What will you do this summer? Summer can be a notoriously wasted three months for students. But it’s also a great time to develop skills, passion, and purpose, and of course, have fun.

Parents: Share these strategies for constructive (and fun!) things to do this summer with your teen to maximize their time away from the classroom.

Champions are made during the off-season

Colleges primarily care about the Big Three: grades, scores, and one extracurricular. Indeed, summers are when good cellists become great or good actors refine their skills. Set specific, reasonable goals and implement intentional, regular practice to accomplish them. In fact, you may discover more joy and college interest from that extracurricular.

Sometimes, ambitious students spread themselves too thin. They think that multiple impressive extracurricular activities will impress scholarship committees and college admissions pros. But selective colleges seek impact, not a laundry list. These colleges want to see excellence rather than quantity.

So what e fires you up the most? Which do you want to pursue in college? If you exhibit a skill—awards, honors, a video demo—that suggests you’ll contribute to that extracurricular in college, you increase your admission and scholarship chances. Real skill at one extracurricular shows dedication, resilience, grit, sacrifice, and ability—all coveted attributes. Don’t quit the other extracurriculars, but prioritize the most meaningful ones.

Earn money now to reduce work hours during the school year

Many teens work a part-time schedule during the summer and school year. Instead, work more hours in the summer and over school breaks. Then during the school year, you could perhaps work one weekend shift each week. Grades, scores, and one extracurricular should pay more than flipping burgers.


Generally, scholarship committees and selective colleges love leadership and selflessness. Volunteering can exhibit both. Most importantly, commit to a cause you believe in. Spend time at least twice a week this summer, then once a week during school. Remember volunteering fuels self-regard and the soul. If all teens invested in a volunteer activity they cared about, we’d have stronger, happier children.

Read at least three books

Time spent reading should increase self-awareness, an inquisitive nature, your ACT score, and your GPA. Choose books that interest you. A trip to the library or bookstore searching for one is a great way to jump-start summer.

Set aside fun time with family

One of the most important things to do this summer is to spend time together. You will be on your own soon enough. Take an afternoon to go to the ice cream store, play tennis, or watch a movie with a parent or sibling. Not only can you build priceless memories, but also help ensure that your summer doesn’t become too purposeful. 

Of course, the strategies above are not an exhaustive list. You might also prepare for the ACT or SAT, work with a tutor to attack academic weaknesses, keep a journal, or self-publish a book—all worthy goals. But the above strategies should strengthen and rejuvenate you. And isn’t that the goal for summertime?


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