• Dione Chen

How to Have a Fun and Productive Summer (that College Admissions Committees Will Love)

What can you do this summer that will be fun, productive...and show college admissions committees why you'll be a great addition to their campus?

It takes less than 30 minutes of brainstorming and reflection to discover what you can do now. Here’s how.

There is no one “perfect” summer activity that colleges look for in applications. In fact, colleges seek a diverse spectrum of students who are curious, who challenge themselves to learn and grow and try new stuff, and who are generous and kind members of their communities. This may sound like a tall order, but you actually have incredible freedom to make the most of your summer.

If you haven’t come up with a plan for how to make the most of your summer, it’s not too late. You can spend your time learning, having fun and helping others (these three benefits are not mutually exclusive!). Here are two exercises to help you make the most of your summer, starting now.

Exercise 1: Solving for what you should do

Brainstorm answers to these 3 questions. Don't overthink this or limit yourself to what you think will "look good."

a) What’s do you love doing? What’s so fun that you lose track of time? Can you take this passion to the next level by “doubling down” and investing more energy and time to learning or improving your skill in this area? If you can’t think of anything you’re already doing, think about something you’ve always wanted to try! Don’t hold back from thinking big! There are no “bad” ideas.

b) What are you curious about? Do you have a burning question or quirky interest that you’d like answered? What’s do you want to explore or delve deeper in learning/doing? Even in a pandemic, you can create a self-directed research project by taking advantage of online resources, including classes, books, TedTalks and YouTube, interviews, experiments.

c) What do you care about (issues, organizations, people)? What are meaningful ways – big and small – that you can do make a difference in your communities (family, school, city, organization)? Where there’s unmet needs, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to put on your entrepreneurial, problem-solving hat and contribute. Sometimes, all it takes is to ask, "How can I help?"

Doing something you love, learning, growing and helping others all have the potential to provide rewarding experiences. With a bit of brainstorming, it’s not hard to think of ways to find activities that checks two, or even all three, of these boxes.

Exercise 2: What next? Get started.

Now that you’ve got some ideas of what you’d like to do, it’s time to take action. Sometimes the most important thing is to take the first step.

a) Choose one thing you’ve identified in exercise 1. What’s one productive action you can take in the next 24 hours to make that happen? Don’t worry – “productive” doesn’t have to be synonymous with “no fun.” You’re being productive when you:

· Further your knowledge and/or learn something interesting or hard

· Improve a skill, whether it’s a talent, hobby, sport, language or something else

· Challenge yourself to do something outside of your comfort zone

· Help others

· Support a meaningful cause or organization

· Solve a problem or fill an unmet need

· Create/pursue an opportunity

b) Write down what you’re going to do in a journal, on a calendar or post-it note, or on your phone – somewhere you can’t miss. Next, tell someone who will hold you accountable...and celebrate your successes. You are on your way…

Here is a partial list of a variety of summer ideas to help you brainstorm ideas.


· Job shadowing (informational interviews if in person is not possible)

· Volunteer/paid job or internship


· Make something. Build your own projects (website, app, woodworking, garden)

· Write a poem, story, blog.

· Interview and write someone’s memoirs.

· Compose a song.

Volunteer and paid work:

· Be the go-to tech person or social media expert for individuals or organizations

· Deliver groceries to at-risk people

· Fix a bike/car

· Assemble furniture

· Garden

· Tutor

· Serve as a translator/interpreter

· Make online “how to” videos

· Sell stuff on EBay or other e-commerce sites

· Provide pet care/dog walks (for shelters/foster organizations, vulnerable pet owners, neighbors)


· Start and run your own small businesses (where there’s a need, there’s a business…tutoring, baked goods, tech support, etc.)

Pursue a hobby:

· Photography

· Writing

· Music (instrumental, voice, composition)

· Start/join a book club

· Arts and crafts. Learn to sew, knit, sketch.


· Foreign language (online courses, apps, conversation partners)

· TedTalks

· Online courses (LinkedIn, Coursera, Lynda, Udemy, etc

· Code

· Community college class

· Read

· Run an experiment

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