top of page

25 Things to Do This Summer… That Will Build Your University Application!

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

Summer should be fun, relaxing, rejuvenating, and meaningful. And here's a little secret: it doesn't have to break the bank!

When I was a kid, my dad would regularly say, “Prior planning prevents poor performance.” Back then, I didn’t know that he was quoting former Secretary of State, Jim Baker. What I did understand was that he was always using the phrase sarcastically. He almost always muttered this line when our lack of planning had resulted in less-than-ideal results.

Now that I work with so many high school students each year, I understand the profound wisdom of this simple, five-word phrase. High school (and the summers that fall between each year) is a short time in the larger scope of life. To make the most of it and to use the time as efficiently as possible requires a little prior planning.

While there are literally thousands of summer programs out there, my experience working with some pretty amazing students over the years has proven that you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on master-planned summer programs to have a fulfilling, meaningful, and inspiring summer break.

25 Things to Do This Summer… That Will Build Your University Application!

Here are my ideas for 25 things you can do this summer to build a more robust university application without breaking the bank.

  1. Get a job. Make a little jingle of your own, learn the importance of being a reliable, knowledgeable employee. You will learn a lot. I promise.

  2. Tutor someone. As Mark Twain once said, “It is noble to teach oneself, but still nobler to teach others--and less trouble.” Now, the real question. Did Twain actually say that?

  3. Volunteer. But here’s the challenge. Find a place where you actually want to volunteer. If you don’t want to volunteer, don’t. Service to your community is rewarding and enriching, but only if you care enough to really sink into the experience.

  4. Teach someone something. This is similar to tutor but try to think outside the box a bit. Teach someone something that isn’t academic.

  5. Intern. This is a great way to explore careers you find interesting.

  6. Show gratitude. Write to your teachers, friends, parents, siblings, mentors, coaches, or clergy and say “Thank you.” Pay it forward.

  7. Pick an academic subject that you want to learn and dedicate your summer weeks to learning as much about it as you can.

  8. Meditate. Full disclosure, I’m terrible at this. But it is something that I keep trying to get better at because there is value in living a mindful, present life. Give it a shot. See what happens.

  9. Connect with nature. Go camping, hike, swim in the lake, walk the beach, go fishing, visit a National Park, walk your dog every day. Breathe it in.

  10. Start a business.

  11. Start investing. If you’ve got a little extra cash from your summer job, think about learning more about investing and trading.

  12. Learn to code.

  13. Learn a new language.

  14. Do something for your family every week. Make them dinner, organize a game night, help with a home improvement project. Be intentional about this. Not just a one-off activity. Really make time for it every week.

  15. Make a list of all the books you think you should have read by now and commit to getting through as many of them as you can this summer.

  16. Set a physical goal and work toward it. I have a student this year who set a summertime goal to be able to squat twice their own body weight by the end of the summer… and they did it!

  17. Learn something for the pure, unapologetic joy of learning it. A former student of mine spent one summer trying to perfect a recipe for pizza dough.

  18. Build an app.

  19. Create art. Paint, sculpt, sing, perform. Bonus points for anyone taking this one who says they aren’t an “artsy person!”

  20. Organize a community or neighborhood event.

  21. Write.

  22. Visit local colleges. Take notes on what you love and what makes them unique.

  23. Organize a fundraiser or bake sale for something you care about.

  24. Enroll in a class at your local college or community college. It doesn’t have to be for credit. Just do it to challenge yourself.

  25. Spend time with your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and if you’re lucky enough to have them, your great grandparents. It is time well spent.

Happy planning!


bottom of page