Summer can be a time for rest and relaxation for high schoolers, after a year of grinding away at the books and extracurriculars. But three months is a long time to do zero of productive merit from an academic or skill standpoint. When I taught English for 15 years in private schools, it was easy to tell who hadn’t done any reading or writing over the course of the summer. While the muscle memory of it. often returned after a few weeks or so, they tended to fall behind the classmates that had done some work, or at least read for pleasure to stay active. With college application getting increasingly more competitive, it is definitely worth it to make efforts to maintain those skills in the summer, even if they are minor efforts. Here are some angles:

  1. Reading/Writing Workshops: There are numerous workshops available both in person and online to sharpen and maintain reading and writing skills. A good tutor on a routine schedule can keep a student engaged in the off months by focusing on material that interests them and keeping the challenge level at just the right decibel. Taking the onus off parents and putting it onto a third party removes the “nagging” element of the equation. Students do actually want to improve their skills underneath that veneer of apathy; they just, generally speaking, don’t want their parents telling them to do it.
  2. Athletic Camps: It’s about 100 times easier to get into a competitive college for sports versus academics in contemporary college admissions. The main channel for connecting with college coaches is through high school coaches. They typically have the connections needed to get players seen. But sometimes that is not a fluid process. Sometimes the high school coach is not well connected or doesn’t see the full potential of a player. In the summer, college coaches will run and/or visit professional camps put on in that particular sport, football for instance. Signing up for a handful of these week-long camps is not only a great opportunity to improve skill level, but it’s also an excellent way to get seen by colleges. Don’t miss out!
  3. Test Preparation: The SAT and ACT are academic achievement tests, that is to some degree they test your intellectual acumen. On the other hand, they are also very much tests of your ability to take a somewhat predictable standardized test. Given this truth, it would seem unwise not to take advantage of test preparation services, especially for students who are not… ahem, self-starters. While there are colleges that have gone test blind, or more often test optional, there has been a recent return to emphasis on test scores. In a competitive environment, it’s critical to have good ones.
  4. Online Courses: Online learning led to the development of educational technology as a foundation of learning. Systems like Coursera or even Khan Academy make it easy for students to learn new material or strengthen their foundation in courses that maybe didn’t go so well the previous year. Signing up for some of these courses again takes the onus off of parents and onto the student to develop some academic skills without as much oversight as would be required without them. These systems are highly elaborate and offer every course from Latin through Ecology, Basic through AP, for all student abilities. Some also offer courses for credit, as well, so that the work can contribute to their transcripts.
  5. Micro-Internships: If you’re not familiar, Micro-internships are short term professional gigs typically designed to build experience and resume strength for young people. The work is generally about 5 to 40 hours in length and these projects are available year-round. Parker Dewey is a good place to look for quality options. The pluses of micr-internships are that they have the potential to provide a student with an experience in a field they are unfamiliar with without a longer-term commitment. They are incredibly diverse, and there is something on there for everyone. It’s typically much easier to score a microintership then a longer term position lasting the course of the summer, so it’s an easier entry into what can be a frustrating grind for those without much work experience.

The summer is great time to unwind from the school year, see some friends and experience different dimensions of young life aside from the ones existing inside the walls of school. But blending that lower gear with some productive experiences is key to make it more fulfilling and productive for those with greater aspirations in front of them. While the tendency is to slip into the sinkhole of apathy and inertia, it’s important to make plans to avoid these traps so that September isn’t an exercise in starting all over filled with the regret of inaction.