What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

The Ultimate Summer Checklist for High School Students

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Once you enter high school, you should spend each summer adding something to your college resume. This means that, instead of lounging around for three months, you need to have something impressive and productive lined up for the summer before it even starts.


In addition to your big summer tasks, each summer brings about different priorities and tasks that you need to complete in order to be ready for your college applications and college itself. For a detailed list of everything you need to accomplish during your high school summers, read on.



The Summer Before Freshman Year

Realistically, it is unlikely that you are going to be able to do anything too impressive for your college applications at this stage simply because you’re too young. Thus, this summer is all about getting ready for high school and making sure that you start the next four years off on the right foot. Here are the things you should be sure to do:


  • Acquaint yourself with your high school, specifically how the classrooms are laid out, so that you won’t be lost on the first day.
  • Make sure that you’re ready for high school by buying all your school supplies, figuring out transportation, buying your textbooks, finalizing your class schedule, and working out all other logistics.
  • Create a four-year plan of the classes you intend to take throughout high school.  
  • Make a list of which clubs and activities you may want to pursue during high school.
  • If you can, try and do some community service work or attend an academic program.


Ideally, you should use these few months before starting high school to get your feet wet, so to speak, and bonus points if it is something you can put on your college resume or even use in college applications down the line.



The Summer Before Sophomore Year

You may not be old enough to get a job or a fancy internship just yet, so try and procure a summer activity that will both impress colleges and be feasible at your age. These include:


  • Taking on an impactful community service project. See 32 Community Service Ideas for Teen Volunteers to get you started.
  • Shadowing someone in a career that interests you. Even if it is just for a week or two, the experience could prove to be invaluable.
  • Working in a lab or hospital that takes high school volunteers/interns.
  • Attending a pre-college summer program at a university you really want to attend in a field you think you may want to pursue.


Now may also be a good time to start thinking about your college list and doing a few college visits. You have some time before you need to finalize the list, though, so don’t make this your first priority.

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The Summer Before Junior Year

This is a huge transitional summer. You are probably old enough to enter the workforce and do many adult things like driving and getting paychecks. Show that you have taken hold of your newly found independence and maturity by making your summer productive. Here are a few things you should consider doing:


  • Getting a job at any local business or company that will hire high school students. Don’t expect anything too fancy. Most students’ first job is a simple minimum wage job.
  • Again, working in a lab or hospital that takes high school students/volunteers is a great way to gain real-world business skills while making a difference.
  • Taking on a big personal project like starting your own business or writing/publishing a novel.


This is also the time when you should start thinking about taking the SAT and ACT, as you will need one of those exams to apply to college. The earlier you start studying for each, the better off your score will be. So maybe take some time this summer to decide whether the SAT or the ACT is right for you, and start studying!


You should also start doing college visits more frequently and start writing out an official college list. You don’t need to narrow it down just yet, but you do need to start thinking about where you might want to go to college and what you may want to study.



The Summer Before Senior Year

This is a pivotal summer for your college admissions success. Simply put, this is your last chance to do something impressive and get all of your things ready to apply to college. These are the must-do’s for the summer before senior year:


  • Gather all of the information you’ll need for your college applications, including your test scores, your extracurricular profile, your community service work, and you work experience.
  • Secure a copy of your latest transcript, GPA, and class rank so that you can refer to it when you’re filling out your college applications.
  • Take on a project that will really set you apart from other applicants on your college applications. This could be an internship at a company that takes high school interns, creating your own business or startup, etc.
  • Finalize your college list. This is an ideal time to figure out which colleges you are going to be applying to and getting everything in order for application season.
  • If you’re still trying to take the SAT or ACT to get a higher score, focus on studying for those exams. You’re running out of chances to improve your score!




For More Information

Need some help figuring out your summer activities? These previous blog posts may be able to help:


Step Up Your College Apps Profile With These 11 Summer Activities

50 Summer Activities For High School Students

Pre-College Summer Programs For High School Students

5 Things You Can Do This Summer Instead of an Internship


Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our free guide for 9th graders and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academicschoosing coursesstandardized testsextracurricular activitiesand much more!


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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!