Make Your High School Summer Productive

Article by Rod Bugarin, advisor and former Ivy League Admissions and Financial Aid Officer

As the school year ends, high school students are no doubt looking forward to enjoying their much needed summer breaks. For many, though, summer dreams include earning money. This is great news for parents, most of whom support the opportunity as a chance for their children to gain real world experience and learn the value of the dollar. As an added benefit, college admissions officers look highly on students who have productive summers, especially when they’ve taken on tasks that show responsibility and improve the lives of others.

But this summer is unlike any other. The continued economic downturn means an increase in unemployment; predicts that the national civilian unemployment rate will increase incrementally in the next few months and may eventually exceed 10%. With fewer jobs available and more adults in the workforce, teens may end up with the short end of the stick.

In spite of this dismal picture there are still ways for teens to have a productive and affordable high school summer.


Although paid jobs are ideal, it is important for teens to take a look at the big picture and volunteering can offer necessary professional experience. Find an organization that can expose you to an industry that is of interest to you. Then, approach the volunteer coordinator or human resources administrator and ask if they need volunteers. Keep in mind that an organization is investing time in you, so make sure that you are able to commit to a schedule of at least ten hours a week for at least two months.

Shadow a Professional

Talk to family members and friends who work in industries that interest you. Let them know that you are interested in spending a day or a week with them, observing what they do. You’ll be surprised at how many of them will be excited (and flattered) by your offer.

Take a community college or online course

There are many wonderful summer programs, both domestic and abroad, that will prepare you for college, but many of them are cost-prohibitive. Find out if the program offers scholarship money or aid—many programs do for students in need. Still, you can have an intellectually stimulating summer by taking a course online or at your local community college; especially attractive are courses that are not offered in your high school (or ones that will help you get ready for high school). Not only will this experience keep your mind fresh, but it will help you find new academic interests and may even be accepted as college credit at your future university.

Start your own blog

The internet allows motivated individuals to find opportunities to share their interests. Besides connecting socially, you can connect intellectually with others who share your ideas. If you keep your blog focused and your grammatical errors to a minimum, you’ll enjoy the added perk of having improved your writing abilities! Also, keep in mind that some blogs can grow into great business ideas. Remember, Facebook was created by students in college. If you work hard at it, your blog might be distributed widely, connecting people from all over the world.

I hope these tips encourage you to find a summer opportunity that not only enhances your college application, but also meets your budget. For more tips on how to save money, download the application budget worksheet at

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