It took me a few years to realize this, but when I was younger my mom would have to start signing me up for summer camps in January, February if she was willing to risk it. For some reason, it had always made sense to me as a child that my summer would only get planned out in April or May. It wasn’t until my mom started asking me about camps and creating summer calendars when there was still snow on the ground that I realized just how much planning the summer took, and just how quickly any summer opportunities were filled up. So, I asked myself, what are the best ways to get ready for the summertime when I no longer have to spend 8 hours a day at a camp, and I’m prepping for college applications? Here’s a list of the top ten things that I am going to be trying out this winter to make the summer after the junior year really stick out.
10. Organize yourself
I’ll be honest: my life becomes chaotic during the school year and I can only tolerate so much disorganization. I never feel like I have the time to do anything but run around like a chicken with its head cut off from one activity to another to homework and finally collapsing in bed at the end of the day. While summer seems like the perfect time to neglect my room and my schoolwork, planning out my activities ahead of time, including quality relaxation time, ensures that I get the most out of summer.
While there are tons of summer programs out there, and I am drawn to many of them, it’s important not to commit to too many. Each of us will likely have to make some tough choices when it comes time. Summer needs to be a period of relative relaxation, and it’s important to me to give 100% to whatever I’m doing. Getting stretched too thin isn’t a great thing – prioritize the programs most appealing to you. Once I have some options lined up, I plan to imagine those warm summer days and imagine those hours each opportunity will demand of me, and ask myself if it is realistic once I include time I would like for doing other things, like hanging out with friends and family.
8. Set some goals
So at DSST we write a lot of goals. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to write a “SMART” goal and how much I have come to resent those things. However, I do recognize the value of putting pen to paper when it comes to highlighting what needs to get done (PS: it helps with #10). Goals allow you to make sure that your summer stays on track and that you make the absolute most out of the dozen or so weeks of freedom. What have you always wanted to do but never seemed to have the time? Do you need to make sure you’re keeping in touch with someone that you haven’t seen in a while? Did you promise yourself you would finally reach out to that company and ask for a job or an internship? Let your dreams guide you, and don’t let one fall through the cracks because you got wrapped up in another!
7. Build relationships! (what my mentor at my internship would say: Network!)
Ahh, the joy of networking. It may not be the most pleasant thing to do for most people,
but it certainly has its benefits. One of my teachers connected me to the organization where I’ve now interned for over 60 hours. No small commitment outside of school, but that first connection allowed me to form a dozen more, and I can now say that I’ve met with some very influential people (and all of them with connections!). Moreover, I’ve made new friends and am able to fundraise for my school while also learning from my peers at my internship about what college is like and how their application processes went. Two minds are better than one, right?
6. Don’t let the ball drop on school
All of the students at my school have summer homework assignments because the ‘summer slide’ is not a joke. Yes, spending time with friends is important and you certainly shouldn’t neglect your mental health, but summer, unfortunately, is just a break between two school years. If only we could wipe the slate clean and completely forget about our studies each summer! That said, the knowledge that summer is coming often keeps me going during those especially long months of early spring.
5. Find a balance
Balance – it is not a coincidence that it is #5 of 10 on this list. Balance between social life and work, between overexertion and laxness, between pursuing your passions and supporting others. All of it is a hard line to walk, but thinking about this early can help you figure it out before summer is breathing down your neck and new responsibilities have taken front stage. Remember #6 (don’t drop the ball on school) but also remember that school is not everything. Your friends and family deserve as much of your time as reading books and writing reports and possibly studying for the SAT. People like to remind high school students how young they are; and it’s true, let’s not miss the opportunity to enjoy the conveniences of living at home!
4. Consider pricing and location
No one likes to talk about this part, including me. But it’s an unavoidable part of summer programs and life in general. The worst part of any application process is considering whether the cost of attendance is worth the experience. While we cannot help but glance at the number with the dollar sign in front of it, I always like to read further to look if any scholarship opportunities exist, either by the program sponsors or perhaps your school or community center. Some high schools will ask students for an application and will give them money to participate in a program in return. Some businesses will pay for you to come out to be a part of the opportunity they are offering if you ask for it. It’s all a matter of consideration. Another important consideration is where this once in a lifetime opportunity is. Can you get there easily and reliably? How much time and money might you spend to commute and how does that fit into your overall schedule?
3. Coordinate, coordinate, coordinate.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a student or a parent or an organization, if you cannot coordinate with the rest of the people involved in the summer you’re planning, the end is near. Whether it be outlining the best times for you or your student to go in to the office that they recently got the opportunity to shadow at or figuring out when it’s best to go and visit the family, everyone needs to be on the same page. There is so much to be said about making sure that you know when you need to be somewhere, you have plans to get there reliably, and your boss knows when they should expect you. Coordination doesn’t have to be all about work and volunteering though – make time to spend with your friends and family, coordinate fun activities to fill your days with smiles and laughs. Do not underestimate the power of email, text, or simply talking with someone about times and places.
2. As Michael Jackson once said – take a look in the mirror
There’s no use in searching for summer opportunities if you don’t know what you want to do. Whether you’re a high school junior like me looking to impress colleges, a middle schooler interested in expanding your knowledge of robotics, or a senior hoping to get a sneak peak at what college could look like in the fall, know what your goals and passions are. Personally, I need to look at my resume as it stands and invest time in areas that I feel are lacking, or maybe make sure to devote additional hours to volunteering at some organizations I have worked with before. But whatever the objective, I need to have it clear in my head before I finalize any summer plans.
1. Use Involve Board!
Oh, Involve Board. What an incredible, incredible resource. The wintertime is the website’s most actively used period because so many people are getting ready for the summer. The technology is so easy to navigate, to sort through the vast library of information to find the perfect program. A lot of the ones that I found interesting I never could have found online on my own. I applied to programs in Colorado that piqued my interest – one of which at least three other students from my school alone also applied to! Knowing I have such a resource at my fingertips is invaluable. My recommendation: you’re already on the Involve Board website reading this. Click over to the “Home” page and start researching your summer now!