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10 Summer Activities for College-Bound Teens

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10 Summer Activities for College-Bound Teens

Summer is approaching and parents and students are looking forward to a much-needed break from school. But if you have a college-bound teen or you are one, summer should never be wasted on video games and watching DVD’s on the couch. There are all kinds of summer programs for teens, volunteer opportunities and summer jobs that will beef up your resume for college and scholarship applications.

10 Summer Activities for College-Bound Teens

1. Volunteer in your community

A consistent pattern of volunteering each summer looks great on applications and shows colleges that you are concerned about giving back. Volunteer in areas that interest you locally.

Colleges look for well-rounded students who demonstrate not only academic prowess, but also community involvement. Remember, however, that colleges also like to see commitment and consistency. Pick one activity and do it all summer, and ideally continue through high school.

Remember that although community service hours are often required to graduate, community service should be something you want to do, too.

2. Test prep

Juniors and seniors should spend time preparing for standardized testing. For seniors, it’s the last chance to get the best score before the college applications are submitted. For juniors, the PSAT might make them a National Merit Finalist, which qualifies them for scholarships. Taking advantage of the summer to prepare for these tests smart academic sense.

The following are a few quick tips to help with the study process:

  • Study at your own pace with the Official SAT Study Guide from the College Board
  • Take a practice test
  • Sign up for an SAT or ACT course
  • Hire a private tutor
  • Sign up for the SAT Question of the Day and Word of the Day
  • Use flash cards to study vocabulary
  • Form a study group or study with a friend
  • Review your math skills

3. Search for scholarships

Even if you aren’t a senior yet, it’s a good idea to do some preliminary searching to make note of qualifications and deadlines; not to mention there are numerous scholarships with no age requirements. Spend the summer unearthing scholarships in which you fulfill all the requirements.

Where do you start? Here is a list of sites to begin your search: 7 Great Scholarship Search Sites. Need more ideas? Read TeenLife's recent post: 5 Uncommon Ways to Find and Win Scholarships.

4. Work on your college essay

The dreaded college essay. This is one college application activity that students tend to put off until the last minute.

A word of advice: do not under any circumstances wait until the last minute. The essay is the primary way you communicate who you are to college admissions officers. The essay is the cherry on top of your college application sundae. Spend the summer brainstorming ideas, writing drafts, and getting input from your family. When the fall of senior year arrives, you will be prepared to polish off the final draft.

5. Go on college visits

Summer is a good time to make preliminary college visits. You can take a self-guided tour around campus and get a “feel” for the place. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a college you are interested in attending. Visiting campuses gives you an idea of what you like and don’t like, helping you to create the final list.

6. Spend time on social media

Wait a minute. You’re giving us permission to spend time on social media? Yes, but it needs to be focused.

This is a good time for you to demonstrate interest; especially to colleges you’re you are thinking about attending. Spend time on Twitter and follow their tweets. Read some blogs from college students and perhaps connect with some on Facebook. Look for colleges on Instagram and Pinterest as well. But be careful, communicating with colleges means they can view your social media — so keep it clean!

7. Read, read, read

Reading is never a waste of time. Reading helps you increase your vocabulary, which, in turn, helps improve your standardized test scores. Consider venturing into unknown territory by reading some books that are recommended college reading. Don’t just read for fun — look for themes, tone, and voice to become familiar with reading criteria on the standardized tests.

8. Check out iTunes University

iTunes University is an excellent way for you to get an idea of what college courses might be like. It’s free and there is a wide array of subject matter to choose from. You can access it on your iPhone or iTouch or by downloading iTunes onto your computer.

9. Preview the Common App

It’s good also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Common Application (used by over 500 colleges) before you have to complete it. You can create an account, browse the application, print out a hard copy, and view the essay prompts for the coming year. Follow @CommonApp on Twitter for the latest information and to ask any questions you might have that aren’t covered in the Help Center.

10. Get a Summer Job

Summer is the best time to add some cash to that college fund and also demonstrate responsibility to colleges. Not only will you make some money, but many companies offer scholarships to their teen employees. If you’re feeling adventurous, go the entrepreneurial route and start a business: lawn mowing, babysitting, or tutoring. Think about what you enjoy and what your talents are, then start a business around it.

Enjoy yourself this summer but spend some time doing things that help you in the college process. If you do, you won’t be playing catch-up during your senior year.

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Written by Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer counsels parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. Her Parenting for College blog offers timely college tips for parents and students, as well as providing parents with the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze.

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