By Lia Tanti
Summertime usually conjures up images of lounging by the poolside, drinking iced tea, and taking it easy. After all the hard work you put in during the school year, you certainly deserve (and need!) the physical and mental break that summer offers. However, summer isn’t just about having more time to relax; it’s also about having more time to dedicate to your passions outside of school. Colleges want to see that you use your summer productively. But that doesn’t necessarily mean classic activities like summer programs, classes, volunteering, and internships — the free time you have in summer is also a chance to pursue topics that you don’t generally get to learn about in school. The momentum you gain in summer will help you take things to the next level when school starts again. Below are some ideas about how to use your free time wisely.
Learn something new
It’s one thing to sign up for a class; it’s another to delve into a new subject on your own. Teaching yourself something new is a great way to exercise your independence, drive, and curiosity. Whatever the subject matter or skill you tackle, there is great value in becoming your own teacher. Not only will you set your own rules, you’ll also learn to manage your time and develop a strong work ethic. Don’t forget to use your new knowledge after you’ve gained it! The following are just a few examples of what you can do:
- Go to the library and pick up a few books on a topic that interests you –the mysterious workings of the human brain, beliefs that ancient philosophers had about the world, how to launch a start-up business. Then write a short essay about what you learned and how it applies to your life. When school starts, have one of your teachers or peers look over it and give you feedback.
- Browse the internet for new recipes and cooking techniques. Then cook for others: your friends and family, the homeless in your community, your class on the first day of school.
- Attend a Coder Dojo club (www.coderdojo.com) or take a free online course (www.coursera.org) and learn how to code. Then write a functional program which you can use in your daily life or which you can donate to a club or organization.
- Start a discussion group or book club, or gather ideas to start one during the school year. This is a great way to build on what you’ve already learned so far and will give you the opportunity to hear others’ perspectives and ideas. Invite guest speakers to lead some of your discussions.
- Perform your own science experiment. Visit www.sciencebuddies.com for ideas or purchase a biology or chemistry kit from Amazon. Take notes during the experiment and then write a report to record the results and your impressions of the experience.
- Find creative ways to recycle objects that would otherwise be thrown away. Use recycled materials (such as plastic water bottles, food containers, bags, broken items) to create home décor, flower pots, storage containers, bird feeders, and anything else you can think of. When school starts again, share your creations and ideas with others by hosting an event, starting a club, or talking to businesses about ways to go green.
- Start a blog or create a website so you can share with others something that’s important to you – health, current events, life as a teenager, music, science, etc. Let your writing reflect your natural style. Do you have a knack for humor? Are you reflective and philosophical? Do you prefer the more straightforward approach of a reporter or journalist? Think about how others can learn from your point of view and open a discussion.
- Create a video – a documentary, experimental short film, music video, or picture slideshow to showcase your summer experiences. Share your video with others to inspire them!