by Ashley McCarrick

This summer feels like a fresh start as we continue to recover from the pandemic. Students always want to know what they can do to be a better college applicant, but the goal should really be to expand your horizons and experience life. In doing so, you become a more interesting person with even more to offer to the world (and a college).

Rest and Recharge

It’s been a stressful year, and you can’t learn and grow if your brain is stressed to its limits. Take some time to relax this summer and bask in the glory of having nothing to do, even for a short time.

1. Have a tech-free day

Notice the world around you, enjoy your own company, and give your eyes a break.

2. Take regular naps each week

Research from Johns Hopkins shows that 30-45 minute naps before dinner are better than sleeping in.

3. Read a fun book

Try one of the books from this list or pick something that appeals to you. There was a time that I only read books with hot pink covers. It forced me to expand my reading and helped me find some of my favorite books of all time.

4. Spend time outside

Go hiking, camping, or swimming. Take a walk around the neighborhood. After being in the house for so long, the sunshine feels great!

Try New Things and Expand Your Knowledge

5. Learn to play a musical instrument

There are thousands of videos on YouTube to help you pick up musical skills for free. See if a friend or neighbor will let you borrow their instrument to try it out.

6. Start learning a new language

With programs like Duolingo and even resources from your public library, learning a new language is a great way to spend some time this summer.

7. Try a new sport

Get a group together for a game of kickball, frisbee, or horseshoes. It’s a great way to connect with friends and get some exercise.

8. Learn to cook

Start with your favorite dish or check out a list of essential kitchen skills. You’ll be more prepared for adult life and you might even find a new hobby.

9. Take a free online course from a university

Check out these options from Harvard University,, or Coursera and find a course that sounds interesting. You might try a course from your intended area of study or just choose one that sounds fun!

10. Read a book that makes you think

You might pick something from your summer reading list, a history book, or a read focused on personal development.

Get Experience

11. Volunteer

There are many ways you can impact your community. For ideas, check out our blog that includes virtual opportunities.

12. Get a job

As the world continues to emerge from the pandemic, more job opportunities become available for teens. Working can help you develop important real-world skills that last long past your teenage years.

13. Do independent research

If there’s a topic that you’re interested in learning more about, summer is a great time to take on a research project. Your project doesn’t have to be published to be meaningful.

Work Toward Your Goals

14. Research or visit colleges

You don’t have to go far to see what college is all about. Check out virtual visits on college websites or visit a local college campus if it’s open to visitors. Visualizing your college experience can be a great motivator.

15. Prepare for college admissions tests

For high school students, consistent preparation pays off when it comes to standardized tests. We offer test prep programs for the PSAT, SAT®, and ACT® tests to help you reach your goals.

16. Work on college applications and essays

Seniors should spend time drafting and revising essays, compiling activity lists, and filling out applications. The more you can accomplish during the summer, the less stressful your senior year will be. Trust us!

If you want to get a head start on your college applications, consider attending one of our virtual or in-person APPLY NOW! Boot Camps. In these fast-paced events, students work with a college counselor to build a strong college application.

Be a Good Human

17. Do something nice for a family member, friend, neighbor, or stranger

Send a letter, buy a small gift, or do a favor for someone else. Kindness is always cool.

18. Donate gently used clothing, books, or household items

Many people are struggling and would love to have the things you don’t use anymore. Find a local organization and drop off your belongings.

19. Participate in a food drive or donate to a food pantry

Summer can be a tough time for kids who rely on school lunches. If you can’t find a food drive near you, consider starting one of your own.

20. Tell people that you love them

Maybe you haven’t seen your grandmother in a while or the stress of the past year has caused a rift in your relationship with your parents or siblings. Now is the time to remember our loved ones’ impact on our lives and let them know how much we appreciate them.

Ashley McCarrick has helped students reach their college goals since 2004 and is the Chief of College Counseling Services & Education for KD College Prep. As a lead member of the College Counseling team, Ashley develops and presents educational programs about the college admissions process and provides individual guidance to parents and students as a college counselor. Ashley is a member of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, Lewisville ISD Advisory Council, and a frequent contributor to the KD College Prep blog.