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How to Make the Most of Your Summer Break

I am optimistic. For the first time in two years, we might all feel a bit more normal this summer. Businesses are opening up and restrictions are diminishing. That means good things for all of us, including high school students looking to do something meaningful this summer. 

Over the past couple of years, even through the height of the pandemic, my Application Nation students have done extraordinary things. Last night I shared a long list with my current Application Nation families of some of the jobs, internships, projects, and experiences our students have done. The list is inspiring, timely, and motivating. From editing a dictionary for an endangered indigenous language, to traveling across the country to interview regular folks, to earning a paycheck being a janitor, our students have used their summer vacation to do something that they didn't have time to do during the school year. 
The list of summer ideas is exclusively for our Application Nation families, so consider joining the group if you would like to access it. In the meantime, here are some tips that will help you get the most out of your summer vacation:

1. While a lot of students will get a traditional job, try to do something that either backs up your intended major OR your Soundbite one summer.

When you do, you create evidence to support your academic interest and your personal identity. This translates into a powerful college application.

2. Timing matters.

There are only ten slots available on the Common App activities list (and only eight on the Coalition Application) so not everything you do during the school year and summer will make the cut. However, at the very least, you want to have something "reportable" to list from the summer right before your senior year. 

3. Time commitment matters.

Admissions officers pay attention to how many hours per week and weeks per year that an activity is done. Summer is short. Make the most of that time. Whether you are volunteering, working, or doing something on your own, fully commit to it. Summer experiences that take up a chunk of the summer and have plenty of hours each week will carry more weight.

4. Distinctiveness matters too.

That young man who edited the dictionary for an endangered indigenous language was the sole person doing it and I guarantee no one else was doing something similar. Never follow the crowd when it comes to summer experiences, school year experiences, or anything you do in life. You will stand out and do something incredible when you pursue something that no one else is doing.

5. Students need to be the ones seeking out opportunities for the summer, not parents.

Send out as many emails as you need. Call everyone you know. Connect over LinkedIn. Pound the pavement if necessary. And if no one gives you a job or an opportunity, create your own homegrown project and see your world transform. 

READ MORE: A Crash Course in Taking Classes Outside of Your High School

Every single one of us is passionate about something. Use this upcoming summer to go after it. Don't rely on pay-to-play programs. Rely on your own ingenuity, motivation, and grit. Summer is a time to do something meaningful to you. It doesn't matter what you do this summer; it is what you get out of it.