Updated for Summer 2016
Summer is the only time teens in rigorous secondary programs get a moment to yourselves, but now we are talking about what you should be accomplishing this summer! Yes, you need down time and will do better next school year if you aren’t rushing around all summer trying being “productive.” However, you’ll find the university application process easier if you spend time in the summer understanding yourself, your interests, and your goals. Age 13 or 14 is not too early to start being strategic about summer plans. What’s important is that you enjoy what you are doing.
Get inspired about the possibilities.
Already know what you are doing this summer? Take a look at the introductory sections of this great summer planning guide (it downloads as a PDF) for more inspiration. Although targeted at students in the US, it has many good ideas and questions to ask yourself no matter where you might be going to university.
If you plan to stay in Europe for university, summer is a good time to explore the fields you might want to study or to delve more deeply into subjects of interest via super-curricular activities. You don’t need to travel far from home or spend a lot of money and many summer projects can accompany you if you travel with your family.
Pick a topic that truly interests you to explore in-depth, or in more depth.
Go below the surface and what you know already, whether the topic is something you study in school, your hobby, or see in the media.
- Google and Wikipedia are always great places to start your investigations, as are Ted Talks.
- Take a look through 42 Extremely Useful Places to Educate Yourself Online for Free for inspiration on topics even if you never take one of the courses. If you consider taking a MOOC, check first into how to use the MOOC to strengthen your university application.
- Sign up for a Taster or Summer Course in the UK, take a summer program in Europe, or possibly one in the US.
- Find some super-curricular activities you enjoy and then blog about them.
- Start a business or volunteer or organize a themed series of trips in your local area.
What if you don’t know what truly interests you?
Something is interesting if it is new or unexpected or complex – but also comprehensible or understandable. Sometimes you need to learn more about a subject before it seems interesting, though once you are interested, you are much more motivated to learn more about it.
What if the only things you want to do are play video games, or watch sports or TV programs, or read about fashion or celebrities? Time to take that interest to a deeper level.
- Create your own video games or investigate the neuroscience of video games.
- Read Moneyball and then learn what statistics are important to your favorite sport. Find a sports statistics tutorial and start tracking the teams you follow.
- Learn how to analyze a TV show and then define your own project to analyze two or more shows.
- Identify a fashion topic of interest and create your own blog.
- Delve into the nature of celebrity and its sociology.