Summer Opportunities for High School Students

There are a wide variety of summer opportunities for high school students throughout all four years of their time. Here are a few of the opportunities that students most frequently participate in:

Summer Jobs

Many high school students work over the summer. Having a job is a great way to get work experience that to include on their resume and college applications. Most summer jobs for high school students are part-time, but some are full-time, especially if you’ve already worked at that place before. Common summer jobs that high school students have include being a lifeguard, cashier, or camp counselor.

Take It Up a Notch:  Like any other activity, a summer job can impress colleges when a student works at the same place over a longer timeframe and increases their responsibilities. A summer job that relates to a subject the student wants to study in college, or get a future job in, often communicates to a college what the student’s interests are and their level of commitment to them.

Summer Internships

A summer internship involves working part-time or full-time for a company or organization. These summer internships are often more closely related to a student’s career interests. They allow students to gain work experience, as well as learning more about careers they may be interested in. They can involve a variety of tasks, typically consistent with some of the responsibilities of an entry-level position in that field. Summer internships are not typically the entire summer. A high school student may not always be paid for their internship. 

Take It Up a Notch: When a student works in a summer internship that relates to a future career area or subject they plan on studying in college, colleges often see that as real interest in a field. In the admissions process, schools are looking for students who are passionate about something and who are willing to go the extra mile to understand a field of interest.

Summer Classes

Taking classes may not be the most fun way for a student to spend their summer, but they can sometimes help a student stay on track as they prepare for college. Some students take summer classes to improve their grades in a class they didn’t do well in the first time, while others take a class they wouldn’t have time for during the school year. Increasingly, students are taking summer classes as a way to take college courses or advanced high school classes. Students can take summer classes in a variety of ways, either through your high school, at a community college, through an academic program at universities, or even online.

Take It Up a Notch: College classes on a student’s transcript can indicate to schools that a student is able to handle the rigor and workload of college. This is an especially good option if a student’s high school doesn’t offer many advanced classes or if a student wants to strengthen their transcript. This is also a wonderful time to add in courses in your interest area; as an example, students can take real estate classes and sit for the real estate exam or CAD classes for architecture.

Summer Programs

More and more summer programs for high school students are available for high school students, with unique focuses such as STEM, cultural immersion, performing arts, wilderness skills, and more. Programs are often on a college campus, sometimes formally connected with the college or university. These programs allow a student to experience life on a college campus, explore new and exciting fields they may want to pursue as for college majors--as well as making friendships with students from around the globe. In many cases, students can earn college credit for the courses they take.

A word of caution here--we prefer programs that are actually run by the college instead of. a third party provider. It's important to be a careful consumer, so be sure to ask about who will be teaching the program. If a student is aiming for highly selective colleges, the summer program should be a selective program. It’s also important to note that attending a summer program on a college campus does not typically give you a leg up in admissions for this college.

Take It Up a Notch: These programs can be helpful when a student participates in a programs that reflect their interests, whether academic or otherwise. For example, if a student wants to be a doctor, a science-based summer program can help that student learn more about what it’s like to study and practice medicine. These programs can help show colleges that a student takes a career path seriously and that they are genuinely interested in learning more about it. For students entering 12th grade, we encourage you to think about how you can create your own summer program.

Independent Research/Projects

For steps hoping to attend highly selective colleges, independent research can be a fantastic avenue to delve into your academic area of interest. From developing an app to help students stay more organized to working on a writing a play or designing a robot, digging deeper into an established interest is a great way to spend some of your summer break. To be able to demonstrate this time as meaningful (and to help students stay on task), students should create a goal for themselves of what the output and/or accomplishment should be. Students should keep track of how many hours per week/weeks per summer they spend on this activity.

Take It Up a Notch: A student can work with a teacher or advisor to create an independent project that can count as a course credit. Another option is to reach out to a college professor to assist with college level research. Creative projects can be submitted for contests or publication, if appropriate. If a student creates an app or an online video, being able to tout high usage number or a huge number of followers can be impressive (as are high revenues).


There are many places where a student can volunteer including schools, non-profit agencies, museums, and more. Most volunteer work is done where the student lives, but there are also opportunities to do volunteer work abroad during the summer. While volunteering is all about helping others, it’s possible to choose volunteer work that relates to a student’s college or career interests.  Volunteering is also a wonderful way to learn leadership skills and to gain greater a better understanding of the world around you.

Take It Up a Notch: Just completing a few hours of volunteer work will not have as much impact as a making a longer term commitment to one organization. Working in a field of interest over a long period of time gives students will have the opportunity to make a significant impact on the organization. Hopefully over time your commitment will lead to greater responsibility and possible leadership positions.


Travel can expand a student’s horizons while also experiencing other cultures. There are programs offered in the area of service, adventure, skill training, and academics. Students can also consider working while they travel abroad and visit multiple countries. Seek out immersive programs that are at least six weeks long, or better yet, the entire summer.

Take It Up a Notch: College value the cultural insights gained and independent skills learned when a high school travels during the summer. Travel abroad programs are often good way to perfect a second or third language.