Summer vacation has finally arrived and hopefully you all have an exciting few months of activities planned (1) that you love, (2) that will challenge you, and (3) that will demonstrate to colleges how you’ll be an asset to their community. At the beginning of the year, I wrote this blog post that was intended to help students figure out what types of programs and activities they should do during their summer breaks. Now the summer is here, and hopefully you’ve already identified and picked your programs. However, you probably still have not thoroughly planned out your summer to make the most of the precious vacation time.
One of the most common mistakes that students make is to think that filling their summer schedule with good programs, trips, internships and/or activities is sufficient. It’s not. Showing up and doing what is asked of you is not enough. You need to be more intentional about what you want to achieve during the summer.
At the end of the summer when you’re looking back on everything you did, what will it take to say to yourself, “that was a successful summer”? In other words, don’t count on the people running your programs or internships to have carefully personalized their programs or assignments such that you’ll achieve the things that are most important to you. They won’t. You need to do the planning yourself, and then you’ll find that there are probably numerous ways that you will need to take initiative on your own — beyond the scope of your organized activities and programs — to make the most of your summer.
How should I plan for my summer?
Here are the summer planning steps that we recommend to all our own students:
- Set overall High School goals. Before planning for your summer, make sure that you have a sense of what you want to achieve by the end of high school. If you don’t have some clarity on your overall goals in high school, then it’s very hard to plan well for your summer. We work with all of our students to have high school goals that encompass both academic achievements (i.e. GPA, standardized tests, etc) and non-academic achievements (i.e. Spike achievements or other extracurricular awards or honors).
- Set your summer goals. Write down your goals for the summer. This list should define what you think a successful summer would look like. We recommend that you read this resource on good goal-setting before jumping into writing goals because most people don’t define goals very well. One of the easiest ways to define your summer goals is to first go one by one through all your summer programs, activities, trips and/or internships and set goals for each one. Then think more holistically about your high-priority high school goals and consider if you’re missing any goals. Are there any other summer milestones that relate to those high school goals that you should be working towards?
- Develop a full plan for each goal. Once you have your summer goals defined, you still need to develop mini-plans to achieve each of those goals. This plan should consist of a clear metric (how you’ll measure progress), activities (what you’ll be doing) and a timeline (when you’ll do the activities).
To help you get started, here is a free tool that you can download to help plan your summer. It’s called the Summer Plan Spreadsheet, and you should notice that there are four tabs included. Start by looking at the last two “example” tabs that will give you an example Summer Plan. Use that example as you build your own Summer Plan.
We hope this helps and have a great summer!