Summer Vacation: 30 Ways Students Can Make the Most of Free Time

Students need the summer to rest and relax.

But THEIR downtime during the summer months can sometimes collide with the fundamental responsibilities we have as parents. Plus, there is only so much Netflix teens can watch until boredom takes over. Your teen may welcome ideas of productive things to do.

Here are 30 ways that students can make the most of summer vacation. While some projects and activities pertain to college students, many are things that younger students can do.

(Hint: Print it out and leave it near the remote control where they are sure to find it.)

Teens need to rest this summer but have time to do a FEW productive things with their downtime. (Twenty20 @nataliazera)

How students can use free time this summer

Some students may have found work this summer, but if they still have time on their hands, here are ideas for how to use their free time.

1. Look for a internship or job for the fall or for after graduation

If you are currently a college student or attending this fall, visit the career counseling website. Career services is an underutilized area on campus that undergraduates should begin using from freshman year on.  You cannot start the process too soon.

2. Create a LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn is ground zero for many employers who scan the database for students with qualifications that match their needs. Some jobs require LinkedIn to apply. Find a suitable (not holding a solo cup) profile picture and create an account. If you have an account already, is it up to date? And yes, high school students can create a profile.

3. Update your resume

If you’ve not needed a resume to get a summer job, you will need one in college. Check your college’s career counseling website for resources, or if you need more help, Handshake is an excellent place to start.

4. Donate or resell old books and textbooks

Locate the ISBN on each book and type it into a link on the site to discover if there is any resell value. You will get a quote on the spot and a shipping label. All you need is a shipping box, and a little time to gather all the books you no longer need or want. Cash4Books is one site to look at to see if you can get money for books, but here are others.

5. Online Certification Program

Through online certification programs, students can learn valuable skills and receive documentation to add to a resume upon completing a course.

As an example, Coursera online certification programs, founded in 2012 by Stanford University computer science professors, offer open online courses, specializations, degrees, and certificates.

Check out computer classes at iD Tech to enhance tech skills. (Twenty20 @NatalyaBodrova)

6. Spend time with younger siblings

If you’ve been away at college, you may not realize how much your younger siblings have missed you. You will always be their much-admired big brother or sister, so set up board games, plan movie nights, or surprise your parents by cooking dinner with them. Make memories this summer for all of you.

7. Visit grandparents

Other than your parents, these adults have loved you with all their hearts since your very first breath. Now is the time to visit them in person and give them that bear hug and the companionship they have missed for the last 18 months.

8. Take the car in for servicing

Is there a family car that you are allowed to use? When does the inspection sticker expire? Does the oil need changing? How about getting it washed? Take part in the car maintenance and if your parents are letting you drive it to college in the fall, look at this checklist to ensure you are ready for the road trip.  

9. Gather and sell old electronics

Chargers, old iPods, phones, cases, games and game systems, and CDs can bring money if you spend little time researching who buys what. Learn how to gather and recycle old electronics and read what Best Buy can take. The Amazon Trade-In Program is a one-stop shop for trade-ins.

10. Get a jump on reading for the fall semester

Do you have reading-intensive fall courses? Why not get a jump on academics by picking one of the books off the reading list and finishing it before class begins. Besides, you can never waste time reading a quality book.

11. Go through school mementos and cull them

Clutter is the enemy, and you are the only one who can fight the battle between what stays and what goes in your old room. Perhaps some of those programs, pictures, and knickknacks that once seemed so precious to you have lost a little luster. Time to trash things now.

12. Make a digital book or 2023 calendar

When was the last family vacation that you took with your parents and siblings? With the pandemic curtailing travel, that trip might be even more meaningful than you realized then! Why not create a photo book or calendar for 2023 with pics that are living on your phone?

If you want to save the project for the holidays or an upcoming birthday, you will be way ahead with this project in the bank.

13. Research study abroad options

If you’re planning on studying abroad, this is the ideal time to research programs your college offers and others available elsewhere. Ask for other students’ recommendations and see what advice they have for you.

14. Get safety training

Look at the Red Cross website or visit your local YMCA’s website and see if there are any programs offered that can lead to certification in CPR, first aid, or lifeguarding. Many options have both online and unperson options.

15. Research graduate programs and requirements

You may find it hard to see beyond life as a college student, but if you think graduate school is in your future somewhere down the road, take the time to look at a few university websites. Find out about required entrance exams, average GPAs, undergraduate course work required, and firms that recruit at the school…. understanding more about grad programs might give you more focus as a college student.

16. Consign or donate clothes

Are any of your clothes or accessories consignment-worthy? Alternatively, if they are still wearable but you no longer need them, look for a Goodwill or local charity that can use what you no longer need.

17. Learn to cook

Time in the kitchen is never wasted; cooking is the best way to learn to cook. Your parents have been the one’s planning, shopping for, and preparing meals for decades. Why not take over the responsibilities for a few evenings and master some new recipes simultaneously? Maybe your parents would be willing to sign up for a meal subscription service like Blue Apron IF you do the cooking.

18. Help your neighbors

There’s never been a better time to reach out to your neighbors to see if they could use your help this summer. Elderly neighbors, in particular, might need someone to run errands, grocery shop, or take care of walking their dog.

19. Create an exercise routine

If you’ve never gotten into the habit, this could be a perfect time to begin to exercise so that when school starts again, you have a healthy new pattern for the fall. There are infinite online options that offer guided instruction with varying lengths of class times and types —strength, core, yoga, aerobic, and more. Plus, with gyms opening up again, the options are endless.

20. Set goals

It’s the perfect time to think about what you hope to accomplish during the school year 2022-23. Think about goals that are short-term academic ones but also think about longer-term goals, too. Start by reading this newly-released bestseller, The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them, by Dr. Meg Jay.

Defining Decade

21. Make a budget

Create a spreadsheet and sit with your parents to review your financial needs for the summer and the fall. This is an excellent exercise, especially if you’re going to college this fall and need to manage more of your finances.

22. Plan a family excursion

Although summer feels like it will go on forever, there are only so many weekends when your entire family might be free to gather for an outing. These are memories your family will cherish.

23. Assemble two interview-worthy outfits

You’ll need to project a professional appearance when it’s time to meet for a job interview. Make sure you’re ready with Zoom tops or jackets for virtual consultations. Go through your closet and see what fits and needs to be tailored and cleaned. If you need to shop, look for stores that offer student discounts.

24. Get the old gang together

Take the initiative, send out a few texts, and plan a summer get-together. The time for face-to-face gatherings is now!

25. Doctor appointments

Have you outgrown the pediatrician’s office with the toys scattered around the waiting room floor? Talk to your parents about switching to an internist for your next appointment. While at it, do you need to see a dentist, dermatologist, eye doctor, or gynecologist? Stop asking your mom to make these appointments for you and get them on your calendar.

26. Internships

Are you looking for an internship this summer? Many firms have shorter training that starts mid-summer.

27. Check in with your high school guidance counselor

As a college student, you can be a helpful resource for current high school students, especially since so many students have NOT been able to visit campuses in person. Let your counselor know you’re willing to offer advice and counsel.

28. A dose of culture

Are there museums in your hometown (or nearby) that you haven’t visited since 3rd grade? Maybe it’s time to give culture another shot, especially since you can see it in person.

29. Give your dog a bath

Take on the messy responsibility of bath time and enjoy the one-on-one with your best buddy. While you’re at it, please look closely at what it costs to own and take care of a dog. Many students love the IDEA of a dog but are shocked at how expensive it is to buy food and pay for wellness care.

30. Volunteer your time

If you can volunteer in your community this might be THE very best way to spend summer vacation. There are also virtual volunteer opportunities to explore.

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Online Certificate Programs for Teens and Young Adults

About Mary Dell Harrington

Mary Dell is the co-founder of Grown and Flown, the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. She started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and is co-author of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

Read more posts by Mary Dell

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