The school year is winding down, which means you have the whole summer stretching out in front of you. Summer is a great time to leverage your free time into something that can help you in the college application process—and it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, even if you haven’t started planning yet. So what are some last-minute meaningful things you can do with your summer break?

Family summer vacation at the beach

Get a job

A summer job is a great way to show that you are a reliable person who follows through with commitments. It could be something related to your future field of study, but it doesn’t have to be—the nature of the job isn’t as important as the fact that you showed up and did all aspects of whatever it was you were hired to do. Be as involved as you can be; doing as much helpful, useful work as you can makes you a good employee, which means that you might be able to ask your manager or employer for a letter of reference later on.

Do meaningful volunteer work

In order for volunteer work to be meaningful, it has to be something that has an actual impact. Going to the food pantry for an hour here and there is a nice gesture, and doing a two-week volunteer program abroad is a neat experience, but those aren’t meaningful in the long run. Research local groups in your area that have volunteering opportunities, then reach out and explain that you want to volunteer on a consistent basis for your summer break. If it’s something that you could continue once school starts again, mention that too. Local groups will often have plenty of work to do, so this is a great opportunity to make a lasting, meaningful impact on your community.

Learn a new skill

Summer is a great time to do some self-driven learning! Want to learn a new language? Try Duolingo or Language Bird. Thinking about leaning to code? Udemy and Lynda have courses for that. Not sure what you’re interested in learning? Check out your local library or community college and see what kinds of programs they’re offering over the summer. You never know what might strike your fancy!

Read

This doesn’t just mean that you should do your summer reading requirement (although you should)! Reading is a great way to expand your knowledge, your understanding of different topics, and your vocabulary. Fiction and nonfiction alike are great ways to broaden your horizons; there are a lot of lists out there about important books to read, classic literature, and more, but don’t feel limited to the books on those lists. You’ll get something out of whatever book you choose. Your local librarian would be glad to help you pick something if you’re unsure!

Published by Mark Montgomery

Mark is a leading educational consultant. His experience as a professor, college administrator, and youth mentor help him guide students from around the country and around the world.

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