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Five Things to Consider When Planning Your Summer Activities

Summer activities College Consultants Educational Planning College Admissions

Planning Your Summer Activities

Many students ask us how their summer activities fit into their overall educational planning. And our answer is that there are many ways to have a productive and enjoyable summer! Whether that means immersing yourself in summer test prep, enrolling in summer ACT prep courses, or practicing your college application essay by the pool, you too can come out of this summer feeling better than how you went into it!

If you’re reading this article in May, worried that you’ve passed too many deadlines to have a productive summer, rest assured! There are many great ways to spend your summer that don’t include those with early application deadlines.

Here at Marks Education, our educational consultants know exactly how to make summer count! At our offices in the DC metro area and online, we’ve been helping students find educational success for 20 years. 

Here are five suggestions from our Educational Advising Team to have a summer worth writing about in your college application.

1. Time to give back.

Summer is a great time for service work. Wondering what to do? Look for opportunities that link with your current interests and activities: find a way to use a second language, share your passion for technology, or practice a favorite sport. 

Many different service experiences can have a meaningful impact, but volunteering close to home is an amazing opportunity to get to know your community in a new way. You may find you love it so much, you keep it up year-round!

There are so many places for a student to volunteer, including schools, museums, non-profits, and more. All are great life experiences and worth considering as you form your volunteering profile.

Volunteering is all about helping others, but when possible, it’s worth considering choosing an opportunity that relates to your future career interests.

Wondering where to start? Many cities have websites that list their volunteer opportunities. But in most places there are food kitchens, dog pounds, or clean up crews itching for volunteers! 

Check out the links below to help you get started! 

Volunteer Match

Generation Serve

Do Something

Montgomery County Volunteer Center

Fairfax County Volunteer Opportunities

2. Supercharge your extracurriculars.

You might like to take advantage of summer to focus on an extracurricular in athletics, debate, or the arts. At a summer camp or institute, you can sharpen your skills, learn from new coaches or teachers, and form lifelong friendships. Be sure to talk with your current coaches or teachers about possibilities, as they may have insight into what could be the best fit for you.

The most valuable activities are those that demonstrate a student’s interest, passions, personality, and character. Engaging in activities simply because you think that they’ll “look good” shouldn’t even be in the picture. Use the summer to try on new activities to see what fits or dive deep into what you already know you’re interested in. 

Students should also remember that they don’t have to be restricted to traditional activities. Unique hobbies and activities are encouraged. The most important thing is spending time pursuing things you’re interested in! 

3. Leadership and ownership.

A job or internship can provide an excellent opportunity to take responsibility, learn, and grow. A “regular job” can expose you to different people and environments and might even provide great material for your college essays. 

Many students work over the summer because having a job is a great way to gain work experience to include on your resume and college application. Most summer jobs for high school students are part time, but there are some full time opportunities out there for those who seek them out!

Some common jobs for high school students include:

  • Lifeguard
  • Cashier
  • Golf Caddy
  • Grocery Stocker
  • Waitress
  • Dishwasher
  • Babysitter
  • Camp Counselor

Check your local job boards or ask around your community. Someone might just know of a great opportunity for you!

Internships can be extremely valuable experiences, too, but it’s important to seek out one that includes substantial work—responsibilities that go beyond filing, making coffee, and “shadowing” a professional.  Here’s one of our summer internship tips: while a certain opportunity might seem like a great resume item, when it comes time to write your college essay, you may find yourself wishing you’d spent your time making a real impact elsewhere.

Independent Research Projects are yet another great option for students looking for creative ways to fill their summers. This can be an awesome way for you to dive into an academic area of interest. Whether you spend the summer designing a phone app, building a shuttle, or writing a novel, there is no end to how digging deeper in an established interest can enrich your summer. 

Students can work with a teacher or advisor to create a plan for an independent project, or schedule a meeting with a Marks Education educational consultant to see how your strengths could be used to start a great summer project.

Remember to keep track of how many hours you spend per week on these activities. This information will come in handy when it comes time to fill out your activities list on the Common App.

4. Test drive or deep dive.

Many universities offer academic programs in the summer, both residential and nonresidential. It’s a great way to get a feeling for college life so you have a better idea of what you like when researching schools. Some programs offer a range of courses, allowing you to try out subjects that you might like to pursue in college. Other programs have focused institutes on a particular topic, so you can delve deeply into just one. 

Taking classes can be a fun way for students to spend their time and stay on track as they prepare for college. Some students take summer classes to improve their grades in a class they didn’t do well in the first time, while others might take a class simply because they didn’t have time for it that current school year.

It’s important to note that attendance at a college program won’t raise your chances of admission at that school, but you’ll gain perspective for your college search, and a once-in-a-lifetime summer opportunity!

Search for options via resources like Coursera, Udemy, and edX and supercharge your summer learning today!

Or! Spend time preparing for standardized tests. The summer is an excellent time for students to prepare for the ACT OR SAT given your newfound freedom from normal coursework. This can allow students to be more focused and make the kind of progress they strive for on standardized tests. Learn more about our standardized testing packages here.

5. Recharge and have fun!

Most importantly, be sure to save time to visit family, travel, and just relax! You work very hard all year round, and you deserve a break too! Working yourself to the bone just means when school-time rolls back around in August, you’ll be running on fumes. Give yourself plenty of time to have new and exciting experiences with the people you love, relax, and spend time working on yourself, and you’ll be ready come fall.


As you’re considering your summer schedule, a reasonable amount of summer test prep (the summer before 11th grade) or college essay work (the summer before 12th) can help you get ahead. You have a lot more on your plate during the school year, so you’ll be more focused without the pressure of academic deadlines. And when school’s in session, you’ll have more time for everything else.

Looking for some tutoring help, summer ACT prep courses, summer internship tips, or SAT tutoring? Learn how you can use this summer to get ahead on your standardized test prep with a Marks Education Tutoring Package.

Here’s to the best summer ever!
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