Life after high school: How to spend the last summer before college |

Life after high school: How to spend the last summer before college

TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — I know, it’s tough to think of summer plans when you are planning where to ski this weekend, where to get hot chocolate, and how to stay warm.

How is it possible to be looking toward summer and creating plans? If you are college bound, then it’s easy. You know that summers are a great time to take advantage of a chunk of time where you can dive deep into your extracurricular activities and further explore your interests.

But, what is a “good” way to spend the summer? Choose things to do that keep you moving forward. Look for leadership opportunities or a chance to showcase your talents.

For example, if you normally play volleyball all year, then consider coaching in a camp for younger kids. You get to keep practicing, and utilize your skills in a new way.

“What is a ‘good’ way to spend the summer? Choose things to do that keep you moving forward. Look for leadership opportunities or a chance to showcase your talents.”

An artist or a musician? Take this time to explore a local camp, attend an art school or finally put that tune that has been in your head all year, onto paper. Let’s explore some options:

College Based Academic Camps

These programs can be exciting, allow you to meet students from all over the U.S., have courses taught by visiting professors, and introduce you to college life.

Often titled “pre-college,” they can be pricey! Generally, they only require a transcript, fee and possibly a PSAT score. Usually, they are not very selective, and if anyone can attend, then they will not necessarily be viewed as competitive by college admissions.

They are “nice” but not adding a lot of extra pizazz to your application. Keep in mind that attending a summer camp at a highly selective campus, or any campus for that matter, will NOT increase your chances for admission.

Choose wisely and with discretion on these programs. But, with the right program, you really can dig deep into a specific major or skill.


A good old fashioned job. Flip burgers, brew coffee, sweep and mop floors. Employment is the ultimate hands-on learning opportunity that you may not get through an academic experience.

You can learn to manage money, save for the future, and how to budget your time between work and play.

Dealing with the public can be an exceptional experience for any teenager, as you learn how to navigate all the wonderful moods people have!


What a way to give back to your community. You don’t have to go far (unless you want to!) to volunteer. Start locally and think of ways you can serve.

Organize donations for a local food pantry, participate in outreach through your church or other organization.

Like pets? Offer to work at your local veterinarian’s office. Be a mentor in a local summer camp based on the skills you already possess, whether it be academic, artistic, or athletic.

Other options for summer can be an internship, research based programs, working for mom and/or dad and even starting your own business (I hear we need some great dog sitters in this area).

Of course, many families take advantage of the summer to travel and visit far off places. If this is the case and you might be spending a few weeks in one area, try looking for volunteer opportunities or even summer camps in that location.

If you so desire, get a jump start on visiting one or two college campuses in the area, just to see what other locations are like.

Whatever you plan for the summer, make it blend with your interests. Don’t fake enthusiasm for an activity or experience just because you think it will “look good” for college.

Katy Watts is the college counselor at Tahoe Expedition Academy. She holds a Masters in Counseling with a Pupil Personnel Services Credential and is entering her 14th year as a school counselor. She may be reached for comment at

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