How to Use Your Summers

Preparing for CollegeGrade Checklists | High School Classes | Standardized Tests | Summers

Maximizing Your Summer

Reflecting and Setting Goals

Admissions officers also want to know what you’re doing outside of high school. Using summers wisely is a great way to set yourself apart from other applicants.


For Seniors

The summer before your senior year is a key time to prepare for the upcoming college application process! View our Checklist for a Successful Summer.


Summer Activities

Below are four suggestions to take advantage of your time. Download our Summer Goals Reflection Worksheet to get started. 


Demonstrate your work ethic by holding a job over the summer. “Work” includes a broad range of activities, such as:

  • Being employed by a local company
  • Holding an internship
  • Shadowing someone at their work
  • Working (paid or unpaid) for a family business
  • Taking care of family responsibilities
  • Creating your own business/being self-employed

Each of the above are valuable additions to your college application. Family responsibilities are not “lesser” to having a paid job. The important thing is that you are demonstrating your responsibility and work ethic through how you spend your summer.


Display and dive deeply into your passion for a certain cause by volunteering. Even if you are only able to volunteer a few hours each week, making the effort to do so will help you stand out. You will learn more aspects of the cause, allowing you to become more knowledgeable about something you care about.

Having genuine passion is important! Make sure to do your research and find an organization with a mission or field you are interested in. If you are able to connect volunteering to your future academic or career interests, admissions officers will pay attention. 

Summer Classes

Prove your intellectual excitement by taking a summer course from a local college, high school, or even online. As a high school student, you might be able to get discounts on community college courses, and these classes can often transfer for high school credit. 

If you want to take a class not offered in your area, look into free online courses, such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). While you might not be able to gain credit for these courses, you will be able to demonstrate your active interest in a particular area or career field. You can also receive a certificate of completion for your accomplishment.

College Programs

Many colleges offer summer programs for high school students in a variety of subjects. This is a great opportunity to experience life beyond high school and to gain first-hand experience of college life. 

Keep in mind that many summer programs (especially residential ones where you live on campus) can be quite expensive. Scholarships are available through the College Prep Scholars Program and many programs offer financial aid. Research early and contact the program representatives for more information.