After a long and productive year of academics, students are finishing their final exams, packing up their belongings and beginning to embark on journeys all over the world. The air on campus here in New York is buzzing with the anticipation of summer vacation. This break is a much-needed and well-earned period of relaxation and reinvigoration, and students and teachers alike are looking forward to traveling and spending time with family and friends this summer.
While summer vacation is an important time to recharge and have fun, it’s also a perfect time to begin thinking about college and university. Whether you’re just beginning high school or entering your senior year, there are plenty of things you can do during your summer vacation that will help you to be more prepared when you apply for schools. Trust me – future you will be thankful that you’ve put in this preemptive effort when you start to really tackle those applications! Here are just a few ways you can spend some of your free time this summer in an effort to prepare yourself for college and university.
Enroll in a summer program at a college or university.
Taking a course or two during the summer is a fantastic way to learn more about a specific field – and about your own interests, too. By spending a few weeks in a specialized program at an educational institution, you can narrow down what qualities you want to look for in a future school, while also gaining useful knowledge about a potential field of study.
Get a part-time job or an internship.
This is another ideal way to obtain hands-on experience with a specific industry or field. Not only will you gain exposure to an industry, but you will also hone and improve important skills. A job or internship is a great opportunity to improve things like your communication and time management abilities. Working or interning in a professional atmosphere will also help you to begin building a strong network with other individuals in fields that interest you. Use your internship or job opportunities to create strong connections with your coworkers and supervisors. They will likely be supportive and helpful when you need recommendation letters or even when you begin applying for jobs down the road.
Study for the SAT or TOEFL.
After a long academic year of hard work and studying, it’s understandable that you won’t want to hit the books during your summer vacation. However, even a few minutes of studying each day can make a difference in the long run. Rather than cramming for important college entrance exams like the SAT and TOEFL in the days before you take them, start studying during the summer. Your break is an ideal time to begin preparing since you don’t have the distraction of other academic obligations to detract from the time and focus you need to dedicate to these big exams.
Brainstorm ideas for your college essays.
This point is more relevant for students who are about to enter the final year of high school, but even if you’re only a junior, you can still begin thinking about this piece of the college application puzzle! The essays you write that accompany your university applications are extremely important. They give readers a chance to get to know you better, so they can get a feel for who you are as a person instead of solely relying on your test scores. Take some time in the summer to reflect on some experiences that have shaped you, and even begin to write out meaningful and relevant stories from your life. Having a better understanding of what makes you who you are will be extremely beneficial to you so that you can write an essay that will set you apart from the crowd.
Volunteer your time.
Giving back to your community is a fantastic way to spend some of your free time during the summer. Grab some friends, find a cause you care about, and take a few hours each week to volunteer. Communities can always use extra help, especially during the summer when there are lots of fun events happening. Whether it’s picking up trash on the beach or serving lemonade at a town picnic, you can find a meaningful way to donate your free time. Volunteering will help you develop more great skills like collaboration while adding some philanthropic significance to your summer vacation.
Truly, the most important thing you can do over the summer is read. Reading is a leisurely and hopefully enjoyable way to keep your mind active and sharp. Spending at least a few minutes a day with your nose in a book will help to improve your vocabulary and your writing skills. If you’re learning a new language, reading is a great way to practice vocabulary and grammar. Bring your book with you to the beach, the pool, or on that trip you’re taking with your family – reading is a perfect way to pass the time on a plane or in the car. Even as you relax this summer, you’ll be exploring a new literary world and setting your future self up for collegiate success!
Of course, it’s important that you have fun this summer. Spend time with friends and family, swim in the ocean, take in the sunshine; indulge in the sweet fruits of summer (both literally and metaphorically). Just be sure that you’re keeping your mind and body active and sharp – you’ll thank yourself down the road!