by Ashley McCarrick

You can choose how to spend your summer – endlessly playing video games or wasting time on social media, never making progress toward your future goals – OR – you can choose to include a few meaningful activities that have a chance to impact your life and future. Even if you choose the latter, you will still have plenty of time to relax, spend time with friends, and keep those snap streaks alive. The choice is yours, but a good place to start is including something from each of the categories below into your summer plans.

Something academic.

An internship, an online course in an area of interest, summer reading, prep for the PSAT/NMSQT®, SAT®, and ACT® tests, or getting ahead in a particular subject are all ideas that will keep your brain working during your free time. If you forget to exercise your brain, it will be much harder for you to get back into the swing of things when school is back in session.

Something interesting.

A cooking class, photography project, robotics innovation, ziplining, or even writing your first novel; find something you are curious about and get involved. Even a small commitment of time might be enough to spark your interest in a hobby or field of study. You never know what you might find out about yourself when you look for new experiences in life.

Something altruistic.

Find a way to impact the lives of others this summer. You might find opportunities for volunteer work in your community or abroad; it is not important where the service happens, but that it happens. Some teens even find ways to help others through their internships or summer jobs such as interning with an assisted living facility or teaching kids about water safety and swimming.

Something college-focused.

The older you are, the more intense this category will be. For a senior in high school, this means completing college applications, writing essays, and finalizing a college list. For a junior, it could mean visiting colleges, researching possible majors, and prepping for upcoming college admissions tests. For younger students, scheduling some college visits and beginning to explore college options will be the top priority. As you are working toward your goals, it is important to keep them in front of you along the way. Put a picture of your favorite college above your door to remind you of your true focus.

Something relaxing.

If you are lucky enough to be going on a vacation, good for you. If not, be sure to include downtime into your summer. Spend time at the pool or outside with friends. Reconnect with family members in a more relaxed environment. Catch up on sleep. Sit and do nothing. The school year is a busy, stressful time; use the summer to soothe your mind.

Summer seems to get shorter every year. Don’t look back and wonder where all your time went. With a little bit of planning and awareness, you can have a relaxing, productive summer that will put you one step closer to your dreams while adding value to your life and the lives of those around you.

Ashley McCarrick is an Executive Director at KD College Prep. She has been serving KD students since 2007 and enjoys helping teenagers discover their dreams. In her free time, Ashley delights in spending time with her daughter, Lilley, and volunteering with various local organizations. You may contact her at