by Counselor Jacquie

There’s nothing like that feeling of finishing up the last final exam and knowing that school’s… out… for… summer!  For many teens, summer brings relief from busy structured days and stress of school, which many teens balance with extracurricular activities and part time jobs.  But ask any high schooler if they want to be bored and the answer is typically a resounding no!   The great thing about being in high school is that you can take an active role in deciding how to spend your summer time in ways that can help you on your college planning journey while balancing work and fun.

Start planning by simply considering that summer is a great time to do three things:

  • Get a job
  • Explore an interest
  • Help others

Why do I like to focus on these three things? They provide endless opportunities for experiences that may help you in many ways to:

  • learn about your personal strengths and aptitudes
  • develop practical life skills, such as how to do an interview or create a resume
  • witness and learn proper etiquette in group settings 
  • potentially narrow down a major and/or identify a potential career path
  • target extracurricular activities for subsequent years of high school that align with your personal interests 
  • earn some money including for college!
  • make connections with adults that may be end up being future mentors
  • deepen your understanding of how sharing your talent and your time to serve others can improve the communities or help the causes that are important to you – very empowering!

Let’s talk a little more about the specifics:

  • Get a job – employment comes in many forms, and can be paid, or unpaid. Sometimes jobs are called ‘internships’ if they are designed to provide an introduction to a certain profession that you are considering for the future. Tips for finding a summer job or internship:
  • Check postings at your school and search online in your local community 
  • Start early and be flexible! A job or internship can be part time, or once/week, or for a period of time that is less than the entire summer.  To me, any job can be of value…be a food server, scoop ice cream, wash cars…you will learn responsibility, time management, and improve your communication skills. 
  • Think about jobs that align with your unique talents.  For example, one of my daughters is ‘mathy’ and tutored middle and high schoolers all through high school. My other daughter coached youth gymnastics camps in the summer, even though she had retired from the sport at age 15, because she had 10 years of experience with the sport.  And my son used his savings to buy parts to build a gaming computer, which he then sold, and he used the proceeds/profits to go on to build and sell one computer at a time to custom specifications, to earn money.  
  • Think about the people you already know – is there a family member or family friend who you could perhaps ask just to ‘job shadow’ to learn about their career?
  • Exploring an interest – you can absolutely learn more about a topic of interest through a job as described above.  And you can delve into any activity or topic about which you want to learn by means such as:  
    • Take a class – 1) you can take a class online through a local community college or 4-year school, or through platforms such as Coursera, or, through summer college programs available via application.  You can also go in person.  Many community colleges and UC’s have open enrollment options for high schoolers during the summer, and some are for dual high school credit (check your high school).  Note: While many classes offered by college can be taken for credit or for a grade, they do not have to be! I’m a big fan of taking a class (academic OR nonacademic) without the pressure of a grade but simply because you want to learn more about the field.  
    • Attend a summer academic camp to explore an area of interest.   For example, there are a number of foreign language-specific programs, both online or through travel abroad, to improve fluency in a foreign language.  There are also many major or career- field specific camps (STEM, pre-med, pre-law, etc.)
    • Look for research opportunities – particularly for those interested in STEM fields.  There are private organizations that offer STEM research programs as well as opportunities available through universities.
  • Help others – volunteering and community service can take many forms.  If you are overwhelmed by the choices that a general search at your high school or online search provides, you can start as follows:
    • Look for overlap between your existing talents/interests and service opportunities.  For example, you may be interested in marine science, and thus may seek to be a volunteer counselor at a marine summer camp for kids.  Or you may be an avid soccer player; opting to be a volunteer referee for a local youth soccer club would be a good fit.  In my neck of the woods, the kids who love to surf make excellent volunteers for a local surf camp that instructs kids with autism.
    • Search for service opportunities that allow you to make an impact in an area of importance to you.  There are many nonprofits that need people to commit to ‘run a project’, vs. teens that are just needing to show up for a certain number of hours to ‘check the box’ for volunteering. Did you donate school supplies last year to a nonprofit?  Maybe that nonprofit runs a back-to-school supply drive every summer and needs volunteers to organize it.  Or a local camp may need someone to come up with curriculum for an art camp, and not just show up to distribute materials to students.  Taking initiative to volunteer to run a project allows you to show not only your initiative, but stretches your creativity and responsibility.
    • Lastly, do not underestimate the impact you can make helping ‘one-on-one’, be it providing child care for a friend or family member in need once/week, maintaining the lawn of an infirmed neighbor, etc. 

There are many websites to help you in your search for summer options particularly for academic and volunteer programs, and there should be no need to pay for access to summer listings.  Check out the resources under “Summer Opportunities” on our website here: