My children go back to school on August 27th. Depending on how your school calendar works, you probably have somewhere between one and three weeks of summer left. Or perhaps you've already begun. If your house is anything like mine, you're beginning to run out of planned activities and good ideas. So I thought I'd give some suggestions to smart and ambitious high school students for wrapping up the summer.
Do something active. Maybe you're not ready to think about high school yet, and you're certainly not ready to start thinking about college yet. You want to keep enjoying your break! That makes complete sense, and I don't blame you at all. But before you close this page and stop reading my advice, please consider this: do something that involves leaving your house and moving your body every day. If sleeping late is your thing, fine. If catching up on lots of screen time--wether it's social media, movies, games, or all of the above--is your thing, fine. But also do things that take you out of your home and keep your body moving. Go for a walk, work out, visit a museum, have lunch at a cheap cafe you've never visited before, take a day trip to a state park. Anything. Just leave your house and move your body at least once daily. You'll feel a lot less gross when it's time to go back to your academic routine.
What else can you do?
Reflect and set goals. We celebrate New Year's Day in January and renewed life and warmth in the spring. But, as Jordan Baker says in The Great Gatsby, "Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall." Those of us who follow a school calendar know how true this is: the first day of school is at least as much New Year's Day as January 1st. What's more, research suggests that times of change and transition are when your mind is most open to new habits and routines. So do some reflecting. What's been great about the past year? What do you hope to do better? Which of your New Year's Resolutions do you want to have another go at? Spend two minutes watching this video about resolutions to get you thinking.
After getting lost in your thoughts and reflections for a while, set some concrete, attainable goals. Maybe you want to raise your GPA, be a better friend, learn a new skill, or achieve an award or position. Whatever it is, make a straightforward goal and write it down.
The good thing is that there are plenty of tools out there to help you if setting and sticking to goals is not your strength. The bad thing is that you can literally waste days and weeks of your limited time on Earth going through all the tools out there. Here are a few that may be worth your time:
* If you like super-concrete, hands-on, and daily (but expensive), consider the SELF Journal.
* If you like small doses of advice categorized and tailored for exactly what's keeping you back, consider Unstuck.
* If you're interested in the science and psychology behind habits and rituals, consider Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit.
Write your college mission statement. If you're about to be a senior, you should have done this already. If not, get started right now!
If you're about to be a junior, then now is the perfect time to write your first College Mission Statement. You've got plenty of time to change it as you keep growing and learning, but it's best to have a solid foundation for thinking about what you want to do, where you want to do it, and what's most important to you. Here is a simple guide for writing yours, and here is a detailed example of how to use it.
If you're only going into the 9th or 10th grade, it may be too early to write a mission statement and feel confident about it. That's fine. Really focus on the goal-setting for this school year instead.
If you're about to start the 12th grade, make it your goal to complete a college application before you start back to school. Find out how to apply (probably, but not necessarily, through the Common Application) and fill out all the basic information required. Write the essay and have at least three people look it over for comments. Send out an email asking for a recommendation letter, or at least signaling your intention to ask for one as soon as school begins. Find out how to get your test scores and transcript sent. Even if you're not able to submit your application before school starts, you can at least set it up so that you're only waiting on other people, not waiting on yourself. You may not have a complete list worked up of where you'll apply in the coming months, but there's at least one place you already know you'll be applying to. Get that going. You'll be ahead of the rush for rec letters and forms from your counselor. But most of all, you'll begin this hectic school year with momentum on your side.
Thanks for reading! Please share this with someone who would like to read it. This post originally ran last summer. Thanks for reading! For the summer, I'll only be posting once a week. There are lots of ways to get regular updates from Apply with Sanity: like me on Facebook and Twitter, get the monthly newsletter, or connect on LinkedIn.