Every year, starting the summer after 8th grade, it’s a good idea for college bound students to get more intentional with their summer plans. Vacations are nice. Sports are great. But when you get a couple of months off in between the end of one school year and the beginning of another, it’s wise for students to fill their weeks with a curated plan of things to enjoy, learn, and accomplish. 

At College Ready, we encourage students to approach summer with a plan for education, enrichment, leadership, service, travel, and, yes, fun too! 

Striking a nice balance between work and play during the summer is essential. At College Ready, we often encourage students to do community service work, and more specifically, we want students executing the action plan for their personal Passion Projects.  While lots of peers are spending time cruising the beach, playing video games, or being bored, College Ready students are planning, creating, and serving in the fields they are most passionate about. We’ve worked with so many successful students as they see their Passion Project plans through: making clothing for children in Africa, teaching sewing lessons to an underserved local community, bringing dental health products to a poverty-stricken town in Peru, collecting shoes for kids in need, hosting sports equipment drives for young athletes in need of baseball gear… Every year the list of passion projects grows in more impressive and innovative ways. Brainstorming a great service project, planning it out step-by-step, identifying measurable goals, building a team, and putting your project into action is so fulfilling and inspiring for students. How will you serve with a purpose this summer? 

In addition to doing volunteer work, many students find it fulfilling to work an internship or a job during the summer. What’s one of the best ways to land an internship that suits your interests and talents is to think outside the box and reach out to organizations on your own. Of course, you can look at the usual lists, but consider looking at places that you want to work. Make connections with people like newspaper editors, professors, doctors, nurses, scientists, veterinarians,—OR any organization you might want to work for; See if they have an opportunity for you to work with them. This kind of contact might happen in the months before summer (like March and April!) via email, letter, phone, or even in-person inquiry.  Need help writing an inquiry letter or a pitch to a prospective employer? College Ready can advise you. 

Summer is often a time when we skip work and do a lot of playing. That’s great! The word vacation comes from the Latin root vac which means “empty.” We want your summer to be the opposite of empty. Make your vacation meaningful. Travel somewhere new; learn something new. Meet interesting people. Try to speak a new language or taste exotic foods. Even when you’re vacationing, you can be learning and growing. 

And speaking of learning, if you’re in a town with a college or university—even abroad—take a campus tour. Better yet, if you haven’t planned vacation yet, you could make a few university towns part of your travel itinerary. East Coast cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City all are home to many different kinds of schools. Los Angeles is home to large public and a few small, private universities. See schools in the South or the Pacific Northwest! Even in summertime, you can get a bit of a feel for campus life and its surroundings; Compare and contrast, make pros and cons lists, and get a few steps closer to finalizing a solid college list tailored just for you. 

Many of our College Ready students have close ties to their school communities through things like athletics or theatre. This is great too. If this sounds like you: Consider working closely with coaches or teachers to see if there’s a leadership role you can take on for the summer. Perhaps you lead morning workouts, team yoga at the beach, or learn about and share a nutrition program with your team. Or maybe you help create the lineup for a summer Broadway medley production or learn some new theatre makeup techniques so you can share skills with cast mates. Even when you’re doing something as simple as practice, there are ways you can lead and serve and grow. 

Leadership can be experienced in many forms—teaching, serving, guiding, and even in learning. If you’ve not filled your summer up with all of these suggestions, consider taking a college course or an enrichment course. Some ideas for classes to take include: CPR, First Aid, Speed Reading, Upward Bound, UC Academic Enrichment programs, etc. If you don’t see a course you want to take, search for one. Another great place to look is at local community college programs or local education courses, and enroll in a subject you’ve always wanted to learn: Italian, Mandarin, ukulele, cooking, personal finance, or a fun sport… the possibilities are endless. You may come home with not only some new skills and new local friends, but great stories to tell and plenty of interesting material for your college admissions essays. 

Don’t forget to ensure that your academics and test prep are all set for the coming school year. If you need to test prep (SAT/ACT) or improve in a class (summer school), plan to take recommended summer courses. 

Finally, when you do get have some down time during your wonderfully planned summer, READ. Books about the human experience can be especially inspiring, as can books from other cultures and different countries. Pick 3 books to read this summer, and commit to learning something new from each. 

Plan a summer you’ll be proud of. Journal about it. Cherish your free time, and fill it with priceless experiences. 

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