If I Could Turn Back the Clock, Here's What I Would Redo About My High School Summer Breaks

As a rising junior in college, I find myself reflecting on my high school years more often. Given the current season, my thoughts often drift to how I filled my summer months for those four years — and boy, do I have some regrets. 

Here are the five things I wish I had done more of during my high school summers. I won’t guarantee an Instagram-perfect summer, but it will be one you’ll feel you spent right. These precious high school summers slip out of your fingers faster than you think, especially when they become filled with internships, jobs, and research opportunities.

  1. 1. Don’t linger in your house for more than three consecutive days

    Most of my summers had a single theme: “I’m bored.” In an attempt to mask this boredom, I scrolled through various social media platforms, read a mound of books, and sprawled across my bed binging show after show. As a result, I found myself experiencing cabin fever in the summer. We all need a lazy day once in a while, but try not to lay in bed for more than three days straight. Trust me, it will make you feel like your summer went by too fast and all you achieved was finishing Gossip Girl and The Office (a significant feat, but you can do even better). 

    If you find yourself staring into space, experiment with creating a blog focused on your area of interest, learn how to cook, experiment with a new type of workout, or take yourself out on a coffee date. If you are a rising junior or senior in high school, maybe research some colleges and start working on your college essay. 

    You don’t need to keep busy all the time either, just know your limits. It's just as important to hang out with your friends as well. Abby a recent high school graduate, explained “I prioritized hanging out with friends because…I was always relaxed and all around having a good time.” If boredom strikes, text your friends to see if they want to go to the beach, get ice cream, or go on a walk. Sometimes it’s the little things that make your summer meaningful.

  2. 2. Get into a productive routine 

    Although summer is a notoriously easy-going season, it is still beneficial to establish a weekly routine. Select a few activities you want to focus on and then schedule in time for each during your week (still leaving time for relaxation). Perhaps you will cook dinner every Monday and Wednesday, take a spin class on Tuesday and Thursday, and work on starting your own blog on Friday mornings. 

    If you are on a sports team, continuing with summer camps to stay in shape and practice can be a regular (and fun) activity. Abby explained that she would “play at least one of [her] sports each day and have off season practice.” Similarly, Kayla Berry who is a recent graduate from Masconomet Regional High School, would also train for the cross-country season in the fall. These weekly, sometimes mandatory, sessions are an easy way to fill up your summer schedule. 

    Once you fall into a rhythm, you will find that your summer suddenly has a purpose. By sticking to a routine (most of the time), you will avoid spells of intense boredom and simultaneously give enough structure to your week. 

    Related Article: How to Get More Involved Your Senior Year of High School

  3. 3. Pick up a summer hobby (with college in mind)

    While it's important to still have fun during the summer — after all, you are only in high school! — it is equally important to think about college. I know that this sounds stressful and intimidating, but the earlier you start planning for college the better. Part of the application process is refining your extracurricular involvement in high school. The summer is the perfect opportunity to use your extra time to pursue something that you may not have as much time to do so during the academic year. 

    I already mentioned starting your own blog as an option, but what about getting involved with your local paper, starting a new club, or taking college classes online or at a nearby community college. Kayla explained that “I was all about having a fun summer and taking a complete break from school,” but she wishes that she had “taken some summer courses that interested me.” Your summer budget may determine which of these you are able to pursue, but using your own imagination to create a unique project is always impressive to college admissions

    Jessica Squires, an International Affairs major at George Washington University, prioritized making money during her summer breaks. Upon reflection, Jessica is so glad she chose “to save money and travel with it” as these experiences “opened my eyes to the world at a young age and gave me independence that set me ahead of my peers, not to mention it allowed me to meet some incredible girls who I am lucky enough to call some of my best friends today.” Jessica stresses that if you are not totally confident about your major or career, there is no need to stress about adding to your resume while still in high school. Instead, save money and go out and see the world, whether that be the other side of your neighborhood or across the globe.

  4. 4. Find a summer job or volunteer position

    If you are finding that pursuing several hobbies isn’t enough to fill your summer calendar, then you may want to consider finding a job or volunteer position. I recommend finding a job near you so that commuting is easier, especially if you don’t have your driver’s license yet. 

    There are the obvious choices: pet sitting, tutoring a middle school student, or working at a local ice cream parlor. Don’t be afraid to branch out and do some research about available positions in your community. While you are at somewhat of a disadvantage because many locations only hire students 18 or older, you may be surprised at what you come across, especially in the food industry. While the search may be difficult, the benefits of having a job while in high school are impressive

    Not only will a concrete job give more structure and purpose to your summer, it will also help you learn important life skills that you can transfer to future jobs and mention in your college applications. Making some money isn’t bad either, especially if it allows you to travel or start saving for college. 

    Kayla worked two jobs over the course of her high school career, but wished that she had “wasted less time doing nothing because now as I head to college I realize those summers could have been much more helpful for me to make money.”

    If you aren’t interested in having a job at this point in your life, fear not! Volunteering is a perfect alternative and can be just as rewarding. Perhaps look into local food banks, public spaces, and schools which are often looking for more help. Kayla’s high school required that students complete ten hours of community service each summer so she helped the administrative assistant at her local middle school – volunteering opportunities are a lot closer than you may think.

    Related Article: 6 Things to Do Now to Get Ready (& Earn Money) for College

  5. 5. Remind yourself that no summer is perfect

    It’s hard not to compare the productivity of your summer to that of your friends and classmates, especially with Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat constantly reminding you of what everyone else is doing while you start a rewatch of Friends. The biggest lesson I learned from high school is how not to care about what others are doing or what they may think of you, and instead do what makes you happy. 

    How you want to live and experience your break is going to be different from your peers, and that's okay. At the end of the day, you will all be back in the same place soon (that being the halls of your high school as you start the new school year) — but let’s not think that far into the future quite yet.