Summer is just around the corner. It’s the perfect time of year for internships, vacations, or academic summer programs. If you don’t have plans yet though, don’t worry — it’s not too late for you to still have an amazing, productive summer. Here are a few of our recommendations for how to go about doing that.
Build a Spike, and treat it like a full-time job
Time is one of the biggest obstacles to building a successful Spike. During the school year, you’d be lucky to have 10 hours a week to work on a Spike. During the summer, you have more hours than that available every single day. It can easily be the best possible time to launch a Spike. Jessica, whose Spike Story you can read about here, built hers in only one summer.
The key to success on a summer Spike is to embrace the decision to do it and dive fully into it. When you suddenly have so much time available, the largest obstacle becomes you. It can be challenging to have the level of discipline to treat a Spike like a full-time job (or even to know where to begin), particularly after an intensive school year. However, by adopting some of the same strategies that successful startup founders use when they’re just starting their companies, you too can get past these roadblocks. Here are some of our favorite tricks:
- Find someone to “incubate” you. This will require talented networking, but if you’re able to find someone who believes in what you’re doing they can support you in any number of ways, whether that comes in the form of access to mentorship, peers, or a workspace. Adults are often hugely impressed by high schoolers making a real impact and many will be ready to help you. One way to do this is to find a part-time internship and see if they’ll let you work from their office on your Spike during your free time. Or you could find a local startup accelerator and ask if they’ll be willing to help you. These might seem like far-fetched requests, but you’d be surprised at how often they work! During high school, I simply reached out to the company that made my favorite video game to ask for an internship. They had never given one to a high schooler before, but they said yes! The worst that can happen in these instances is that they say no. Rejection is a key part of life and learning the skill of dealing with it early is invaluable. We as a team have been discussing a lot about the importance of rejection lately, so keep an eye out for future blog posts on the subject!
- Get out of the house. Even if you’re not able to find someone to “incubate” you, it’s still critical to get outside of your house. At home, you’re more likely to be tempted by distractions like video games, YouTube, or pets. Find a coworking space that is willing to let you work there. Head to the library or a local makerspace. You could even go to work with one of your parents and work from their office. Or, in a pinch, a Starbucks will always do. We spend a lot of time working out of Starbucks when we’re abroad and jokingly call it the “American embassy.” It’s a great place to get things done.
- Build routines and create structure. One of the most challenging parts of having large periods of time suddenly available is that it can be hard to know how to manage them. Routine helps. Get up at the same time every day. Set aside certain hours to work on specific elements of your Spike. If you need additional structure (or more variation in your schedule) take a MOOC and set a time constraint for it almost like a class. Or take a summer class at a local college. Click here to access a sample schedule that students can use to help build their own for the summer.
- Don’t go it alone. When undertaking any major project, it can be difficult to hold yourself accountable. That’s why people often have gym buddies or diet partners. Having someone else that you have to answer to puts pressure on you to meet your deadlines. Find a friend or a coach who can hold you support you and ensure you’re getting the work done that you intend to do.
Last minute summer programs
While the majority of summer programs have application deadlines in late winter (start early!), some of them are still open. Here are a few we recommend:
- University of Pennsylvania’s Summer Prep Program Session 2 deadline is June 1
- University of Chicago’s Summer Session deadline is May 1, but you can still apply and pay a $100 “rush processing fee.”
- Georgetown University’s Summer Program still allows apps for their summer courses (including ones that offer college credit) up until 2 weeks before the program start date. However, they encourage international students to apply by May 26 to give enough time for immigration processing.
- Andover, one of the top private boarding schools in the US, offers a summer program with rolling admission.
- Columbia University’s Summer Immersion is full for anyone doing the residential program, but their commuter option is still available for students who are comfortable living off-campus. This wouldn’t offer quite the same level of immersion but can still be a valuable experience, particularly since sublets are often available from students who leave the city for the summer.
In addition, depending on your passions, you may be able to find specific programs in your field that are still open. While science and tech programs tend to have earlier deadlines, arts-oriented ones often have later registrations. For instance, great specialized schools like Berklee School of Music and Savannah College of Art and Design have opportunities available until early June. Many of these also generally don’t require an “application” in the typical sense, you can just register for them, which means they’re almost guaranteed and take much less preparation on your end.
This is a much smaller piece of summer and should only take up a couple of weeks, at most. However, regardless of whether you’re a rising senior, junior, or sophomore, visiting colleges can be a valuable thing to do, particularly if you’re an international student. While there are a limited number of students on campus during the summer, it can be a great time to get a sense of a school. Keep an eye out for a future post on making the most out of your campus visits.
Prep for Standardized Tests
Summer is a critical time to prep for the SAT or ACT, particularly if you’re entering 11th grade. By studying over your break you free up a huge amount of time and stress during the school year. There are a huge number of programs and cram schools out there to help you with this, but self-studying is a tried and true method as well. Find a couple of well-respected ACT/SAT prep books (we recommend the ACT Prep Black Book and the ACT Prep Red Book, but there are other good ones out there) or take Khan Academy’s free SAT prep course. If you feel like you need the group setting of a cram school for accountability, it’s very easy to hack together your own summer test prep camp! Invite a few friends to join you and study the material together. To get more thoughts on this, check out this post on self-studying for the ACT. And if you haven’t chosen which test to take yet, learn more about that choice here.
Dive into your passions
Above all, the most important thing about summer is to do the things that you’re most passionate about. Ideally, your Spike is a form of this and if you do a summer program it should relate as well. If you don’t have a Spike already, summer is the perfect opportunity to launch one. Beyond that, read voraciously, take a MOOC on a topic that excites you, and do everything you can to learn the things that you don’t have the time to learn during the school year.
If you need help planning for summer or have questions about building a Spike, you can always feel free to book a private consultation with one of our coaches!