College 101: Summer Activities for the High School Student

By Kristin Thomas, College Consultant & Guest Contributor

Your teenager might still envision summer as the time completely disengage, but the reality is that more and more college bound students do actually plan ahead and think about what they do with their summers. What would be the best use of their time? What activity meets their goals and would make them happy? Whether it's related to travel, academics, service or employment, there's a fit for your teen's plans. Perhaps your high-schooler can commit to something that they wouldn't have time for during the school year. Keep in mind that leadership roles and going in-depth into activity are two things colleges like to see. They are also both something that teens can actively work towards during the summer, especially if they can't make it happen during the school year. An activity related to a college major or future career the teen is considering is also a direction they might go. It is always nice to see a pattern and commitment on a younster's résumé. Summer can be a time to develop new passions or continue to pursue existing interests.


  • Re-taking classes transcript/grades improvement. Remember to look at grades BOTH in terms of graduation requirements as well as college eligibility & admissibility, and in the context of your own high schools requirements. This is especially important in California (UC & Cal State) and other State college systems that will not accept D's & F's.
  • Taking actual college classes. Summer can be a time to develop new passions or continue to pursue existing interests.
  • Programs on college campuses. Though these programs do not guarantee admission to the college - in fact they often aren't even run by the college - they still give the student a "feel" for college life and more specifically a college campus and geographic area that might be of interest.
  • Specific university programs for high school students such as the one here at Stanford . These can be both exploratory or in depth.


  • Job. Yes, good old fashioned work shows commitment and dedication.
  • Internship. Especially in an area related to possible college Major. Sites like and even Craigslist post local internship opportunities.
  • Volunteering. Giving back is always valuable, but even more so if it can be tied to passions or academic interests.

National Geographic Student ExpeditionsOf course travel can also be a beneficial use of summer time. National Geographic has great programs for either fieldwork or expeditions trips. How impressive would this be to put that on a resume! Parents, this would be a great high school graduation gift!

And just as important: make sure that your teen incorporates some down time - time to recoup and regenerate - so that they are ready to take on school with renewed energy and enthusiasm in the fall.