January 20, 2012

5 Tips for a Productive Summer Vacation

How you spend your summer vacation is important to college admissions officers. After all, it shows what you choose to do with unstructured time. Free from the confines of a high school schedule and with many of your extracurricular activities on hold, you can do just about anything.

If expensive organized programs are an option for you, that's great. However, you can also have a productive (and impressive) summer without a large budget. Whatever you choose to do this summer, keep in mind that you'll have a chance to write about it on your applications.

These 5 tips will help you make the most of this time while taking advantage of the rest and relaxation you've earned.

1. If you can find paid employment, take it.

Just about any job experience will give you an edge when you apply to college. It doesn't have to be related to what you want to study – even a part-time fast-food or retail job gives you valuable insight into the working world. So many students go through college having no idea what it's like to deal with co-workers or customers. Admissions officers know that gaining this understanding now will benefit you several years down the line when you graduate and seek professional employment.

2. Consider a paid or unpaid internship.

Internships are a great way to explore a field that is interesting to you. You'll get experience and make connections; you may also discover that something you thought you'd enjoy is actually not the right fit for you at all. Either way, it will be helpful to your personal and professional development, and serve as an important resume builder. If you are able to take an unpaid internship, contact the company or organization you'd like to work for even if they aren't advertising any openings. Often, they'll be happy to give you a chance to work for them.

3. Volunteer.

Find an organization whose work is meaningful to you and offer your time and energy. Or, join a political campaign at the local, state, or federal level. Find something you're passionate about and make a difference. Be sure to network along the way.

4. Learn.

Take a class at a local college, or seek out non-academic learning opportunities as well. Find something that you really enjoy (art, music, sports, whatever interests you) and pursue it further.

5. Think about college admissions – but not too much.

To whatever extent you want to fit it into your plans, this may be a good time to work on your SAT vocabulary or to get a head start on your admissions essays. Since you have a break from the daily grind of high school, your mind may be clearer and you may be able to come up with some creative essay ideas. Don't stress too much, though. You've earned this summer break, so enjoy it.


  1. I wish I knew these back when I was still a student. I could've earned a lot of money and not wasted my time bumming around at home.

  2. I couldn't agree more about the summer. The summer is the best time to prepare for SAT's!
    During the school year students are too busy too busy with homework and extracurricular activities to make a meaningful improvement in their scores.