reading lists for the 9th/10th grade, as well as for the 11th/12th grade that span classics, plays, novels and biographies. Get cracking, get inspired and fuel your imagination!
13) Talk to seasoned professionals in careers that you are considering. If you have a specific future career in mind (or a few options), use the summer to network with seasoned professionals in these sectors who can guide you, and could help you design a career path. By doing so, you may connect with someone who could end up becoming your mentor, who would be a long-lasting source of wise counsel.
14) Start thinking about your college application. Putting your college application together while meeting the demands of a busy school year puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on your time and mental health. By beginning to build your application over the summer, you can tackle the different components in strategized phases, so that you can put forth your best application, without being overwhelmed by your school year responsibilities.

The summer helps you explore as many different ideas as possible, and so if you are in the 9th or 10th grade, pick 3-4 different activities over each summer, feed your curiosity and find your passion. If you are in the 11th or 12th grade, hone in on the 1-2 activities you care about the most, assume leadership and responsibility roles, and maximize your impact.

Remember to take lots of photographs!

If you need ideas and a plan that is specific to who you are and what you want, feel free to reach out to ReachIvy! In addition to helping you with your college application, we can guide you on how to make the most of your time in high school.

ReachIvy sincerely hopes that this article serves as a critical tool to increase your knowledge base. For study abroad consultation or career counselling with ReachIvy, Submit a Query now! Also, review our resources section to access our free premium content.

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