The summer before your senior year is incredibly special. As the final year of your high school experience, this may be your last chance to make the most of summer nights with friends before everyone gets ready to go their own way. But is that all you should be doing with your time off? There are plenty of ways to balance a fun summer break with productive planning for the future.
1. Get a job
Summer is the perfect time to get a simple part-time job if you don’t have one already. Working gives you a chance to earn your own money and teaches time management skills as well. You’ll have more freedom to buy the things you want, and you can start adding to your college fund—because it’s never too early (or late) to start saving and planning for future costs! If you want an even more enriching experience, try job shadowing. It's a fantastic way to see what a day in the life looks like for someone working in the profession you're curious about, and it can even set a precedent for future networking.
2. Gain work experience through volunteering or internships
Experience is key in this competitive world. If you know you're interested in a certain career field, look into opportunities to get involved in it this summer. This could include volunteering at an animal shelter or nonprofit organization, or interning with a professional in the field of your choice. Though these options may not pay, they'll give you an advantage when you’re applying to competitive college programs and scholarships.
Related: The Best Summertime Opportunities: Jobs, Internships, and Volunteering
3. Research and visit colleges
Now is the time to really start considering your next move post–high school. Whether you’re looking into a local college or one further away, it's important to know what kind of student a school is looking for. If you can, visit the colleges you're most interested in to get a sense of the campus and see if the school is a good fit for you. And don’t forget to ask questions while you’re there!
4. Brainstorm application essay ideas and write a rough draft
When school starts up again in the fall, stress will too. So why not use your free time in the summer to get ahead on some of your senior year tasks? Use this time to start brainstorming—and even writing—your Common Application essay. This extra time also means you’ll have more opportunities to edit and revise your work until it's the best it can be.
Related: An Easy Plan for Starting Your College Application Essays Over the Summer
5. Look into scholarships and financial aid
Again, it’s never too early to start finding ways to pay for college. Searching for scholarships and grants may be time consuming, but it is incredible how much free money is out there. There are scholarships out there for everyone, and all you have to do is start your scholarship search. This is also a good time to look into the FAFSA so you know what will happen during the submission process in the fall—you can file the form starting October 1 and should do so ASAP to try to get the best aid. Even if you don’t think you are eligible for financial aid, APPLY ANYWAY!
6. Keep your mind active
Summer is a time for no school, and I completely understand that. However, just because you don’t have homework doesn’t mean you can’t keep your mind active. Reading, brain games, and even testing your skills on a new language will keep your mind engaged. Are you traveling this summer? Use apps like Duolingo to pick up on foreign words and phrases to use in your travels and keep your brain on its toes. You can even challenge your friends to see who can get the highest streak! Activities such as these may also make transitioning back to school in the fall a bit easier.
Related: 8 Books to Add to Your Reading List This Summer
As you can see, there are plenty of productive things you can do if you find yourself with some free time this summer. Visiting your schools of interest, searching for scholarships, and beefing up your résumé are all smart ways to get a head start on senior year. The whole college admission process will fly by, so give yourself some extra time now to make it as successful as possible!
How are you going to spend your summer? Tell us by dropping a line on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.