Make the Most Out of This Summer

Summer 2021 promises to be more “normal” than last summer, but students’ plans may still be in flux due to continued pandemic uncertainty. But amidst all the uncertainty there is one certainty – students should not let this summer go to waste.  So what can students do when we still do not know what jobs, internships, volunteer opportunities, camps or academic programs will be in-person or remote? Have a Plan A and a Plan B, maybe even a Plan C, but no matter what make sure they use the summer to explore their interests, get engaged and be productive. Here are a few options to consider:


Pre-college programs run by colleges and universities are an excellent way for high school students to spend their summer. While many will remain virtual for this summer (sadly denying students the opportunity to get a taste of college life), they can nonetheless be a valuable experience. Pre-college programs typically focus on a topic not covered in depth (or at all) in high school and allow students to explore their interests in greater depth or discover new interests altogether. The topics range from engineering to business/entrepreneurship to creative writing and the humanities. Some programs have “selective” admissions, while others are open to all.

Another option – and a less expensive choice than pre-college programs – are courses hosted by learning platforms. Check out MOOC.org (Massive Open Online Courses), Coursera, EdX. These classes can be an excellent way to learn a skill – think coding! – in a risk-free way.


Students often hear “research” and think of a science lab, but research is so much more! Research is an especially good choice for students who will be applying to selective colleges and want to distinguish themselves. Publishing a paper or presenting at a conference (virtual or otherwise) shows true intellectual curiosity and engagement – exactly what admissions officers look for in the students they admit to their institutions. Some students may be able to find research opportunities through high school or community contacts, but there are also programs that match students to research mentors in a variety of disciplines.


A summer job is a fantastic way to spend the summer. Summer jobs help students learn about money, develop work skills (like showing up on time for their shift) and hone their interpersonal skills. And a summer job, no matter the sort, “looks good” on college applications. While this is a tough job market due to the pandemic, classic summer jobs like life-guarding, babysitting, tutoring and taking care of pets are options for high school students to explore.


Volunteering is an excellent way to gain experience, develop new skills, grow as a leader, and expand a network of contacts. And the greatest benefit? It is so fulfilling to help! This summer, students may be able to find safe, in-person volunteer opportunities in their community. But the great news – there is no shortage of creative, even fun ways that students can volunteer online. Check out volunteermatch.org, Generationserve.org, or a non-profit whose mission aligns with your students interests or passions.

Engagement Matters!

No matter what your student does this summer, the important thing is for them to engage in something that interests them. A 2018 Gallup Research Study, School Engagement is More than Just Talk, defines engagement as “a measurement of how involved, enthusiastic and committed one is” to an activity or organization. Students who are engaged are “are 2.5 times more likely to say that they get excellent grades and do well in school, and they are 4.5 times more likely to be hopeful about the future than their actively disengaged peers.”

This has been a difficult year for students, where zoom fatigue and social distancing has made true engagement a tall order. Hopefully summer 2021 will be an opportunity for your student to explore their interests, be productive and enthusiastically engage in something they enjoy.