What Students Should Accomplish Before Summer Break

The holidays have passed, winter break is over, and school is back in session. For many students, this transition back to school can be challenging whether it be because of more challenging classes, heavier workloads, or simple burnout (seniors: I’m looking at you). To help with the return to school and planning for the summer, here are a few tips:

1. If you’re struggling with a particular class, don’t be afraid to ask for help or try to modify your study habits

A common misconception is that you have to study for every class the exact same way. But, if you think about, does that really make sense? Do you study for AP Lit the same way you study for AP Physics? Besides being a place to learn, school is also a place to learn how to learn and how you learn best. This is an especially important lesson to learn before college where much of your learning will be self-directed. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask your teachers for help, especially as AP tests approach. The prospect of approaching your teacher and admitting you are having a hard time can seem intimidating for sure, but don’t forget that they want you to do well! Spending on-one-one time with your teacher will not only show them that you are proactive and dedicated but also will help you develop a relationship with them that will be invaluable when you are applying to college and in need of a letter of rec from them!

If you are still struggling, consider getting a private tutor to help you develop better study habits, a study schedule, and whatever other help you may need.

2. Stay involved in your extracurriculars and consider getting a leadership position

Don’t try to join any new clubs or on-campus groups, unless it were one you’re very interested and invested in. Instead, continue to stay engaged with whatever clubs you began the year a part of, and try to get even more involved if possible. Try to plan fundraising events or other relevant events to show the leadership that you are prepared to take on a role with more responsibilities. Having some kind of leadership experience is a great plus to have on your college app!

3. Start applying to summer opportunities

You should be thinking about your summer plans since those three months can add valuable work or volunteer experience to your college application. Many colleges offer both free and paid summer programs for students interested in all fields, from art history to robotics. I spent a summer of high school at an all-paid STEM program at MIT, learning not only how to code but also what I wanted out of my college experience. While many of the deadlines for competitive summer programs have passed, many others are still open until March.

If you would rather stay close to home, think about looking into unpaid (or paid) internships or volunteer positions. If you are hoping to begin volunteering at a hospital or medical center, many of them require at least a one-year commitment so think about how heavy your workload may be next year before applying. Internships are a great way to get your foot in the door to greater (hopefully paid) opportunities at those companies once you’re in college.

On the other hand, getting a job in the food or retail industries can be just as rewarding. I always say, “nothing builds character or prepares you for the real world like working in retail!” During my free(er) summers, I worked as a sales associate at the local mall and learned invaluable teamwork and interpersonal skills that later helped me nail interviews and new social groups.

4. If you’re going into junior year, think about taking the summer to study for the SAT/ACT as well as the subject tests

Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of what you’ve learned throughout the school year and put that into preparing for the standardized tests required for college - sign up for online SAT and ACT tutoring from TutorNerd. If you are having a hard time coming up with a study schedule between your summer sports camp, volunteering at the animal shelter and hanging out with your friends, consider getting a tutor who could help you create a feasible study schedule!

5. Take the time to plan visits to colleges you may be interested in or find programs to go abroad and immerse yourself in other cultures

Use this free time to potentially plan a road trip to some (or all!) of the colleges you are hoping to apply to in the future. This is a very important step to take since X school may be your dream school, but you may feel differently when you are on the campus or talking to students. Similarly, take the time to plan a visit to a school you maybe aren’t too interested in; your feelings might do a complete 180 once you’re standing on the campus.

Additionally, try to plan a trip abroad, either with your family or with a program! A very common question in college applications, interviews and beyond are “how will you bring diversity to this school?” A great answer to that question can be how you engaged with diversity through getting to know people from X, Y, or Z place and how that changed your perspective on X, Y, or Z.

This probably seems like an exhaustive list but remember that high school is also a time to have fun with your friends and peers and to participate in whatever non-academic activities you enjoy!

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