Start an informal book club
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to read. Strong reading skills not only help you to succeed in classes on almost any subject, but also boost test scores and spoken and written communication skills. You don’t have to limit yourself to the classics to build great reading skills – that you read is more important than what you read. To motivate yourself, get some friends together for a reading competition to see who can read the most books over summer break or form an informal book club where you and your friends read the same book and then discuss it.
Start a new exercise routine
We all know exercise is good for us, but did you know that exercise does a lot more than just improve your physical fitness? In a study at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of your hippocampus, the part of your brain involved in verbal memory and learning.
Use summer for test prep
Balancing school work and SAT or ACT prep is tough. When you’re already crunched for time because of after school clubs, team practices, and hours of homework, it’s hard to make time for SAT prep. During summer break, it’s easier to focus on test prep because all the school year responsibilities are on the back burner. If you decide to prep for the SAT or ACT on your own, start with a diagnostic test to figure out where your strengths and weaknesses are. That lets you focus your efforts on the areas where you need the most improvement. This is why all C2 Education programs start with diagnostic tests that offer unique insights into student performance to help families build the most effective and efficient test prep programs.
Start a business
In the good old days of yore, student-owned businesses were generally limited to mowing lawns or organizing babysitting collectives. While those are certainly still valid options, the rise of social media and other online resources means that students have tons of potential business opportunities. If you have coding skills, website building skills, or graphic design skills, launch an online business selling those services; if you have an awesome idea for a new creation, get a Kickstarter campaign going; if you love crafting, set up an Etsy store. Not only could you make some extra money, you also exercise critical thinking skills, basic accounting skills, and communication skills – plus, entrepreneurship is a great addition to your resume.
Write every day
No matter what career path you intend to follow, you’ll probably need effective written communication skills to get there. In college, you’ll write papers (even in science classes), and in the workplace you’ll write memos, emails, and case studies. Practicing your writing skills, even if only for a few minutes a day, is a great exercise. Spend some time journaling, start a novel, write short stories, or launch a blog – it doesn’t matter what you write as long as you practice writing.
Take summer classes
There are tons of options for summer classes for high school students. A lot of public school systems give students the opportunity to get required classes out of the way during summer sessions to allow more freedom to enroll in elective courses during the school year. If that’s not your cup of tea, you could look into classes at a local college. Most community colleges (and some four-year colleges) allow high school students to enroll in summer classes. You get a real college experience, credits that will likely transfer to your eventual college of choice, and the chance to learn something new.
Schedule tech-free days
When those pesky school days don’t get in the way, it can be really easy to let yourself get sucked into the world of tech. Netflix binges, gaming days, constantly accessible social media, and an app store full of free games provide endless entertainment, but they don’t offer much in the way of intellectual development. On the contrary, studies show that too much screen time can quite literally rot your brain. Give your brain some much needed rest by scheduling a tech-free day (or even just a few hours) each week.
We could talk about how community service helps your college applications (it does) or meets National Honors Society or high school requirements (also important), but let’s take the higher road instead: Volunteering is just plain good for you. Studies have found that volunteer work is correlated with a longer lifespan, lower blood pressure, lower likelihood of suffering from depression, and greater life satisfaction. Not surprisingly, doing nice things for others feels good, which translates into improved overall well-being. (And it helps your college applications.)
There are tons of resources to help you learn a foreign language, from Rosetta Stone to Babbel. Studies have suggested that consistent practice with a foreign language, even just a few minutes a day, can provide massive cognitive rewards: improved attention span, greater multitasking abilities, and a bigger brain. To get started, check out these tips from TED translators.
Take an online course
We’ve written before about the benefits of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): MOOCs don’t typically provide college credit, but they offer the opportunity to learn from some of the best professors in the world. Most of these classes are free, and you can find a MOOC on almost any topic you can dream of. Check out the offerings at Coursera and edX to see if something sparks your interest.