I’ll be upfront with you, even though it gives me a queasy gut pain (like the kind I had the other night after eating cheese for the first time in weeks) to reveal my lameness. I spent most of my high school and early college summers doing nothing besides molding the sofa foam into a distinctive Amie-like shape. Yep, as soon as school was out I settled into regular and semi-pitiable routine of eating wanna-be Fritos, reading, doing a few chores here and there for my dad and watching copious hours of TV watching. (I still hate hearing the intro music of The Price Is Right to this day because it reminds me of a time when I had no motivation.)
Besides family trips, I did a couple mission projects and watched my brother, but the greater part of five summers was spent doing next to nothing. FIVE SUMMERS OF NOTHING! Five summers is enough time to take a leadership class, start a couple businesses, visit heaps of colleges, get an internship, travel to Honduras, learn a new language or instrument or job skill. I never even learned to drive a standard. I don’t mean to make it sound like I was complete bum, but looking back I realize that I definitely didn’t take advantage of the summers. If I could, I’d march right back into 1998, turn off “Animaniacs” (look it up) and give myself a wake-up call!
Why do summers matter? Well, here’s a little secret I learned when I started reading high school student’s applications for a scholarship: what you do with your free time reveals more of who you are than any other factor on your resume or scholarship application, and will totally put you ahead of the career and scholarship game! Think about it: the law requires you to be in school a certain number of hours per day, so that more or less puts everyone who is doing fairly well on a level playing field. Whether you end up with an “A” or a “B” for some of your classes, meh– its really not a huge difference to me in the grand scheme of things. I’d hire someone with a lower GPA any day if it was obvious that she was really a person of character and passionate about something!
This brings me to your first option for how to not waste your summer. Here are your three main options in no particular order:
- Volunteer: There is nothing that looks better on a job or college scholarship application than serious volunteer service. Don’t just take my word for it, check out a recent study of over 70,000 people by the Corporation for National and Community Service called “Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment.” According to Dr. Chris Spera, one of the authors of the report, active volunteers were 27% more likely to get a job than non-volunteers. That’s a HUGE advantage, so if you want to do something cool this summer that will also make you look like you’ve got it going on, make some time for volunteering for a cause you love. Tip: Spreading your volunteer hours out over several weeks or months is more attractive to future employers than just doing a bunch of hours in a few days. Plus, you would be more likely to get an employment reference from the agency because they would see how dependable you are.
- Learn Something Amaze-sauce: If you’ve got access to internet, you can actually learn something you want to know this summer instead of all those things you have to learn in school. Josh Kaufman (he’s got a great TED Talk) just did a study on how it takes 20 hours to learn a new skill, so you could finally tackle that fishtail braid, harmonica hymn or be cooler than I am and learn to drive a standard There are all sorts of helpful classes on Udemy.com—including the course for girls I’m about to release this week called Rock Your Life. (By the way, there are still a couple scholarships available so contact us for more info.)
- Get a Job: early jobs are so great because of the practical lessons in time management, professionalism and the value of a dollar, and having a little spending money is awesome too! I got my first job at a tanning salon/video rental store for a few hours a week. I still remember being pretty pumped when I got to close up shop by myself the first time. Seriously, getting someone to trust you with money is a big victory and says a lot about your character.
Regardless of what you fill your summer days with, promise me that you won’t waste it! PROMISE! RIGHT NOW! Okay, see you soon. Next week, we’ll look at how to pick a summer job that’s right for your goals and personality.