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  • Writer's pictureSusan Treadwell

Required vs. Inspired: How To Create A Meaningful Summer

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

Summer. It’s a season, and a state-of-mind. And it means something different to every high school student.

Modern college admissions changed the way teens spend their summers. (Just ask anyone who grew up before Activities Lists became a thing.)

Today, teens often contort themselves into virtual pretzels, loading up on summer activities they think will “look good” on applications. Or they feel pressure to spend money on experiences that are meant to impress.

If this is you – stop. There is a better way.

Depending on your needs, summer is the time to get involved in opportunities that will serve you when applying for college. But it’s important to commit to activities that inspire you on some level.

First, take stock of your goals. For example, if you plan to get a job and earn money, explore the different kinds of work available in your area.

Last year, one of my students who plans to major in Environmental Science, found a job on an organic farm dedicated to community outreach. She enjoyed collaborating with a team while doing physical work in the glorious summer sunshine! Another student interned at a law firm where he performed research related to immigration law. In both cases, they followed their natural interests, and gained real-world learning experiences.

Use the following list to jumpstart ideas for a meaningful summer – one that makes sense for you.

  • Job

  • Internship (paid/unpaid)

  • Volunteering

  • School, academic summer programs

  • Camp

  • Sports, Arts

  • Community engagement

  • Travel

  • Creative passions and projects

  • Family responsibilities (tutoring, babysitting, elder care)

How To Find Jobs and Internships

The best way to find jobs and internships is to be proactive. Get comfortable talking about your areas of interest to everyone in your orbit.

Do you want to be involved with a nonprofit that values social justice? Or work for a business where you can sharpen your social media marketing skills? Make some basic decisions, and then cast your fishing line into a sea of possibilities. You can connect with:

  • School counselors, teachers, mentors

  • Public libraries

  • Friends and family

  • Online search engines

  • Youth centers

  • Nonprofit organizations

  • Resource fairs/hiring events

  • Businesses

  • City/County Employment Centers

Summer is a time to re-group, explore and try new things. A time to grow and learn more about yourself, and others. Keep a journal! Your reflections will come in handy when it's time to write college essays.

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