10 Best Summer Activities for College-Bound Students

Tyson Schritter / Colleges of Distinction »

Are you a high school senior finishing up your last semester? Congratulations! If college is waiting for you in the fall, this last summer at home can be a great opportunity for you to get a headstart as a young adult. During this transitional period, you can start dipping your toes into your major, soak up time around your friends and family, and get excited for what’s ahead.

Whatever you choose to do, you shouldn’t waste the time. Below, we’ll get into some of the best summer activities for students who are heading off to college. Keep reading to learn more about how you can make the most of your summer!

1. Get an Internship

When you get to college, you’ll have the opportunity to explore your interests via a wide variety of classes. However, many colleges require that students wait until their junior or senior year before incorporating hands-on work experience in their field.

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If you get a summer internship, though, you’ll have the chance to see how people in your chosen field work. Regardless of the amount of skilled labor you do, you can get a feel for the jobs you might have in the future. The earlier you see how much you might enjoy working in a certain field, the earlier you can determine whether you want to stay in the same major or change it to something else.

The work experience you gain in an internship is also incredibly valuable for your future résumé. It’s a competitive world out there, so it’s never too late to think about applying for jobs after graduation. Even for entry-level positions, more and more companies are requiring that applicants have more and more previous experience. If you start racking up internship and field experience now, you’ll definitely stand out to your potential employers.

2. Get a Job

Many college students pay for school by working part-time outside of their class schedule. Needless to say, balancing the two can get pretty tricky. If you load up on some savings before school starts, you might be able to work a little less, giving yourself some extra breathing room to navigate your class schedule effectively.

If you want to avoid working long hours while you’re in college, get a summer job. Many retail and food companies offer temporary summer positions to high school and college students. To find open positions, visit online job boards or fill out applications at your favorite stores.

3. Volunteer at a Local Charity

The summer before you go to college is the perfect time to volunteer for a charity you care about. Like a job, these volunteer hours will look good on your résumé, especially if you want to work for a charity or nonprofit in the future. 

To find volunteer opportunities, research some of the charities working in your area. Most cities have charities that work with animals, help the homeless, or assist refugees. Think about the type of work you care about, then see if there are any local places willing to take volunteers.

4. Take a Trip With Your Friends

We’ve all had the fantasy: you and your friends pack up the car with snacks and head out on the open road like carefree protagonists in an A24 film. Why not make it a reality?

After high school, friends usually start to live different lives from one another. Everyone splits up to do their own thing, attending college in different states, working full time, and generally taking care of their adult responsibilities. This summer could be your chance for one last hurrah. A road trip is intimate, strengthening the bonds of everyone in the car. Make a memory and hit the road!

5. Make a Local Bucket List

It’s easy to take your own hometown for granted. There might be a bunch of things you never got around to trying! If you’re moving away for college, you should try to get in everything you’ve always wanted to do in your hometown. Live like a tourist in your own city, embracing the comforts of home with a fresh perspective.

6. Revisit the Things You Love to Do

There are probably a few things you love to do as a high schooler that you might not get the chance to do in college. Maybe you’re moving away from your friends, and maybe you’re in for a really busy schedule. Now’s your chance to have some fun! Have a sleepover, commit to your hobbies, visit your favorite spots to hang out—make plenty of memories alone and with your friends.

7. Take Summer Classes

If you want to graduate college early, summer classes can help you knock out some extra credits, all while saving you time and money.

Many schools offer summer courses with credits that will transfer to your new college. Before you sign up, though, do some research (and reach out to an admissions counselor!) to make sure the credits you earn will be accepted at your new school. 

8. Attend New Student Activities

Most colleges will host summer activities geared toward their new incoming students to help them feel welcome and integrated into the campus culture. These might include new student orientation, summer camp activities, or even community service projects. 

It’s normal to have some pre-college jitters, especially when you’re only a couple of months away from moving out and entering a completely new environment. Budget and travel permitting, attend as many of your school’s relevant summer activities as possible. You could make friends, familiarize yourself with campus, and even get a sneak peek into your field of study. Take Jason Vodicka of Rider University for instance. Now an Assistant Professor of Music Education, he solidified him decision to study music education thanks to his university’s pre-college student activities:

“Attending [Westminster Choir College of Rider University’s] summer programs solidified my decision to major in music education. The experiences I had, especially under the instruction of James Jordan, were truly life changing. It’s hard to imagine, but before coming to Westminster I had never thought about concepts such as the role of breath in singing, the power of musical line, and how to listen meaningfully to the rest of the choir. I had been singing and playing all my life, but in just three weeks, Westminster Choir College taught me what it means to be a musician.”

9. Become a Camp Counselor

Summer camps often look for high school or college-aged people to oversee and lead groups of younger kids. If you like spending time outdoors and/or enjoy spending time caring for and educating kids, you should consider becoming a camp counselor!

Edward Wright, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Neumann University, had a great time as a camp counselor when he was a new college student:

“The summers after my junior and senior years of high school and freshman year of college, I worked as a camp counselor. What an exciting experience. It offered a fun experience, an opportunity to learn leadership skills which helped me get a leadership role on my college campus, and the chance to meet new friends. Being a camp counselor is a rewarding experience. In the moment, it was just fun. Looking back, it really helped me become a leader and I wish I was smart enough to realize it then! Seek out these opportunities to get great experiences while giving back to your community.”

10. Start Planning for Your Move to College

Unless you’re staying at home as a commuter student for college, you have a big move ahead of you. Whether you’re staying in the same city or moving across the country, moving away from home is a huge leap. Get ready for independence, responsibility, and a big step forward as an adult. It’s time to get ready for dorm life.

If you’re living on campus for your first year, the first thing you need to do is look at whatever checklist has been given to you from your school’s residential life office. Not only will it let you know about the size of sheets you’ll need, but it will also tell you what not to bring. Most dorms prohibit a variety of items that could pose a fire risk, such as anything with an open flame, large appliances, and halogen lamps. 

Prepare early for your move! Try to coordinate with your roommate for anything that you don’t need more than one of (e.g. a mini fridge), and try shopping in small spurts so that you don’t get overwhelmed by all there is to get. Double- and triple-check your packing list to make sure you don’t forget anything.

Good Luck!

The transitional period between high school and college can be full of different emotions—nervousness, excitement, celebration, worry—and there are so many things you can do to make the most of this time. While there’s a lot of preparation to do, there’s also plenty of time to enjoy your time as a recent high school graduate.

Through the rest of summer and during your college experience, Colleges of Distinction is here for you. Check out our Advice section for a wide variety of articles to help you thrive, from financial aid advice to career preparation. Congrats again, and good luck!