We can pretty much begin to do the things that we need to do today so that we can become the thing we want to be tomorrow. This applies to any one at any age.
So here we are, as the dog days of Summer approach. Dictionary.com defines the dog days of summer as “the sultry part of the summer, supposed to occur during the period that Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun, and a period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence.”
Well, many students across America are counting down the days, or the closing bells to each of the remaining school days of the year.
Afternoons are spent day dreaming, focus and attention becoming more difficult.
Teachers have an uphill battle getting students to finish up their semester projects and prepare for end of grade tests.
But that last day of school will arrive, inevitably, and teachers and students will rejoice in the break they both deserve.
It is probably safe to say that up until 8th grade school year the time spent during Summers does not have the same meaning or sense of purpose from a college and career perspective as those summers AFTER 8th grade.
This is true all the way through until school is completed and the first career job is earned.
Of course, some recharging of the batteries and resting should occur BUT the approach to Summer should take on a whole different meaning for students aiming to get into college and into careers in the coming years.
Not all of the rules below have to be followed, but the more that are will dramatically improve your readiness for college and beyond.
There are things ANYONE can do, beginning right now, that will put you into the best position to handle most anything you want to in life. “ -HiredGraduate
Why The Summertime Rules Should Be Followed
- Preparation. The primary reason that Summertime Rules should be followed is preparation. We should be preparing for something with purpose. Whether it be preparing for an upcoming school year, an upcoming class, college, a sport, a job, or a career – we should always be purposeful in preparing for the next thing or things.
- Platform. One word that comes to mind is platform. Some call it resume building or building your brand. In life it is wise to understand that you are building your resume every day, every opportunity, every sport, every class, every grade, every test score, every activity, every speech, every social interaction. This resume sums up to your platform. Who are you? How are you best defined and described? Those things you do and have done are the sum of all parts and are the criteria for which decisions will be made for you, by others, when evaluating whether to give you that opportunity you are seeking. That said, maximize the freedoms and the time afforded in the Summer and aim to achieve, prepare, and build your platform.
- Filling In the Gaps. Let’s say you did not make the school soccer team this school year but would like to make the team next season. Inquire with the coach about why you did not make it so you can have tangible areas that can be worked on. This is an important step that can be applied in any situation. Understanding where the gaps are is critical to gain an understanding of what to focus and build on. Identify how you can obtain the necessary improvements and then take action. Fast forward to when you have a job one day. You will have to undergo an annual performance review. It is largely the same exercise. Your manager will inform you of the things you do good and they will also inform you of the things you could improve. You will then be graded over the next year by your ability to make those improvements. If those improvements are not made then you will be reminded and this will begin to reduce your career potential and may limit any raises and bonuses you may otherwise be able to achieve. It is up to you to make the most of the feedback you get, doing some self evaluation and acceptance, and then being resolute in shoring up those gaps. Getting proper training, education, personal coaching, and more practical experience are all common approaches and building blocks to shoring up the gaps.
- Freedom. One cool thing about the Summertime between school years is that it affords you an opportunity to assess and reflect. It also gives you time to recharge and rest. Last and most critical, it gives you “time”. Time to do things, anything that you can think up or imagine and create. This time can and should be used to its full potential. And a balance should be met between recharging, resting, and doing the things that will help you prepare, build your platform, and fill in some gaps.
What Things Should Be Done Over The Summertime?
Below is a list of 13 things you should review and strongly consider. Doing all of them over a summertime is not necessary and would be borderline crazy, there simply is not enough time.
If you are smart you will consider incorporating some of this list into your entire high school experience over all of your school years and Summers.
Colleges and employers like depth of character and long-term involvement in something. Picking just one or two quality things from the list and doing them like no other will provide this depth and quality that may distinguish you from the rest. Using the Summertime freedoms to maximize your opportunities is wise. There is no particular order of importance of the below.
The key is getting the maximum amount of effort in any one or more of these items so that you can build your platform and gain the life skills and character that will set you apart from the crowd.
- Projects (Home, Neighborhood, School): During the course of your school year you may have observed a need, overheard a conversation, or been asked to help with something in your home, neighborhood, or school. You can ask your parents about opportunities or projects that may be needing to be done at home. Perhaps you can ask the homeowners association board member(s) or president if there is anything the neighborhood particularly needs. And asking teachers or school administrators if there are any projects that need to be done may all yield some helpful opportunities. Projects that are thought through, give back, and have meaningful impact are excellent resume and character builders and will give you a chance to showcase many skills. Each year, approximately 57,000 life scouts apply for and complete the Eagle Scout Service Project. This project is intended to demonstrate leadership, responsibility, project management, and apply the scout oath of helping other people. You can think about what skills or interests you have and find something that will help you deliver on these skills. Perhaps you are an artist and great at painting. Perhaps you can paint a mural on a school wall? Perhaps you want to learn some new skills and think about a project that gets you using some of those skills. Get creative. This project application can serve as a blueprint for you and must satisfy 5 steps:
- Complete a proposal. The first step is completing a proposal that demonstrates that planning, leadership, and development will take place. It also must show how these three factors will benefit a religious institution, a school, or your community.
- It appears to be feasible. You must show the project is realistic for you to complete.
- Safety issues will be addressed. You must show that you have an understanding of what must be done to guard against injury, and what will be done if someone does get hurt.
- Action steps for further detailed planning are included. You must make a list of the key steps you will take to make sure your plan has enough details to be carried out successfully.
- You are on the right track with a responsible chance for a positive experience.
- Work (Job or Internship): Working is a sure way to get experience that will benefit you in multiple ways. Having some extra spending cash or gas money is a good thing. Think about the skills the job affords you to learn. Identify the tangible skills you will gain from the job and think about how you can apply those skills in your future. Your career is the sum result of all your jobs, however trivial or small they may seem to be. The reality is that the jobs you get when in school teach you a lot about what type of career or jobs you may be interested in down the road. Growing up in Nebraska in the eighties I collected cans, delivered newspapers, detasseled corn, worked in a grocery store, and took apart electronics before graduating high school. One sure thing that I learned was that I wanted to go to college and get a white collar job. Air conditioning, a desk, and a job where I could use my brain. That was one early life lesson learned while carrying 80 lbs of newspapers walking my 3-mile route through a snow storm when I could not ride my bike, or getting my arms cut up on sharp dry corn stalks while working 9 hours in blistering 90-degree summer heat for 9 hours each day catching the 6:30 AM bus to detassel the corn, or getting bossed around by a mean grocery store manager telling me to move faster or he will replace me with someone else who can. I learned some important lessons and my desire to go to college burned so deep that no parent or grown up in the world needed to tell me. Jobs are more accessible than internships and are in both high school and college. When you are in college you should seek out jobs that align to your major or career. A second place finisher is a job where you learn customer service and working with the public. These are great life skills.
- Camp or Youth Group Activities: Being a kid is awesome. Going to camp and being a part of youth groups is a great opportunity to create incredible life experiences, gain some independence, strengthen friendships, and build character. Camps often have reward and character building experiences. They allow their campers to pick the events they want to do. They allow their campers to make choices and do their best. Campers must keep clean quarters, make their bed, have lights out at a certain time and be up at a certain time. Campers must clear their tables and do basic chores. Many camps create opportunities down the road to becoming camp counselors. Many college students return to their camps to serve as camp counselors and serve as mentors and leaders to the younger generation. This is a great set of skills in life and something that will impress employers looking for good character candidates who have high core values. And who doesn’t like getting paid to make smores over the bonfire?
- Travel: As you get older you may become more interested in geography, history, and the national or state parks provide a great opportunity to learn and explore. Get involved in studying and planning the vacation. Combine college preparation and travel and schedule a trip to visit one or more colleges. Understand that visiting college in the summer time is far different from visiting during an active in session school year. Also ideally you will have a tour guide available to guide you. See if they have guides available during any summer months and what days and times they have availability. Schedule to see the sites around the college, go to a baseball game, and lay out an itinerary for mom and dad that shows good planning. Be sure to factor all costs and times. This detailed planning is a good project and demonstrates great coordination, responsibility, and leadership. It is not necessary to visit a college during summer, so pick another destination. Research, take the lead, and plan away – just be sure to discuss the idea with your parents before moving too fast on this one.
- Volunteer: From the beginning of time, from now to forever, there will always be a need for volunteers. Whether it be a local food bank, an elderly home, a library, a church, a school, or a non-profit organization – you have many opportunities to choose from. One important thing to throw out there right now is that it is time to start thinking about things or causes that matter to you. Something that strikes a nerve. Something that pulls at your heart. If you want to help stray animals or are interested in becoming a veterinarian one day you can combine job with volunteering by working for a veterinarian – for money or pro bono. Sometimes just the experience is worth it. But there are animal shelters that may also want your service time. Perhaps you like kids and want to help children. You can help by giving them time, playing with them, reading with them. Perhaps it is an event, like a race and they need volunteers to help hand out t-shirts, fliers, etc. There are many opportunities and you will learn that when you give your time and energy to a worthy cause it makes you feel good. So not only do you get to help others, you get to feel like you are doing something good and positive in this world. This is invaluable and something no money or salary can buy.
- Learn a new skill: Having many weeks available in the summer allows you time to learn something new. Research some skills that sound interesting or fun. If you want to be a chef, perhaps learn to cook and prepare meals. If you want to build web sites or mobile apps then take a programming class. If you are mechanically inclined perhaps you build a robot or build an engine. If you like music perhaps learn to play a new instrument. The best thing you can do is to learn one new skill every summer. This is not just a kid thing. If every person were to commit to learning a new skill every year of their life, or strengthening their skills every year of their life, it would keep them stimulated, learning, and growing. Be smart about the skills you seek out and look to learn things that fit an overall strategy you can use to gain entry to college or get a job.
- Play a sport or learn a new sport: Perhaps you want to improve some current skills or learn a new one. Find a club, league, or place you can get lessons. There are many summer leagues that offer soccer, baseball, and other sports. If you have a goal to make a club team or school team then perhaps you need to work on your technical skills or your conditioning. Consider cross fit training, some weight lifting, and running. Get stronger, faster, and increase your stamina and endurance. If you can come into practice ahead of everyone else then this will stand out to the coaches making key roster decisions early in the season. You may be a step ahead and have some killer six-pack abs to boot!
- Test Preparation: The rules for getting into college are simple. Colleges focus on two key things to start their evaluation of each applicant: grades and test scores. One great way to improve the odds of scoring well on the standardized ACT or SAT tests is to take test preparation or training classes. There are centers that offer training in many cities and online courses. Practice exams and reading guides and materials can be purchased online and in book stores. See the image below from Kaplan that says “Awesome takes practice.” I can attest to the fact that practice is vital because I have always taken practice tests when studying for standardized tests. You want to take 1-3 practice tests. You also want to take the tests that show you the results and explains the answers so that you can learn question format and difficulty. This is a great trial run and will calm your nerves, prepare you mentally and physically, and give you the reality/confidence that you need on your big test day. The practice test results may expose subject areas that you need to hone in on and study more for. You should simulate at least one “real” test by taking the exam for the same timed duration and sitting at a quiet table, with no notes or food. Get good sleep, come prepared, and pretend it is the real thing. You will be amazed at how much more prepared you are for the exam on the big day. You can access the Kaplan test center at Kaptest.com for test preparation of both the ACT and SAT tests. Also you can visit other sites that offer online test preparation such as Khan Academy and Sylvan Learning Center.
- Study Skills Improvement: Since grades are so important to your college entry success it makes sense to evaluate your study habits and see where you may be able to improve. Students are different types of learners and different techniques apply for the different learner types. Kaplan has a Study Skills assessment you can take by answering 5 questions to determine your study personality. It may be worth while to take this simple and free Kaplan Study Quiz to determine your study style as a starting point. The results should be no surprise to you but is good to get you in the proper mind set.Additionally there are educational consultants and centers such as Sylvan Learning Center who specialize in study skills. There is also a lot of information online about study techniques. It may be worthwhile spending an hour or two researching and identifying things you may be able to do to improve your focus ability, note taking ability and homework completion ability. The key is starting with self assessment and working from there. I decided to take the study skills quiz to see my personality and the results definitely align to my life long personality. It confirmed I am a Post-It Fanatic and that I am organized. My 14-year-old son on the other hand was described as a Mad Scientist who is long on ingenuity but may benefit from some organization. It is worth improving your study skills as this can contribute to better grades and better prepare you for the time management and organization required to be successful in college. Your GPA and class rank are two closely evaluated criteria by all colleges.
- College Preparation: Depending on your upcoming year it may be worthwhile to begin to prepare for college. If you are a rising junior or rising senior then you should be going through the college selection process. College list building and college visits are two key activities you should be doing. If you are a rising senior then college applications and essays should be built into your summer plan.
- Research something: This one makes you want to yawn right out of the gate doesn’t it? But in all seriousness the value of doing research on any topic or issue that excites you or you have passion around would be a worthwhile cause. You could start a blog about it, you could publish a white paper. And if you like data you can start online at Data.gov where over 182,000 data sets have been made available for public consumption and use as part of the US governments open data policy dating back to 2009. There are data sets ranging in areas from agriculture to finance to science. Build the data into mobile application or web site and add value to your school, community, or country.
- Read: After an entire school year picking up a book may seem difficult, but the freedom to read anything you want may be enticing. There are many like me who love the adventures and experiences that come through reading books. One thing to consider is having a plan. Plan to read certain types of books based on a career you may be interested in. Read both fiction and non-fiction. Keep a reading journal or log so you can use on your resume. Track the total number of books you have read. Choose some classics and track those. Create a blog or journal and create a summary of what you liked and didn’t like about each book. Capturing the details as you go is the best approach. Choose to read all books written by a particular author. Choose to read a certain number of books over the summer. The nice thing about this is that you can head out to the hammock with a cold glass of lemonade and your book and spend days taking adventures to far off or long ago places and times.
- Start something: Colleges love leaders. They like ambition and goal setters and achievers. If you like to think of ideas, if you like to organize things, if you like to make things happen – then starting something may be something to consider. It can be an investing club if you are interested in math, finance, numbers, stocks. It can be a club to help kids, the school, a church. It can be starting a business. It can be a lawn mowing service in your neighborhood. Calculate the cost of the start up (lawn mower, trimmer, bags, blower, gas cost per yard) and how many yards it would take to break even and then turn a profit. Calculate max profits by figuring out how many yards you could mow per day and per week considering how many people can mow, how long each yard would take, and travel time allowed between jobs. You should then calculate a worst case scenario using numbers that seem low and easily attainable (like 10 yards per week). If you do the math and like the results then you just need to solve the start up costs riddle. Perhaps you can afford the start up by breaking into your savings or by talking some lucky family member into funding this venture. Once you have made the decision and secured the funding then lay out a good marketing and work plan and make it happen. If you want to learn how to code and build an app then that is an excellent idea too.
Why Following These Rules Is So Important
In life the really good things seem to happen to those that are in the right position at the right time.
But the reality is that many good decisions, hard work, and calculated and incremental steps paved the way.
Some of these thirteen activities may seem a bit ambitious for Summer.
If you do the things that others are not doing, are not willing to do, then you will become the thing you most desire and will obtain your loftiest goals.
Only you can decide, endless stream of Netflix and video games or a balance of Netflix, video games, and some items on the list?
The world rewards those that differentiate, that stand out, that have a story to tell in their college admissions essays or interviews.
The dog days of summer are soon upon us so make the most of the opportunities and unlimited possibilities that await.
If you use good time management and are responsible and purposeful with your time then you will be able to achieve more than you thought possible.
This will serve you well through school and into career and life.
Be sure to strike a balance between completing some of these key things and the much needed relaxation and downtime that everyone needs.