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What High School Students Should Do Over the Summer

There are so many options for summer activities, no wonder it can be difficult to know where to begin. While reviewing how IvyWise students have spent their summers, I noticed that their plans fell under six basic categories. I included the a few examples in each category to help you get started.

1. Make a Difference
Community service is always a valuable endeavor, and the summer is a wonderful time to make a difference in your community. One IvyWise student spent two summers in high school traveling to India, where she worked to improve the environment of a local community where she had family. Another IvyWise student worked full time with children with disabilities.

2. Explore a Career
High school is a time to begin exploring possible careers for later in life. This is especially true for juniors and seniors who may want practical work experience before deciding what to study in college. One IvyWise student knew she loved discussing movies with her friends, but had no formal experience in the film business. Therefore, she used the summer before her junior year of high school to intern with an independent film company. Doing so gave her the practical experience that helped her realize that she did, in fact, want to study film in college. As a visual artist also interested in business, another IvyWise student decided to spend the summer before his senior year in college working for an advertising firm. Over the summer he realized that advertising was not the profession for him. Eliminating a career possibility brought him a step closer to discovering what he truly enjoys.

3. Follow a Passion
One IvyWise student just loved biology. He took every possible science course available in his large high school, but it never seemed to be enough. Therefore, he decided to spend his summer doing research with a professor at a university well known for its strength in the sciences. He was able to spend most of the summer doing cancer research, and included a summary of his work in his college applications. Another IvyWise student had a passion for all things French. Therefore, she spent the summer before her junior year of high school in France, studying the language, teaching English, and exploring the culture.

4. Try Something New
Taking a risk and trying something new isn't always easy, but high school is a great time to learn to take risks and by doing so, discover new interests and talents. One IvyWise student had never picked up a camera in her life, but decided that the summer before her sophomore year of high school, she'd like to try. She enrolled in a photography program, and developed her skills as a photographer. Another IvyWise student spoke Spanish at home, but decided to use his Spanish language skills in a new way. On a service trip to the Dominican Republic, he became the translator for the group, and facilitated connections between his peers and the people they encountered on their trip. He learned how his language skills could help him connect with people with whom he had previously thought he had little in common.

5. Achieve a Goal
Getting away from the hectic schedule of high school can mean more time to do those things you always wanted, but never had the time. A politically inclined IvyWise student decided he would read all the non-fiction political books he could find, as he was rarely assigned such a book in high school. At the end of the summer he had an impressive reading list (that he actually included in his college application), and became more confident when discussing his ideas. Of course, goals depend on the individual, and could include climbing a mountain, learning to knit, becoming more outgoing, or writing a novel.

6. Do What You Want
In addition to the programs, the internships, the jobs, the college visits, or whatever else might be part of your summer, there should also be time for family, friends, and just for you. No matter how you spend your summer, do not forget to do the things that make you feel happy and energized - whether that means spending extra time with your younger sibling before you leave for college, swimming in the ocean, making time to see friends you haven't seen in awhile between tests and athletic games, reflecting on the past year, going out for ice cream, or anything else, you shouldn't forget to relax and have fun.

Copyright Jackie Shapiro -


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