What Should Your College Bound Teen Do in the Summer?

If you are the parent of a high school student who is planning to move on to college, although the beach may be beckoning to your son or daughter for June, July, and August, it may be best to have them be a bit more proactive in the summer.

That’s not to say they don’t deserve a well-earned rest after their school year, but colleges look for more than tan lines when reviewing an application for admission. So, perhaps a compromise is in order; weekends are for fun and weekdays, at least most of them, are for selecting an activity or a project and immersing themselves in it, to the benefit of their college profile!

 Your teen can explore interests and passions through volunteer work this summer.

Your teen can explore interests and passions through volunteer work this summer.


If there is a cause which sparks your child’s interest, then volunteering may be the way to spend the summer.  Teens can find opportunities to volunteer in an animal shelter, the children’s ward of a hospital, or working in the Development or Advancement office of the local nonprofit organization.

A word of caution; over volunteering paints the picture of a student who is merely volunteering for the sake of a resume. The best thing to do is to have your son or daughter choose a group they are passionate about, and consistently volunteer with that group for several summers. This showcases dedication to a cause, responsibility and a caring heart!

Summer Learning

School just finished for the year, and perhaps the last thing your child wants to do is head back into the classroom. However, a listing of summer classes on a transcript is highly enticing to many colleges, especially if a pattern is seen over the four years of high school.

Does your daughter love science? Then look into a progressive STEM program for each summer. Is your son interested in becoming fluent in Japanese? Register him for a language seminar; even an online one would be wonderful.

If you feel your child can handle the rigors of a college class, then register them at a local community college for some summer credits. As long as the class falls into the general education component, many colleges will accept those credits, provided your child passes the course. It may be costly to take a college class each summer, but your child, if he or she does it every year, could head off to college with 12 credits on their transcripts. That is indeed impressive!

Visit Some Colleges

What’s more fun in the summer than a road trip? Show the colleges that your child has a real interest and head out to some college campuses this summer. If you call the admissions office in advance of your visit, you can schedule a tour of the campus.

A college campus in the summer, although not as lively as during the school year, still showcases very well what the atmosphere at the school will be like.  By visiting with admissions in the summer, your child will be making connections and inroads for when the application period begins!  You will also, as a parent, get a sense of what the community surrounding the school is like and how well you think your child would succeed in that environment. It is a win-win summer outing!

Expand Your Horizons

One other activity that is sure to make an impression with the colleges is to have your child spend some time abroad during the summer. It is costly, there is no doubt about that and may be something that can only be done one summer out of the four spanning high school and college. But, a trip abroad can be both eye-opening for your child and catch the eye of college admissions officers as well, especially if there is a particular program, seminar or workshop connected with the experience. 

An immersive summer abroad program is an outstanding investment into your child’s future, and will help shape their collegiate future, and so, if it is something you can “gift” your child with, it willbe a gift that reaps returns in the long run!

Work It

 Any summer job will give your student valuable work experience to draw on when it comes time to write college admissions essays.

Any summer job will give your student valuable work experience to draw on when it comes time to write college admissions essays.

Of course, one rite of passage for every teenager is the summer job. There is a lot a student can learn from working during the summer that can help them prepare for college. Plus they get to put a little extra money aside to help pay for books and other expenses. Encourage your child to consider a part-time job this summer exploring something that may be interesting to them.

Ideally they'd be able to find a job or internship that is related to the field or major they want to pursue in college. However, that is not always possible. Even a job scooping ice-cream can give students valuable real-world experience they can draw from in writing essays, and interacting with admissions officers when it comes time to apply.

These are just some suggestions as to how to prepare your child’s college profile to be as interesting as possible to potential colleges and universities. The bottom line is, as long as the activity is engaging and academic or service oriented, it will make a good impression!

Work with your student to create a college list based on real-world data.